I have written about empathy in the past; I have suggested that for some people – people with different levels of mental health problems – their empathy can be louder than most others.
One quote I always think of in these sensitive moments comes from Jim Carrey, who was spoken after his partner lost her fight:
For the most sensitive of us, the noise can be too much.
I would like to tell you about a scene from Christmas and early January 2018, in which I found this sensor to be more sensitive than it had been for a long time.
Even in times of perceived relaxation and contentment, I often struggle against the sustained strength that returns as soon as I feel comfortable. I can feel and hear my thoughts checking: “Right, so we’re on the beach, the sun is shining, I’m with my beautiful, laughing son, my wife is in her favorite place … get ready, Terry.”
Within seconds I’m back inside a fear tornado that reminds me that I already feel / feel crappy or that I shouldn’t enjoy this high too much as it will crash spectacularly and quickly. In this case, the anticipation is great.
Knowing that this thought is already in my head makes it all too obvious that sometimes it is almost impossible to switch off. But I’m concerned with it; It’s been 30 years in the making, so it’s familiar, and friends and family are now accepting and understanding (I think), but it takes some almighty mental energy to mitigate it. In this phase, it is mostly easier to retreat and drive alone.
But despite all of this, the ocean can do better. It will never “cure” it, but it can do it better. And where better to live to take it up? Just don’t ask me to sunbathe and rest for more than five minutes, as I’ll dig sandcastles to keep me busy.
It seems that our small family is not the only one who visits the ocean or the coast to try to find a piece of inner peace. Just a few days after Christmas, I saw my son squeak with excitement and sheer joy as he splashed in the ocean and ocean pool of Curl Curl.
When I watched a man in his late forties bandaged his arms from the corner of his eye to his teenage son and they went into the water. The boy made noises to express his excitement, and then I noticed that he was severely disabled.
Many people ignore the scene and are respectful, not sure how to behave or what to say. I have no idea how mental or let alone physical it would be to be a parent or caregiver in this scenario.
I always do my best to smile when we have eye contact in such a scenario. Although we didn’t stand out this time, the world stopped for a few minutes and I felt immense pain, guilt and discomfort. Tightening the chest; Hold my breath. This intense empathy runs through my system.
I watched from a distance as the father led him across the waist-high water and they were holding hands on the bank.
I imagined what was going through my father’s head. Was he depressed? Had it caused a family mental illness? For the mother? How did he deal with it?
I later told my wife what I saw and had to take a deep breath to avoid tearing myself apart. I expressed how lucky we are; like the word Happy doesn’t even come in. I did my usual trick and imagined what her life would be like and what went through my father’s head. Was he depressed? Had it caused a family mental illness? For the mother? How did he deal with it?
I couldn’t get it out of my head. And when we went to the same beach a few days later, the exact same father and son were there. I felt it again. But this time I put myself in the father’s shoes. THAT was his beauty. Maybe he felt as happy as I did that he had this relationship with his son.
It reminded me of Russ Harris Descriptions of his feelings when he found out that his son was autistic, and later blamed when he realized what the real beauty was.
I was embarrassed, also guilty, that I felt sorry for them – although I couldn’t stop it, let alone control it.
It is misleading to look at these or other scenarios through innate (at least instinctively) negative glasses. I recently had to explain to someone at work that I might be able to “do shit”, but I’m a natural pessimist. It’s in my makeup. Scientifically I cannot say with certainty whether this is related to my own history and my struggles.
But it is important that it is not always a negative as I see the things that can be fixed and work my way up from this low to do better. For others it is neutral; it’s what it is, black and white. Or the exact opposite of me; The first reaction is pure positivity and euphoria, and then it can be a downward trend in acceptance.
Regardless of how it really felt, I felt something. One of the most moving things I’ve seen.
If anything, it might not be the perfect Instagram-style moment on the beach. But I still think about it regularly. That was real. It was really beautiful. And maybe that’s why it hit me so hard.
A version of this article was previously published on the Mr Perfect websiteand was republished with permission.
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