POS-FFOS - Survivor Retreat - Columbia, Tennessee 2009

About The Consequences of Pretending:

I am aware of permanent dilemmas so many faces in this life.  On the one hand, “there are things that can never be changed,” on the other “this is unacceptable.”  This urges us to want to think positively.  Of course, we teach our children “You can be anything you want to be.  You can do anything you set your mind to.”

As I have aged I know this teaching is a myth.  Some seem to enter the world entitled and then there is the rest of us.

So what can be done about this ongoing struggle . . . and . . . keep your mindset positive.  I realize that personal difficulties are unavoidable and ubiquitous.  But, sometimes these pitfalls just suck the hope out of life.  At best, it leaves many a victim living in the shadows.  All the while, our educational, social and political forums keep telling us that we are all created equal. Deep inside, I believe, hosts reject those themes, yet we continue to masquerade around in some quasi-equality mindset.

To move on to the next day with any peace, we are left to adjust our expectations or pretend we are content.  Pretend what . . . that we are okay with this prevailing trauma?  Our emotional core just wants some peace . . . not so much of the equality thing.

I have practiced the art of pretending for over seven decades and I am not good at it.  I have observed folks (I know) that had been hurt deeply, but their outward persona does not reveal the hurt that I expected to see.  Sometimes we all carry on life in what I have come to refer to as “performance mode.”

I suppose we have all learned to perform a role for one reason or another.  We start learning this as children.  A safety mechanism . . . "I did not do it, my sister did it."  This is probably when I began to develop my performance mode.

I have found (for myself) that pretending is really hard work. While some hurting individuals do a better job of adjusting to their situation, others are unable to heal for whatever combination of reasons.

Inherent in the human spirit is the need to explain things that we refuse to accept or maybe don’t understand.  This need manifests itself when we explain ourselves to someone we know (as if we are totally cognizant of our being.)  So if we cannot understand ourselves at a time, how could we know or explain the behavior of another person? 

It is a common reaction for a survivor of suicide to be driven to explain the “unexplainable.”  I felt obligated to, for sure.  It is a secondary aspect of the "why question."

Scattered throughout the sequence of growing up are all sorts of good and unpleasant experiences.  Unfortunately, it is during these growing up years when neglect and abuse can begin.  They have a way of eroding one's self-esteem and rendering lifelong handicaps.

Beyond the mechanics of formal education, our parents, teachers and other role models can either inspire us or in some cases produce irreparable damage.

We tend to get caught up in scandals which are impacting the learning years of our children.  In reality, similar things happen within families, even those deemed highly reputable.  These issues seldom come to light, at least not initially.  Families are champions of keeping secrets.

I was a fortunate kid to have role models who inspired me.  None of them were famous and if I shared their names, you would have never heard of them.  They were only “famous” in my eyes.  I had admirable parents, grandparents, other relatives, neighbors and teachers in school and church yet none could be considered “perfect.”

Unfortunately for some, that irreparable damage could not be addressed in an effective way as it should have.  That is not necessarily by intent as much as the embarrassment and not knowing what to do. 

Often these situations surface later in life, after years of stress.  This is considered one of the significant contributors to depression.

Sometimes the damage was intentional and other times collateral. The issue of shame keeps secret things under wraps.  This leaves the victim painted in a corner.  This “in the corner thing” can last for decades, for example, the college scandals that have appear routinely.

A SAD situation, in that the victim endures a lifetime of suffering.  Worse than that occurs, when the news surfaces and the shock effect takes over.

Afterward, those aware or made aware are not only ill prepared but they have no practical skills to help.  Yet, this does not diminish the fact that help was needed.  As a result, reactions are misguided and tragic errors made.  I know I did for sure.

Not knowing is only superseded by not realizing you don’t know.  What a terrible way to learn.

Yet in all this, there is “always hope.”  Hope that we will find someone to share with, care with, help us heal and encourage us to get up and Keep On, Keeping On.