The Emergency Worker Support Group
Sometimes I wish there was, like, a Support Group for people whose friends have had shitty things happen to them. Like, a safe space where people who are accident adjacent could go to and vent and deal and process all the second hand residual feelings that are left from when something shitty happens to someone you love. Because you can’t talk about it like you normally would. It’s not cool to discuss second hand pain. But it’s a real thing. And not like in some narcissistic Hannah Horvath way where you’re just kind of making someone else’s tragedy all about you either – but a real legit thing. Because, honestly? It’s draining as all fuck. Watching crappy things happen to people you care about is horrible, but you can’t talk about it because you have to be supportive and strong because you want to help them and support them and distract them. But it’s draining. And it’s depressing.
Like yesterday – my flatmate, who is one of my top tier best friends for life, got hit by a car. And not just a love tap/glove slap kind of thing, but a legit, neck fractured, bike totalled, lucky to be alive kind of deal. And it only just hit me now – after spending two days in hospitals and doctors appointments and dealing with insurance companies and lawyers and the like – that, once I dealt with all the logistical and practical stuff, I legitimately almost lost one of the people I love most in my entire life. The reality that he was a split second either side of being someone’s permanent hood ornament (through no fault of his own – the error was 100% the drivers fault) is just draining in a totally different way to all those other things I outlined. It’s horrifying beyond words to think about. But you can’t talk about it in a traditional way, because it sounds selfish, or narcissistic, or just inappropriate. But these aren’t feelings I’m consumed with at the expense of caring about my friend – they’re feelings that exist on a secondary or tertiary level, in their own little self-contained bubble. And yet there is no forum to really talk about them because, as I know as well as anyone else, they’re not important. Or at least not in the grand scheme of the situation. But it’s so WEIRD.
And it leads to me to think of how many times I’ve been in this situation – trauma adjacent. And suddenly being aware of the emotional toll it takes, constantly propping up other people in their time of need. It’s not something you do (or should ever do) for thanks, but it *is* something that is incredibly exhausting. But you can’t talk about it out loud – ESPECIALLY not to the friend that it involves – because that is a completely garbage thing to do.
I guess it’s just part of the deal these days, part and parcel of what goes along with choosing to truly care about someone. And that’s fine. If anything, it’s really nice to do – probably the only genuinely satisfying experience I can think of in life sometimes, to know that something that’s inherently easy for you to do can make someone else’s world a better place for a couple of seconds. I’ve always thought it just makes mathematical sense, you know? But it also creates this strange disconnect sometimes. Because you hand over these giants chunks of your life force and your soul to someone, but you can’t even objectively mention the toll it takes on you because even just verbalising it kind of makes you sound like a c**t. And it’s weird because, for me at least, it’s not complaining. At all. I just find it such an interesting concept. I guess maybe that’s part and parcel of being a writer – these moments of dissociative observation. But for as long as I can remember, I’ve always just kind of known that you can never be truly connected and effective with someone at the same time, and I don’t know how to always be able to deal with that, because it’s kind of lonely.
Going over the past year alone, I think back on all these second hand life traumas I’ve been present for. And it makes me truly happy that I was able to be be around and be able to genuinely help these people, because I think anything that can makes someone else’s life better is always worth the effort. But this last year or two, there’s really been a lot. The car accident yesterday, my best friends relationship breakdown, my grandmothers slow descent into dementia, my Mum losing her job, my 2014 list just goes on and on.. Sometimes I feel like I can’t turn around without seeing someone I care about in the most acute kind of pain, and I don’t know how to not feel every single drop of it. And I just get exhausted. But I don’t really know how to ‘half-care’. I have no problem at all with openly not caring and being able to stand up and admit it, but this weird kind of ‘selective caring’ that I see so many people do in the real world just skeezes me out – because I think that, if you’re being true, you either care about something or you don’t, and anything less than 100% is just kind of disingenuous, or hollow.
But it’s also strange for me because I’ve never really been one to just throw my own pain in other peoples faces. I’ve always found it kind of gauche. And I don’t mean that as a slight to everyone else – because I truly don’t – but it’s just not the way I’ve ever really been. Since I was a little kid, I’ve always just found it strange to dump your problems into someone else’s lap unless there is something specific that they can do to help with them. In those cases, I think it’s totally fine and, if anything, a very smart and practical thing to do. But the concept of dumping an unsolvable problem on someone else just seems kind of mean – why would you want to torment someone else if it’s something there’s no solution to? Like – why drag two people down? And so, with my own problems, if I know what the solution is, I just go and do it. And if I can’t work it out, then I kind of compartmentalise it away until the universe nudges me towards the answer sheet. And, honestly – it’s really kind of worked thus far.
Anyway, there was no real point to this I guess. It’s just weird. I’d never thought of it like that before. It’s strange to think of how many people in the world are walking around with these kind of secondary injuries, like invisible pieces of debris, just floating around the crowds. It’s such a strange thing to be aware of suddenly. There are so many strange Social Laws that govern what feelings we can discuss and what we can and when, and sometimes I worry that all they do is help redistribute the problem by breaking it down to more easily shareable pieces that are harder to notice. But it’s interesting to watch I guess, to watch what makes the world turn.