"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Friday, September 10, 2004
em-pa-thy Function: noun
Etymology: Greek empatheia, literally, passion, from empathEs emotional, from em- + pathos feelings, emotion -- more at PATHOS
1 : the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it
2 : the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this
3 : a great talent, possessed by a few
This morning's post is intense, and might make you feel uncomfortable. If you're reading this first thing and you aren't ready for that type of thing, this might be a good time to get that extra donut. Otherwise, hang on to your seat.
The following is a letter written by a friend of mine to the grieving family of a young man who had just committed suicide. When she showed it to me, I asked her if I could share it with those who visit my site. She graciously accepted.
I wrote this for you in hopes that it will help give you that proverbial glimpse into the rabbit hole...our rabbit hole of course being Bipolar Disorder. I can’t begin to imagine your pain, anger, regret and suffering. I do however know your son/brother’s. I’m truly sorry for your loss, and society’s loss of your son/brother. This disease is like no other, I don’t know how to explain. It causes us to isolate ourselves so much from those who seek to help us the most. I suppose that’s why it always hurts so badly to know that we’ve lost another one of our own. Those of us in the support group I attend have come to view each other as an extended family, and I can’t imagine the pain I would feel losing them, but it’s surely akin to the feeling of loss I felt in knowing your son/brother was taken from us. The way I view it is that he was taken from us, by the disease. I doubt this letter makes much sense or that it’s even helpful, but I can hope. Please know that you are in my prayers always, as is he.
P.S. I hope you read the enclosed, perhaps it will shed some light on what your son went through with this disease...and what the rest of us are still going through.
A young man died yesterday, or perhaps like many of us, he died long before but just repeated the motions of living until he finally ended his suffering.
Our parents knew each other, we had never met, but I know him, know his pain, know his happiness and know everything in between. His ups were fantastic times of pure genius, never light and dreams. Times that seemed as though they would never end and could never be better or worse. They were an addiction far greater than any other imaginable. No pipe, no pill, no substance, organic, chemical or otherwise could possibly match the strength or quality of this high.
His downs, or perhaps he had another name for them, were endless nights of pitch-black. Coal like in their color, and just as suffocating. Thick and muggy like the southern air, always hanging, clinging to his skin. His pain, it's indescribable, yet I'll try anyway: It's a pain that radiates, from heart, to brain matter, to toes and fingers, every hair follicle and every millimeter of skin resonates, tingles even with the pain. It's an emotional state that transcends beyond the physical. To feel it is likened to being burnt by dry ice - it's so cold it scalds.
The times in-between were times of anxious waiting. Waiting for the next battle, never knowing whether or not you'll win this round, never knowing if perhaps this time, the disease might be too strong. There are people who want to help, they'll do anything for you, but you know they can't fight this battle, it's up to you. There are drugs that you can take that will help, but only you can make yourself take them, and sometimes the disease convinces you not to.
There are people who want to ignore your problem, who can't face it, they are the weak ones, we know it, we feel it, but so does our disease; it can sense their fear, it can sense our own desires to believe they're right, that there's nothing wrong with us. It ingest their ideas and poisons us with its venom and their ignorance.
So you see, I do know him, I know his story, it may not be exactly like mine, but I know it, I feel it, I see it....Only I've chosen to live it.
My pain is still great; I still feel it, especially when I think of him, and all the others like us. Maybe he thought he was being stronger just ending it, maybe he hoped to put an end to his parents' suffering as well as his own...What he'll never know is how great their suffering is without him, and without his disease.
Goodbye boy, you are missed, I hope your pain is ended and only happiness awaits you. If it's possible, I will miss you most of all, I will miss our shared experiences that we'll never get to talk about, I will miss seeing you win your battle.... But most of all, I will miss knowing that there is one more person out there just like me!
The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy.
US actress (1949 - )