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Life is a sexually transmitted disease

Mar 29, 2018Mental Health, Recovery, Writing

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

“Life is a sexually transmitted disease with a 100% mortality rate.”

That’s pretty much my favorite quote about this whole “being human” thing. I’d give credit to the author, but no one knows exactly who that is. Mostly because it’s such a truth-y truth that it could be attributed to any of a hundred people.

I believe that suffering is universal. I believe that life can be hard for every single human on this planet. After all, it’s a sexually transmitted disease with a 100% mortality rate.

Yet, I don’t always write about the ways being human can be hard. You’re more likely to catch me talking about the ways being human while struggling with your mental health is hard. And I’m feeling an urge to address that.

Why? Because of this extra scoop of sensitivity that I seem to have been made with.

Robin Williams once said, “I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that.”

I believe there’s a sensitivity corollary: I think the most sensitive people always try their hardest to not hurt other people’s feelings because they know what it’s like to exist as an open wound and they don’t want to go around throwing salt.

Here’s how that comes into play for me: when I write about mental health & recovery, I feel 98% good about doing so. I believe that when I speak openly & honestly about the things I’ve struggled with & include specific labels, I’m both combating stigma & letting others know that it’s okay to seek help.

But 2% of me worries about hurting the feelings of people who don’t have a specific label for their suffering. People who still struggle – because they’re human & being human can be hard – but don’t get to attribute their suffering to addiction, depression, disordered eating, you-name-it. People who can reasonably say, “Keely, that suffering you’re talking about…it’s not limited to people in recovery. I struggle with the same things.”

As a result, I changed the ending of the last story I posted. It was originally about recovery & instead I made it about being human to be more inclusive. And it became a confusing mess.

Fortunately, I believe in learning from mistakes. So here’s what I’m going to propose: instead of trying to manage your emotional experience, I’m going to stick to stigma fighting & keep my writing chock-fulla labels. Should you read my writing & not relate to the specific labels I use, substitute in words that work for you. It’s a trick that I learned – guess where? – in early recovery. A friend thought I’d benefit from going to church, but I didn’t share her religion. So she suggested I go anyway & just substitute in words that worked for me. It worked beautifully.

And feel free to wink conspiratorially as you do so. Because we’ll both know that all of this is about being human. And as soon as the stigma associated with mental illness is eliminated & people can seek help without feeling ashamed, I’ll stop using these silly labels.