“We all have a bag. We all pack differently. Some of us are traveling light. Some of us are secret hoarders who’ve never parted with a memory in our lives. I think we are all called to figure out how to carry our bag to the best of our ability, how to unpack it, and how to face the mess. I think part of growing up is learning how to sit down on the floor with all your things and figuring out what to take with you and what to leave behind.”Hannah Brencher
After stumbling into the land mine that was Kanye’s IG earlier in the week, like the vast majority of our social media population, I responded in the perfectly wrong way.
I observed. I speculated. And then I made light of the situation.
I cracked a joke at the expense of his welfare.
I was the problem.
And for someone whose been exactly where he’s sitting, you’d think empathy or genuine concern might precede judgement or humor.
And because it didn’t, I am ashamed and disappointed at my own hypocrisy.
Thus, I am here to make some sense out of why it didn’t so that next time this type of situation comes up, I respond the right way. Mainly because, and I cannot stress this enough, ain’t nobody got time for mental health stigma.
With my own experience in mind, I have to imagine the only thing scarier than going through a mental health crisis on one’s own, is going through a mental health crisis under the public’s eye and scrutiny.
And since we’re here acknowledging shared realities for the sake of empathy building, I think it’s also important to hold space for how difficult it is to watch someone you care about go through a mental health crisis, too.
Still, it’s not the same.
There is simply nothing more terrifying than temporarily losing a handle on your own mind.
When I was discharged from my mental health stay, the first question out of my mouth was: “who knows?”
Before I could even sigh any relief at freedom, I was worried about who’d been out there in the world, drawing their own conclusions and spreading misinformation while I recovered.
How many people knew about my secrets and whose judgements would I have to face now that I was out?
What stories would I have to set straight?
How many times would I have to remember the experience and how many explanations would I have to give before people could start forgetting?
It was like somehow, quantifying that number would determine just how much time and freedom I had left until my reputation and self worth would meet it’s jury, judge and executioner.
See, there is nothing funny about mental health crises.
There is nothing light about a grieving heart.
And from what I can tell, there is nothing simple about fame.
Suffering can get ugly. But last I checked, there’s no perfect way to do it. So I’m going to go out on a limb and say we all deserve a little empathy when we do.
I think the main bone I have to pick with Kanye’s situation has to do with the problem of social media and the way we use it in times like this. We’ve created a real and toxic beast of a narrative out of Kanye and his family’s real experiences. This is a shining example of many problems that come along with the territory of being a human in the modern world and still to a certain extent, some of their business is not our business.
I‘ve noticed a handful of people condemning the outburst as abusive and narcissistic behavior. I’ve also seen a handful of people who have been advocating on his behalf.
While I think I prefer to remain campless on this particular event, I do believe it is important that we are able to pause and recognize the signs of a cry for help, without being so quick to throw a label at it. Dishing out our blame or gossip is not a helpful approach, no matter how ugly things get.
Suffering sucks whether you are on the giving or recieving end of it. Whether you have a handle on things or you don’t.
I‘ve always found it hard to take sides when it comes to the topic of suffering because a lot of times, there shouldnt even be any sides. At the end of the day, aren’t we all on the same one?
I guess I’ll leave you with an alternative call to action.
What if instead of speculating to entertain or judge, we speculated to understand?
What if we didn’t speculate at all? What if we just shut up and listened?
Doesn’t that feel like the right approach if the goal is to lend a hand to someone who is suffering?
Maybe if we spent less time searching for the right label for what it is that we are witnessing, we’d have more time to listen. Only then will we ever know the proper way to get through to the people “going through it.”
All I know is, I’d rather be the one quietly holding their hand as they walk through the fire, or waiting for them patiently with open arms on the other side, than to be the one speculating at their expense, behind closed doors.