If you plucked a random person off the street and looked into their mind, you’d find a matrix of hopes, dreams, fears, and pain.
The burdens people carry can be impossible to detect from the outside. Unless someone revealed their soul to you, you would probably never know they were suffering.
But when your emotional levies start to break, and the pain shows through in a weary demeanor or a panic attack or an outburst, people are quick to tell you how good you have it and how you have no reason to be feeling bad.
If you aren’t starving or in danger, people are less likely to take you seriously when you’re hurting. Not all people, but many.
I’ve been lost in my head before, and I see what Chester Bennington meant when he called his mind, “a bad neighborhood.”
But the turmoil you endure privately is part of what makes you an individual. You can forge ahead, even if no one understands what you’re going through.
3 Helpful Ideas From a Discussion on Mental Suffering
I was listening to a podcast recently between Aubrey Marcus and Daniele Bollelli, an expert in Taoism. They were discussing how people deal with suffering and how it manifests internally and externally. These three paraphrased ideas highlight the reality of mental struggle:
1. The Battle of the Spoon and the Sand
“So much of the pain of the internal is the confusion, frustration, self doubt and lack of clarity. If your task was to move a pile of sand using only a teaspoon, you would have a clear objective that you could endure and accomplish. But internally, you don’t know what the teaspoon is, you don’t know what the pile is, and all you know is that you’re suffocating.”
Struggling with a mental illness feels like groping around in the dark. You know that you’re suffering, but it’s difficult to find an answer to the pain. You don’t know what to confront. You don’t know what direction you’re supposed to go. You don’t know whether you’re clinging to something or addressing it.
It’s trial and error. But this is where a therapist could be a massive help. A good therapist can offer you tools and guidance for navigating your mind and exploring the origins of your problems.
If you need a place to start, examine your fears, your fantasies, and as Aubrey Marcus has said in the past, the “things that block you from feeling love.”
2. Don’t Make Torturing Yourself Part of the Battle
If someone tells you you having nothing to feel anxious about, is that supposed to relieve your anxiety? You know you don’t have a reason to be anxious, and yet you still can’t breathe. You internalize other people’s judgements of your situation, and then you start whipping yourself for suffering when you feel like you shouldn’t be.
This is a critical error. Believing that your struggle doesn’t count turns your pain into a source of embarrassment; it becomes shame stacked on pain. This makes people repress their problems and sweep things under the rug. Somehow, this is supposed to result in you getting over it.
The demons you face are specific to you. And if your pain is so intense that you’re even thinking of dying, how could you say that nothing is wrong? If you’re in pain, you’re in pain. Simple.
3. He Earned It, But She Didn’t
“It’s easy for a person to congratulate someone who’s been through a struggle that they understand. But when they see someone who doesn’t fit their definition of ‘having suffered’ they say they’ve had it easy. You never know what personal hell a person has been through or the internal mountains they’ve had to climb.”
I’ve had plenty of people tell me this. Knowing next to nothing about your life, they will look you over and say, “Yeah, as if you’ve suffered for anything.” It’s appalling.
It can be impossible to tell how much a person has struggled until they express it. If someone accuses you of having it easy, when you know you haven’t, you need to take stock of how far you’ve come, and you need to understand what struggle means to you.
Stay grounded in your own reality. Heaven to one man could be hell to another.
You could be the only person in the world who knows the whole story, and if no one ever believes you, maybe you’re the only one who needs to.
What I Try to Remember
Mastering your mind, healing your pain, conquering your demons, however you’d like to put it, are some of the most difficult things a person can do. The paths we take to achieve these aims are always going to look wildly different.
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle – Ian MacLaren
Everyone drags weight. Everyone’s been through something. And to an extent, everyone struggles. It’s just part of being alive.
Here is what I try to remember:
- Just because someone is smiling, doesn’t mean they’re happy.
- Just because someone has achieved a lot, doesn’t mean they feel they deserve it.
- Just because someone has everything I could possibly want, doesn’t mean they care about any of it.
- You don’t know how a person processes their life circumstances, what unique needs they have, what perspectives they have, or what they consider meaningful.
I intend on being happy, regardless of what anyone thinks about my life. I know what I’ve dealt with in my mind, and I don’t reject it anymore. It’s as real as it gets, and I’m proud of how far I’ve come.
To heal, I needed someone to listen to my struggles without dismissing them. When they finally did, it meant the world to me. My therapist, and some close friends, were a huge part of that. Understanding someone on the deepest level involves knowing their struggle.
Someone who loves you should believe you if say you’re in pain, even when it’s hard to see.
With any luck, they’ll cheer you on to win the battle in your head. Others still might never understand, but that’s ok. Just remember that your battle is real, and it’s a battle you can win.