There is no dignified way of expressing pain. There is no such thing as being poetically broken. And being damaged is not romantic.
It is time we started distinguishing between stories and real life. While there is always light at the end of the tunnel in a novel or a movie, there are no such guarantees in life. There is no telling if an abusive relationship would ever end. There is no way of knowing if your missing loved one will ever be found. And that uncertainty and the sense of loss that may last a lifetime, is what makes scars ugly.
I am often morbidly amused when I see posts on social media glorifying broken hearts and girls crying themselves to sleep. Does it ever cross your mind that in that moment, the woman buried into her pillow might be contemplating ending her life? Does it occur to you that the person with the broken heart may never get over the person they lost?
What will you do if these people came to you and requested you to listen to them? Will you hear them out day after day, each time they lapse back into depression? Will you still smile at them and offer to wipe their tears when they list out all the mistakes they made, even the repulsive ones? Will you be there when they needily demand that you drop everything and hold them because they can sense another panic attack coming? Will you always reassure them that healing will come some day?
It is not easy. It is not even fair to expect that from you.
Mental illness, emotional crises, chronic depression, feelings of rejection and loneliness; these are not remarkable, romantic or even symbolic of strength. If anything, they are an expression of suffering that may or may not find relief. And there is nothing sexy about suffering.
Suffering can also be brought about by trauma. Loss of a loved one, being a victim of a violent crime like rape, surviving a natural catastrophe, watching other people die; all of these traumatic events will lead to emotional damage that may be superficial or deep-seated. Often, therapy would be the healthiest option for a person dealing with the after-effects of shock.
Sometimes, if they aren’t seeking help, they will cut themselves; on their forearms or their legs or even the stomach. Sometimes, they will cut too deep. And I ask you, can you take responsibility for them in their moments of psychosis?
Expression of pain is not eloquent, poetic or subject to a right time. It is often garbled, messy, needy, attention seeking and even annoying. In many cases, it is also incredibly brave.
But never, is it ever glorious like a lot of people make it out to be. And it is important to be sensitive to this fact. Do not try and make a hero out of a victim. If they want to see themselves as one, they need to come to that conclusion themselves. Forcing them to accept your perception of them will only hamper their ability to process what happened to them.
Other times, your misplaced glorification of their victimhood will make them seek comfort in their identity as a victim. That is the cruelest thing you can do to someone trying to recover from trauma.
Lastly, getting used to pity will take away from them the will to fight, be normal and blend in again.
The points I make in this article will not apply to every person dealing with trauma. Some of them will apply to everyone. Some will apply only to a select few. But the one thing that underscores every such person is that they need to heal and that no one can else take that responsibility for them. Simply because it is humanly not possible to make such a promise.
And that is why you need to stop romanticizing suffering. That is not to say that the greatest stories ever told did not deal with the struggle of recovering from trauma. It is just that none of what you read in a novel can prepare you to deal with a real person who is hurt.
Being there is great. But sometimes, you don’t know that you cannot be there. And when in doubt, let a broken person remain the way they are. Don’t attempt to fix them when you don’t know if you have the strength to stay till the end regardless of what the outcome will be.