Nightmare: All Suffering is Relative (Dear Cookie Monster)

Nightmare: All Suffering is Relative

Dear Twenty-Three (23),

I (20) don’t know how to respond to your letter from yesterday.

As great as it was to hear from you (I genuinely mean that, even though it’s painful), reading your letter brought me so much shame.

I remember after you purged your Facebook page of all the manic and psychotic posts, you started reading over the older ones. The ones I wrote.

You were struck by what a conceited, attention-seeking, and clueless person I was.

You thought I was the most annoying and repulsive person ever.

One of the posts you came across was me sharing a “bad dream” I had just experienced. In my dream, my computer crashed and I had not made a backup, and so I had lost all my notes just before an important exam. I then wrote something along the lines of “Phew, scared me to death! I’m going to go back it up now.”

You read that and were utterly disgusted with me.

First, that I would be so annoying as to post something so stupid online. Who cares what I dream about? How narcissistic was I to to believe that people would be interested in my dreams?

Second, it was the nature of my “bad dream.” That the deletion of my chemistry notes felt like the end of the world to me made you resent me to such a deep level that it made your eyes go dark.

There were so many things to pull apart there.

That I had no idea how bad things could get and was living in my own little bubble unaware of what it meant to suffer. That I was not appreciative of being at an amazing school. That I wasn’t thankful enough or careful enough.

Third – I can’t even articulate it. Just the whole thing made you want to destroy me.

I am terrified to stand up to you. I feel so much shame and embarrassment.

It’s true, I didn’t appreciate what I had and I made a fool of myself running around partying and so on. I thought I was so cool both partying hard and studying hard. Like a secret spy, living a double life.

But I need to stand up to you all the same.

I always have to stand up for myself because the rest of you always scrape the blame off onto my plate and make me eat it. And I eat it, one miserable bite at a time, while you all watch feeling so superior and enjoying me choke on every bit of it, tears welling up in my eyes and streaming down my face.

There is just so much stuff to choke down and I’m already full up to my neck in it. There isn’t anymore room for it to go down.

So, I guess this is me vomiting it all up, something I’m good at as you have all been so kind to point out.

I’m sick and tired of taking this all in, bearing your criticism and scorn.

You all welcome me into this circle with sisterly love, but it’s in the sense that you’re “letting” me in, that you’re doing me a favor by forgiving me, that I need to atone for my ways.

Forget that. I did things I regret, but I’m not apologizing for them, not anymore.

You say I don’t know what suffering is. You’re forgetting that I went through everything Fifteen went through and quite a bit more. I also went through the downward spiral at the end of high school where I almost didn’t graduate because I was throwing up so much.

I also went through treatment when I was 18. I had been through stuff, too. Maybe not as bad as your stuff, but if you keep going down that route of telling me my hardships aren’t as big as yours and I have no right to complain, you’ll need to good look at yourself.

You also don’t know true suffering if you look at the things other people go through.

You threw in a quote by Viktor Frankl about “Tragic Optimism” while talking about your situation yesterday. He went through the Holocaust, are you saying you know even a tiny bit about what he went through?

You know nothing. Your suffering is nothing.

You have a family that loves you, insurance that paid for all that fancy treatment, an education that gives you access to so many opportunities (most of which you completely take for granted), you have your health, etc etc etc.

So, how did me telling you that make you feel? Invalidated, right?

Someone is always going to suffer more than you. It is good to take a look at these situations to put your own life in perspective, make you appreciate the things in your life you take for granted, and realize your problems result from a certain amount of privilege.

But at the same time, all suffering is relative.

Compared to you, my “suffering” is quite small. Compared to Victor Frankl, so is yours.

The point is, just stop it. Minimizing my emotions, telling me I shouldn’t have them, that they and I are wrong – all of that is useless, annoying, and destructive.

The other thing you brought up was my narcissism.

Yes, I was (still am) a bit self-centered. But putting myself out there and looking a bit ridiculous takes much more bravery, as we have talked about, than hiding in the shadows.

I had also been hurt and scorned by people. Like my brother, for instance, who drilled into my being what an annoying and unwanted person I was. I had already experienced people rejecting who I was.

But I put that aside and put myself out there, even though there was evidence all around that my behavior might result in me getting hurt again.

That takes major guts, which you lack in that department.

Yes, a lot of bad things happened to you. But you really only have two choices: either move forward into optimism, or lapse backwards into resentment.

If you take a better look at that Victor Frankl quote, you’ll know what to do:

You need to “[turn] suffering into a human achievement and accomplishment.” Don’t see what happened as a disaster, see your strength and resourcefulness and stubbornness to get through it all as a demonstration of your amazingness. You truly are incredible.

You need to “[derive] from guilt the opportunity to change oneself for the better.” If there are things about yourself that you don’t like, such as my narcism and frequent disregard for how I impact others, then make a change. Don’t turn that guilt into shame and hide yourself form the world to spare them the misfortune of knowing you. Just grow.

I’m too tired to keep writing.

I’m just lecturing you at this point, which is what the rest of you do to me. Super annoying.

If there’s one takeaway, it’s just to chill out a bit.

That may seem like something only “stupid” people like me do, but enjoying life in a world of so much suffering is actually one of the bravest, hardest, and most intelligent things you can do.

So, please. Just take it easy. Your hatred is toxic and exhausting.

Best,

2

Twenty

 

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