Part Three: You Are Not a Special Snowflake, or You Are Special Just Like Everybody Else
We’d all like to think that our particular set of circumstances, challenges, disorders, strengths, whatever, make us a special case. And I won’t disagree with that. I’ll take it a step further. We are all bags of chemicals brought together by the forces of an entropic reality. Literally. The Big Bang happened and after millions of years some star stuff came together randomly and created carbon and voila, here we are as a species. And each individual is unique in our molecular structure and our chemical requirements for health. This is why I don’t say “Zoloft worked for me, so it will work for you.” That’s idiotic. Sure, it might. My brain is configured differently than your brain. It might be similar enough that the same dose of the same chemical might right the imbalance causing our ever present anxiety…but it might not. The variety of deficiencies that there might be is vast and once we decide that our mood disorders have a chemical component (which I suppose they all do because that is all we are, including our emotions…chemical reactions and electrical storms)…a chemical component that we can’t control ourselves simply with water and a positive attitude…we have to approach it like we’re chemists. What reactants result in what products? I will admit that the fact that I am a chemist helped me immensely in weathering the first weeks of Zoloft. I trusted in the scientific method, including the theory, hypothesis, and experiment. For me, the results fit the hypothesis. Lucky me.
But really, what I mean here is that we are all human and have to deal with our shit. Just because our specific shit is different from other people’s doesn’t mean that we are exempt from dealing with it. Just as we shouldn’t assume that we can solve other people’s problems by applying our own experience and personalities to them, we shouldn’t assume that our suffering or challenges are unique and beyond opinion. Those outside of us can often have a lot to offer in terms of perspective and clutching to your belief that one can only have helpful insight if they too have suffered in the exact same way as you will leave you alone and dealing with things only through your own filter. No, of course people who have not gone through the same things as you can fully understand the depth of your feelings. This doesn’t mean they can’t understand them at all and it doesn’t mean that they mean to devalue your experience or insult you when they want to help.
Again, I will mention that trauma is a bit of a different story and while I think the same general idea stands, I understand that being open to outside opinion about feelings on a traumatic event is difficult and sometimes unwise. I haven’t had a lot of severe trauma in my life, so I will be the first to say that I don’t know what it’s like to deal with that.
Another facet of this is that it is dangerous when we start to define ourselves by our faults. It is important to accept our faults, but it should be an acceptance with the caveat that you don’t accept these faults as immoveable things.
I guess what I’m talking about here is that we all have to grow up. To me, being an adult has never been defined by my career, my degree, giving up watching cartoons or playing with toys, not having fun, or my stock options. For me, my sense of being an adult is connected deeply to my personal growth, my ability to take care of myself and others, being responsible about practical things and emotional things, being honest, having integrity, setting goals and coming up with feasible plans to attain those goals, and ultimately being an adult with this good life I have is about being happy and taking the steps I need to in order to maintain a general sense of fine. Happiness is not a constant state of being. It is a goal that colors my actions and my outlook.
When I hear people say “I don’t handle that approach well” or “I don’t respond well to that”, I don’t often hear “and this is why” as a follow-up. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to at least know yourself well enough to know the things that trigger negative responses from you, but I think that it’s important to then take the next step towards growing. It’s not that I never say things like this, but I have trained myself to ask why I feel certain ways when certain approaches are used. And usually, I find that my reasons for reacting poorly are based in an insecurity and I make the decision to work on reacting more positively in the future. This is usually in response to someone trying to reach out to me when I am having an issue with something. If I lash out because of the approach, it’s important that I stand back and acknowledge that I just lashed out at someone trying to help me. Why did I lash out? What did I read into what they said? For me it has often been that I read in a gross error.
And yes, sometimes people are assholes and you should tell them so. Most of what I’m saying here is how to deal with people who are being reasonable and earnest. But yeah, a lot of time people are full of shit and you should call them out on it. You have to question your own specialness, but you have to question everyone else’s claims of specialness too. This has been a huge challenge for me.
I had to challenge myself to accept that I am special and not special all at the same time. I am an individual but my individuality does not give me a pass on growing as a person. It means that I have to apply the things I see and learn to my own circumstances and see how everything fits together. It doesn’t mean that I can declare that I am not part of the world and everybody leave me alone and I get to be mad if I want to. Sure, I have every right to be that way, but it wouldn’t make me happy. Are the obstacles we put in our own way things that define us? Some things are constants. Most things are variables. But are the things we call constants actually constants? And if they are, how can we work with the variable to make the constants have less of an impact? This is how I look at myself and my world.
Again, maybe being a scientist helps.
So there you have it. This is how I do it. This is my approach to the world. I took on this world view and approach before I ever thought about taking anti-depressants. The Zoloft just let me carry these philosophies out without so much fear and anxiety. It took away the edge. I am brazen in the face of my own bullshit and I am the best possible version of myself at this time. Halle-fucking-juah!