In my world, a tutu and combat boots coexist. The Rolling Stones, Gimme Shelter on a cello, of course. This week, like millions of people, I was shocked and shook to hear of the death of Stephen T’witch Boss by suicide. It was bittersweet, the happiness he brought to us and the sadness of the loss. Any photo, video, show you saw with him radiated happiness; the happiness was real. We may never know or understand why. For me, I see, live and experience a coexistence where one thing does not negate another. He could be absolutely be happy, full of joy and hope in one moment and absolutely gutted in another. Think of it like this, your right arm can be fine, fully functional, no problems. But, if you break your left arm, you are in pain. A caste on your right arm will not help. Even with treatment to the left arm, you realize your arms work as a unit. There are things you can’t do. No judgement, people handle that balance or imbalance in different ways.1
Happiness and sadness are two different areas of the brain.2 Admittedly, my gut tightens at post suicide comments like “…they had so much going for them or how could they do that.” Maybe I’ve had too many people around me commit suicide, one I tried to to convince others people was imminent, 6 I knew directly and 10 in total. Some people will never see suicide as a possibility. Here is the point, well intended comments like, “you have everything going for you, you have so much to be thankful for….” to someone who says they are depressed does not help. They do not acknowledge what someone feels and is a form of unintended gaslighting. More supportive is “if you need to talk, I’m here, what can I do to help, just know you have me as a friend.”
Keep in mind, even in a discussion about suicide, you don’t know what someone is going through, comments like, “that is so selfish, they should have gotten help, how could people not notice,” is still gaslighting. Reframe the conversation as, “I hope if anyone I know is experiencing trouble, they will talk to me.” Be respectful If someone say sthere is something they don’t want to see, like a movie or a place they don’t want to go, believe them and honor their well being.
In my photos, I am genuinely happy. Today, in my T’witch tribute, as I remember some of his great dance performance, I am full of joy. But make no mistake, as I looked out the window this morning, I was gutted. I wondered about one of the homeless guys who lived at the underpass two blocks away. This was the guy who would sweep, who’d go down to the waterfront get water in buckets and wash clothes you’d see hung out to dry. These thoughts trigger two different parts of my brain.
OK y’all, don’t get all squirrely and assume this is a cry for help; I am fine. In a moment of complete transparency as an overly sensitive empath, I am telling you all of this coexist in a delicate balance. This week consider, when offering words of support your point of view and for a moment try to see the other side. …embrace joy, happiness and dance.
1Alex Lewis spoke at an event I attended in November. His story of resilience is unbelievable. What someone would see as the ultimate disaster has led Alex to his life’s work.
The Extraordinary Case of Alex Lewis (Documentary. “The Extraordinary Case of Alex Lewis” charts the story of a man fighting to rebuild his relationships after a devastating infection took his limbs, parts of his face and his independence.)Alex Lewis
2 The Brain Manages Happiness And Sadness in Different Centers
One surprising result of the remapping is that emotional opposites, like happiness and sadness, are not registered that way in the brain, but rather entail quite independent patterns of activity, according to a report this month in The American Journal of Psychiatry.
“It’s because happiness and sadness involve separate brain areas that we can have bittersweet moments, like when a child is leaving home for college and you’re sad, but happy, too,” said Dr. Mark George, a psychiatrist and neurologist at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Md., and the lead author of the report.The Brain Manages Happiness And Sadness in Different Centers