Every time I begin to write I’m reminded of my inner nerd….SHE LIVES. I used to love doing puzzles for fun. (Proving my point.) Typically I would put them together on a card table, with a leather green top, by a big tube tv (totally dating myself) that had Nascar or football on. What teenage girl watches baseball, basketball, Nascar, or football on a Sunday afternoon while putting together a Thomas Kinkade puzzle? I could have been painting my nails, talking on the phone, or shopping, but no my whole week was focused around which football games I was going to watch, when Nascar was on, baseball during the spring and summer, and what Headline News was saying. You can use a lot of adjectives to describe me but one that really stands out is: DIFFERENT.
I would spend hours writing ‘feelings’ of the heart on tattered sheets of paper that would get ‘crinkly’ (making that word up because it fits what it looked like) when the teardrops that had fallen would dry. My thoughts were, in so many ways, to deep for my age and it made me feel, and actually know, that I was unrelatable to most of my peers. I had a few really good friends (same as today) but I wasn’t exactly the girl you would want to come over to have a crazy good time. I was the one that you wanted to share your problems with, talk about matters of the heart, or possibly do homework with. As you may imagine, that limited me in both hanging out with friends and dating. I was told, more times than you can even imagine, that I would be the girl someone would want to marry, but not date. That does not make a teenage girl feel warm and fuzzy, just so you know. (Luckily some guy saw past that and capitalized on that sentiment, but still.) I was too little and too much all at the same time, and I knew it. You know when you are different, you don’t need someone to point it out. I didn’t exactly fit the teenage mold.
For me, the differences that I felt from my peers, were not so huge in my own mind that I was miserable, but they were big enough that I was aware that I was rather unique. Although many of us try to encourage people to own their uniqueness, if we are being honest it’s not always celebrated or accepted by society. I was made with deep rooted emotions, and nerdy fiber running through my veins, and even at that formative age I didn’t know how to be anything other than who I was. It may have made things easier if I had. I don’t fake things well, so even trying would have been a failed attempt. Just recently a parent to one of my best friends, after seeing me a few weeks ago, stated that I was still exactly the same as I was back then. I asked him if that was a good thing or a bad thing. He smiled and said it was a good thing. Of course he would think that, the parents always related to me. I was the one sitting talking to the them while their kid was probably like, ‘why is she here.”
I didn’t grow up, thank goodness, with social media, cell phones (for the most part), or any technology that could have perpetuated my feelings of loneliness. I sat on a Mickey Mouse phone in the middle of the kitchen if I wanted to talk to someone, I wrote letters, and no one really knew who anyone was with, if we had plans, because if you took a picture you had to go get it developed- and that took a few weeks. I was oblivious, in some ways, to what my friends were or weren’t doing because it wasn’t thrown in my face all of the time. (For all I know maybe they all felt like I did too- doubt it, but???) The fact that we are so connected today has benefits for sure, but there is also a potential for disastrous effects on how it makes susceptible people feel. Heck, how it can make anyone feel if they are feeling a little low that day.
I didn’t suffer from depression, but have been exposed to it through several people, very close to me, throughout my life. I do have anxiety, but that started with a traumatic event. In a small way I’m grateful for it because it took me a long time to even understand the feelings that people who suffered were feeling because I couldn’t totally relate. To some extent I can now. Sadly, before, it almost felt unreal to me. Even at my loneliest, I was able to pull strength, confidence, and love from my faith in God, and a certain confidence that has always been in my fiber. So many people of all ages, however, suffer from the alienation that mental illness can create inside of their heart. Many people who endure these feelings view their differences as burdens and their lows are all consuming for them. I’ve watched first hand the misery that oozes out of a person who knows that it’s happening but they literally cannot stop the train from leaving the station. Where as personally I am able to pull from appreciating simple blessings, they only see the catastrophic effects that they feel from life around them. These feelings are real, and we need to start talking about them. Shaming people into silence or ignoring human beings because we don’t want to deal with them is simply wrong. There is nothing to hide or be embarrassed about. On average there are 123 suicides a day, according to the AFSP. 123 lives are lost because someone felt desperate and unconnected! They feel so deeply that they can’t go on. Men die at a rate that’s 3.53 x more than women.
We need to bring this darkness to light and pour into people. Comparison can kill the spirit, mind, and body of the vulnerable. Our words and actions matter to those around us. Withholding your time and care for personal beliefs or ignorance could be the nail that never should have been hammered. If each of us committed to accepting someone else who felt different than us, looked different than us, and/ or who was different than us, I believe, that we would have a profound impact on the world around us. We absolutely can change the world by changing our own hearts. We simply need to get back to the basics and LOVE. LOVE. JUST LOVE. Nobody should have to go through the pain of feeling so desperate and alone, and no family or friends should have to suffer from such tragic loss because we didn’t show up. Not one of us is made from the same mold, let’s celebrate and appreciate the un-moldable value of humanity that God created.
He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” 1 John 4:8.
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