“There’s too much mental darkness in the world for us to stifle our capacity for empathy.”
[Content Warning: Parental and Spousal Abuse, Drug Usage]
Reading Time – 2 minutes
From a Religious Upbringing
Many people in my family have obsessive tendencies… we’re a family of overactive brains. My upbringing was very religious, and there’s a certain tendency in many religious upbringings to reward anxiety and obsessive behaviors. For instance, when I would obsessively self-shame or self-punish, I was praised for my “spirituality” and told constantly how good of a person I was, thus reinforcing this incredibly destructive behavior. I was always the good kid… you know, that kid who always wanted to do everything right and follow all the rules, even at the expense of my wellbeing and development as a person. I feel like I was allowed and even encouraged to abuse myself, all because it made me seem “holier,” and I obviously harbor a deep resentment of this kind of perverted religiosity.
My father was a controlling and domineering parent. For instance, he would obsess over family finances. He and my mother would go upstairs and “do the bills,” which consisted of him obsessively combing over every line of text, every number, sometimes hundreds of times, forcing my mother to follow along and affirm him constantly. During this time, my sister and I would have to be absolutely silent so my father could concentrate. Not a single sound for hours, unless we wanted to get screamed at. We could read, or watch a movie on mute… maybe. I feel like I was originally more extroverted, but experiences like this pushed me more into myself… made me more introverted.
It’s like a constant narrative in my head… my mind constantly telling myself things, sometimes not even in comprehensible words, because it’s all so chaotic and moves so fast. These negative thought patterns become a part of me, and I have to fight against them. For example, I have some close friends who I’ve known for a long time. Recently, I walked over to them to say hello. While walking away, I heard them laugh, and I automatically assumed they were laughing at me. These hypothetical situations play in my head so many times that they can almost become reality, leading to real feelings and reactions on my part.
I’ve actually never really experienced stigma per se. As a child I was diagnosed with Nervous Tic Syndrome. I experienced facial and vocal tics… like a Tourette’s lite. One year, my teachers had me leave the room… they brought in a speaker with Tourette’s to talk to my class about my tics. They got my parents’ permission, but not mine. I was mortified and embarrassed… it was pretty much the worst thing that I could imagine happening at the time. Still, none of my classmates ever mentioned my tics or approached me about them after that, and I didn’t experience any bullying as a result.
Weed… honestly it’s amazing for anxiety and helps me channel my various thoughts and energies. Plus music, especially in my teenage years. I really got into metal, because the music sounded like what I heard inside my brain. That’s part of the reason why I’m now so committed to art; I have experienced firsthand what it’s like to feel understood and truly known by a work of art, and ever since, music has been a crucial part of my life.
A Word of Advice
Actually listen to people, especially to kids. Don’t assume by default that people are seeking attention or lying to you about their struggles, again, especially when these people are children. Open yourself to someone else’s pain, or at least don’t hinder someone else from doing it. There’s too much mental darkness in the world for us to stifle our capacity for empathy.
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