By: James Neyer ~Staff Writer~
Death, depression and divorce affect not only the person suffering through them, but those around them. This is not said to criticize sufferers but to bring to light the counterpoint: Those around them can help them heal.
When we look at people who suffer, their suffering seems to define them. We do not see them as the person they are. We only see their maladies. No longer seeing them as humans, we do not treat them as such either.
We do not purposefully do so. We try our best to make them “feel comfortable,” but that is honestly a stupid phrase. It is stupid to make someone “feel comfortable” when it usually involves not treating them as a person.
What brings this to mind is reading the journal of an 18-yearold Dutch football player who was diagnosed with terminal cancer during his senior year of high school. He went from having the status of team captain, a beautiful girlfriend and lot of money, to losing his health and ability to walk.
He wrote in his journal, “Okay, I was ill, but I wasn’t dead for Christ’s sake. I’ve got 6 good months of life left but the only things you guys see is a walking corpse.” They no longer mocked him, jokingly tried to fight him or even challenged him, believing that those things make him uncomfortable.
They thought they were helping him. But in their help, they defined him by his cancer. Which lead to him defining himself by it too. Everyone just saw him as “that dying kid.” By focusing only on his impending death, they forced him to define himself by his illness.
What did bring him happiness was when he was playing the computer game Starcraft 2. It was not playing it itself that made him happy, but what happened while he was playing. He used the fairly common strategy completely destroying the enemy’s team before they had time to react. The enemy then did what others had failed to do since he had been diagnosed: they called him a “faggot.”
While the word is obscene and extremely offensive, he was felt immense joy at being mocked. “For the first time since it was known I had cancer someone acted like I was a normal person. And you random stranger, I wanted to thank you.”
That does not mean that you should go around using profanity against people who are suffering. For a competitive kid, not having anyone challenge him was infuriating, and it denied who he was.
Likewise, for those who suffer from depression, common phrases range from “Have you tried not thinking about it,” or “I understand how you feel, because I have also suffered from (insert noun here).” Doing so does not help because it encourages observers to only focus on the illness and not the person.
Everyone means well when they try to help others who are suffering, but they cannot truly put themselves in someone else’s shoes without trivializing what they are going through. Instead, what one should do is simply treat them as a person, as who they were before they started suffering.
This may seem like it does not need to be said, but sadly, common sense is not all too common. When trying to comfort someone, be sure you are not just trying to comfort yourself, coping with the fact that you are suffering along with them.
The kid ended his journal saying, “Thanks to that dipshit who keeps visiting me here in the hospital, I know that the people that truly care about me are here.” If you try and comfort someone, do it by forcing themselves to acknowledge that they still are a person, that they still are the same as they were before. Do not be someone who is new and fake. Be the “dipshit” they have always cared for, and you will both be comforted.