Empathy In Defiance - There Is Really Beauty In Empathy

Updated: Jun 27, 2020


"In Defiance Of Demons"


I’ve had a eureka moment today. Writing this is mainly for me to look back on when stuff gets rough, but it’s also a promise. And I know myself very well, I keep my promises.


Been thinking of my journey this year through my photography, art, poetry, antidepressants, counselling and therapy. Also, my greater journey through university, depression and my diagnosis with Autism and it has given me great perspective on my entire past and many, many memories. It’s been difficult, life-wrecking but also life-changing and life-saving. I’ve lived the majority of my life thus far, apart from living in small moments as a distraction, honestly, waiting for the end. Truthfully. Sad to write this, but I’ve honestly known it has been true. What I wrote in my blogpost This Is Me, This Is My Story. Writing about university and working so hard, why? To create a future I can go to if I still decide I want it, despite having never really felt that prior. But hoped I could. I’ve always cared about people and would do anything I could to be there for them. This has often led me into horrible situations but I’ve always continued even in many cases to my own detriment, but even those I’ve always felt were worth it because it was taking a chance to help someone in need. My journey’s involved creativity as outlets for pain, understanding, empathy, expression, openness, and understanding from others. I’ve tried lots of stuff after some recent life changes that got the better of me. Without university (my distraction, and goal) and losing my goal of becoming a lecturer (at least in the short term) I had lost the reason. I was nearing the end of the time I allowed myself to achieve the goals at the end to find them not able to at least within my allocated time. Additionally coming to terms with my Autism diagnosis everything had gotten too much and led to a breakdown of identity, personality, and physical well-being and mental well-being. Where the latter, my goals, my mental-workarounds for dealing with my own mind are the only things that have ever kept me going. From what I’ve seen is common among people with Autism who reach a diagnosis when older (which is more common among women on the spectrum of which I tend to share greater traits with). This has led to me seeking help, something that I remember a 16-year-old me saying to a classmate in school (when they said they didn’t get why men didn’t “just ‘seek the help they need” referring to high male suicide rates due to archaic gender-stereotypes) that I’d be dead before I ever sought out help. It was only 17 years of a lot of suffering from a long-time before even this occasion that I have. And I have sought help in a variety of means, of which I’m grateful to so many for help.


I’ve always been better at helping people both problems rather than my own, my therapist even said I was open and lots of people seemed to be more comfortable sharing their vulnerabilities and know they could confide in me and trust that I’d never judge, only empathise, listen and care. I’ve done this since the start of secondary school. Continuing to this day. Not only helping people but helping others (even if it means every night I’m walking a crying friend home of which I have for countless friends of mine over many years on nights out or other occasions making sure they got home okay. Helping others has always helped me, helped me to help myself. For many years, I’ve also come across people who’ve used and abused me with this. This has eroded my ability to help myself focussing on what I always had, helping others, which had always helped me in the past. But with these people, unfortunately, they took the help, and left me emotionally hurt, destroyed, so I helped them and destroyed the part of me that helped myself through helping others. One person even took this to ensure I’d keep on helping them. My closest friends through my whole life have warned me, have helped me to “see the bad in others”, of which I’ve always been reluctant and quite frankly never truly seen until more recently, looking across my past. Helping others doesn’t tire me, I never tire of helping another, even if it involves sitting on the beach all night with them in silence so they’re not alone until my work at 6am having had no sleep (wasn’t tired, I was helping another, that gave me energy for another day). Or walking a friend home, chatting with a friend all night on messenger or the phone because they were having a rough time, or in many cases, “being on-call” not that I’d ever refer to it as that. Helping others has always helped me to deal with my problems, given me the strength to do so, because I knew someone else needed help.


Therapy has helped me, learning coping mechanisms and stuff with my Autistic meltdowns etc. however, not really, I always knew how to cope with my mind at it’s worst. The thing that therapy’s helped me most, is that it's given me confidence; that I see things differently due to my condition, but it’s valid, I don’t have to second-guess my own perspective (which is, trust me, exhausting and identity-destroying). I should confront people and be truthful, explain how things may hurt me, be clear, kind, and open-minded (as everyone makes mistakes, myself of which I am especially aware of my failings). I often asked close friends to check if I’m ’seeing’ a situation correctly, if “I’m being mistreated by this person or I'm misinterpreted it” as I always second-guessed my judgement. And most times I’ve asked they’ve corroborated my perspective. Something that my therapist also did, in the last few sessions. Giving me the confidence to know I don’t always see it as it is, but my feelings are valid and so long as I explain calmly and kindly, to see their perspective, to see if I’ve misinterpreted, as all humans do on occasion. Then I’ll either sort the problem if it’s a misunderstanding, or if it is mistreatment then I can have the confidence to then take that as it is and be sure in myself of this being the case. This then allows me to decide if this person if they’re mistreating me, is worth helping, worth keeping in my life. I have an infinite amount of care for a friend. I will always be there for them. A true gift my therapist said, but one that needs wariness to avoid people who seek this help out without mutual care. I always thought the stipulation of needing ‘mutual empathy’ was almost putting a price on my help which I would never. But I’ve learnt it isn’t, any friend who knows me knows I don’t often seek help but will always be a phone call away at any time when needed. That’s just me. And I’m finally okay with it, I feel at peace and in place. Mutual empathy and care doesn’t mean ‘equal’ but mutual, caring for one another, to whatever degree that is. It is if this empathy isn’t shown or I am mistreated I’ve also finally learnt, I can cut off ties without regret or remorse, knowing I did all I could but it’s not worth it any longer. Something which for me has always been a difficult thing to even conceptualise. So now I feel ready, finally, have learnt the lesson I’ve never known, to keep my empathy and care but only for those who care also. To withdraw it from anyone who only offers mistreatment. I now do not feel bad for this withdrawal. I’m finally at peace with this. Something I never thought I’d learn. This reminds me of the aforementioned blogpost This Is Me, This Is My Story, after writing that, I got so many kind messages the next morning when I woke up, people from across my life who I’ve helped, who mention this, many mentioned the exact thing I did, what it meant for them, how they were hurt to be only then hearing my pain. The many messages brought tears to my eyes that morning and even remembering it is doing so to me now. In the moments it was ‘nothing’ because it’s what I’d always do without exception, without ‘payment’ without any requirement at all. It’s just me. How I work. What I do. What helps me. What I believe in. This is what I’ve been battling recently, wondering if I should change this and go to the opposite side of the spectrum, to be uncaring and cold (I’ve tried this many times, never been able to apart from one time in my life). Learning I can trust my own perspective, feelings, be justified in how I feel and how others may hurt me and seek to confirm if I’m seeing it right, if they’re seeing the situation right or if they are just mistreating me. Learning how I can be at peace with being distant, almost uncaring for those who do mistreat me. Always wish them the best, but not from me. I have been validated, justified, been shown direction of my own choosing, been given autonomy of self. All through this entire journey (of which I undoubtedly I have more to traverse- hence writing this for reference). But I know what I can do, what I can try, and I can trust what I say, feel, and think, and if I express when unsure but also to distance and cut off when there’s nothing left but maltreatment. Then I know I can make the call because I have the tools that I’ve always believed were faulty or needed validation, my own mind, perspective and feelings. With this I also know my personality, goals and aims and being, to help, care, empathise, I can be who I am and continue, but also safe in the knowledge if I’m being hurt I can cut myself off from harm.


For me, as it always has, it’s always been worth helping everyone, unless they show me otherwise.


My psychology teacher in 6th form said something that stuck with me ever since (from working in a prison), that “some people just cannot be helped”, my reaction of my mind in class was visceral and repugnant to this. I think I finally understand it now. And can be at peace with it.


For me, as it always has, it’s always been worth helping everyone, unless they show me otherwise.


 

For this last paragraph, this has been long overdue… but I’ve had my journey to go on. I want to set up a group, something, for creativity of all forms and media, for mental health (whatever it may be or how, be it about mental health in content or in how it aids you with coping with your own). I’ve been organising projects with friends along similar lines. Wanting to spread, encourage, share, collaborate and celebrate individual journeys through art in all forms and creative expressions. Still early, don’t know the format. But I want to create a group to share, collaborate, celebrate and journey through our own individual paths, together with empathy, kindness, understanding. My favourite line I’ve ever written in a poem encapsulates this: “I’d win against my demons, to stand by your side, while you face yours”.


Even today, pondering on the lessons I've written about here, has been inspired by a friend today, a dear friend who's helped me a lot recently with stuff, messaging me when I've not been in the mood, and helping and we've both been supporting each other in stuff and our own individual troubles.


So I would like to really see if anyone’s interested, all ideas welcome in whatever form, it’s open and something that everyone can build together, organically, creatively with kindness and compassion and determination. When we all fight our own individual battles, we never truly have to be alone when facing them.


So if you’re interested, please email me on beautyinnormalcy@gmail.com or message me on Facebook. Otherwise, if you think you know anyone else interested in joining or finding out more then send them this blog post. I’m based around Brighton, UK, but this doesn’t have to be based on any location (with the wonders of the digital age and the internet). Any and all forms of creativity welcome and encouraged. Still in early days, but it could be something I could organise exhibitions and other events if we get enough interest and stuff and I have contacts perhaps to take this further.


I would really like to thank the friend who I've been chatting to over the last couple of days and they've reminded me of the lessons I've learnt and perspective for how much it has been compared to a year ago. I'm a message or call away, hope you feel better soon, and thank you.

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