There’s Another Side to “I’m a Realist”

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2013 Nancy Virden

At 18 and single, Kimberly had been pregnant two times. The first baby died just before birth, and Kimberly delivered a stillborn daughter. The second pregnancy was a rebound one, common for women who have lost a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth or abortion.

When I met Kimberly, she was in the first trimester of this second pregnancy. She was excited! Her deep sadness had been met with a strong family support system, and her dreams for another baby girl knew no bounds.  As we talked, I grew to like Kimberly’s overcoming attitude.

Her mother suddenly died. Kimberly spoke fondly of her, and regretted not having had more time. “Everything happens for a reason,” she repeated. I never saw her tear-up.

The nursery was furnished, baby clothes lined up in dresser drawers, packages of diapers collecting against the wall. Her child was due in one month. Then Kimberly was physically assaulted by her boyfriend’s sister. Her pre-born baby was killed.   She filed murder charges and eventually won that case.

She became expectant a third time, only a month after she’d lost her second daughter. I walked her through her third round of hope and dreams, and became wary of the absence of change in her demeanor.

“Are you sad?” I asked.

“I was, but now I have this baby to care for,” she said with a smile. “Everything happens for a reason.”

Unfortunately, I moved to another state before I could meet Kimberly’s little son. I’ve seen pictures, though, and having met her family at the baby shower I am certain they are both in good hands.

Are Kimberly’s troubles over? Of course not. She has trauma to deal with and I pray she can do that with professional guidance. In no way am I minimizing the tragedies and her challenges to cope. No doubt many moments of pain pass through her days. However, her focus is on her son and he is a bright spot in her darkened world.

No one in the world has been untouched by grief, tragedy, desperation, or discouragement.  Financial, material, physical, sexual, marital, familial, and other relational problems have hit us all. Emotional,  and mental pain, confusion, or frustration – none of this is news except to those of us who may prefer to live steeped in denial. We’ve been hurt, we’ve hurt other people, and this is what we call life.

I read recently, “Talking about our pain is our greatest addiction – let’s talk about our joy.” I don’t know if I agree with that as a whole necessarily, however talking about our joy is usually a good idea. Let’s consider some positive experiences most of us have in common.

We have witnessed resurrections of the human spirit. We have known the miraculous, the beautiful, friendship, and renewal.  Hope has filtered through the fog of our sufferings.  In the U.S. we’ve watched children’s faces on Christmas morning, and the sun’s brilliance on an ice-covered wintry day. it’s been our privilege to sit in the breezes of spring and see autumn leaves fall. We have each been the recipient of second, third, and infinite chances.

Which of these lists is more real? People who want to defend their negativity will say, “I’m not a pessimist, I’m a realist.” But if joy is real, then why don’t we say, “I’m a realist, I believe tomorrow may be better than today”?

Some of us struggle with mental diseases that help to make life very hard. Significant others may be abusive. We may be so scarred by past injury we can see the evidence every day in the mirror. Photos or the ache of daily sorrow will remind us of losses.  In despair, hope seems afar off, impossible to obtain, or not worth chasing. 

It is in those times that paying close attention to whatever beauty is around us will refocus our thoughts, however briefly, on the possibility of hope.

Have you heard how people who are emotionally revived talk? Do you see how sufferers who carry hope in their hearts go about living? These stories are every bit as realistic as the troubles we are facing.  We have the power to turn our eyes toward joy.

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NOTE: I am not a trained or licensed mental health professional. I am not a doctor. I speak only from my experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

picture by GRAPHIC-GIRL on rgbstock.com

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