Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2016 Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry
A man with close ties to my family was once buried alive for eleven hours.
It gets worse.
Tom was working on a sewer system when the earth above him collapsed, forcing one leg to lay flat against his back at an awkward angle. His only source of air was to breathe what escaped the hole in the sewer line he’d been trying to repair. His hands were immovable, a ton of earth bore down on his body, and there he waited, in and out of consciousness for eleven hours.
Once rescued, Tom began a new life of doctors, hospitals, pain, and a wheelchair. Medical personnel said he would never walk again. The minimum oxygen available to him while buried had been enough to keep him alive and maintain brain function, but his organs and muscles rebelled. Because of his disabilities, his marriage crumbled. He could no longer work.
Patty felt buried alive by circumstances out of her control and deep emotional trauma. Despair choked her will to live. For a few years she clung to every lifeline, torn between what people who care were saying and her own belief system. The common analogy of a fish out of water fits, because to her every moment was a gasp for air, a longing for rescue, and an intense battle against overwhelming hopelessness.
Feeling buried alive comes from any combination of beliefs that may or not be accurate: I cannot get out of this situation; nothing will change; there is no possible win; only more losses are coming; I’m out of options.
For Tom, whose experience with feeling buried alive was literal, the struggle did not end with physical removal from a desperate situation. He felt trapped in a wheelchair and in a weaker body. He fought every challenge with determination. Now he can walk and deals each day with medicines and pain. Tom says he was once a selfish, overbearing man, which is difficult to imagine as he is now generous, humble, and thoughtful.
Patty could not control outcomes stemming from other people’s choices. However in her thinking she had no options. It took “rescue” in the form of life lessons from mental health professionals who exposed to her possibilities of which she had been unaware. Her helplessness wore off as she made changes where she could.
Tom and Patty stopped subscribing to the notion that once trapped is always trapped. Instead they eventually explored healthy ways of coping within uncomfortable circumstances.
Trapped does not mean forever; it may be the catalyst propelling us toward a new life of empowerment and gratitude.
Are you feeling buried alive? Now what?
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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.