Saturday, March 17, 2012

How Long Does Caring Last?

In high school, a bunch of us did a physics project where we designed and built something to help a person who had a disability. My group built a Nerf-ball shooter for a classmate who had muscular dystrophy and wanted to play basketball.  This experience made me realize how often we assume that people who a have a disability have different desires than people who are able-bodied. Like, if someone on the basketball team broke their leg and couldn't play for a while, they would get a lot more sympathy than someone who could never play basketball because of a permanent disability.  I'm not trying to downplay missing out on something because of a temporary injury - I know that sucks.  It's just weird the way we rationalize that if you're used to missing out on things, that makes it less bad or more okay than if you just had a temporary problem.

I've seen this a lot with emotional pain as well.  Most of us are familiar with the story of the boy who cried wolf: a boy cried wolf as a joke when there was no wolf, and everyone came running to help him.  Then when a real wolf appeared and he cried for help, no one came because they assumed it was another joke.  Now, we know the lesson here is not to joke about serious matters like a wolf attack, but this story got me thinking - what if there really was a wolf every time this boy cried for help? Would the story end differently?  I often wonder if the townspeople would have just gotten tired of answering the cries for help, even if every one of them was real. 

I've seen this sort of thing happen when people are going through a difficult time.  In the beginning, everyone is very kind and wants to help any way they can, but once they realize that the situation is more permanent than they realized, a lot of that caring fades off.  It doesn't take long before people forget what the problem was in the first place.  I've seen friends go through traumatic situations, and there's a point at which people start to forget what happened and start wondering why their friend isn't the same anymore.  Not much time goes by, and people expect everything to be okay again. It reminds me of those counselors and advisers who are supposed to help you "transition," but the minute you say, "I'm not okay with this, I'm not making this change," the problem becomes permanent and no one wants to deal with it.  One time when I  trusted someone and told them everything that I was upset about and they told me that I needed to figure out where all my anger was "really" coming from, because they couldn't believe that college was the problem.  I got that from a lot of people.

When I first got to college and started writing angry and depressing things on Facebook, everyone was there for me and asking what was wrong because they had never seen me that way before. But as time went by and these posts continued on, everyone lost interest. Since writing negative things became the norm for me, it was like it didn't matter anymore. But it did matter. I was writing those things because they were still going on. But the longer it went on and the more it became routine, the less anybody cared.

The longer a problem goes on, the more people forget the source of the problem and think that you're just like that.  The more permanent a problem becomes the less important it becomes to solve it.  Maybe we feel better when we can actually fix a problem., and when we can't fix it, we pretend it's not there.  If you spend a week of recesses hanging out with your friend who sprained their ankle instead of playing kickball, you can feel like you did a good thing for your friend.  But if you spend a week hanging out with your friend who uses a wheelchair, you probably feel like it doesn't mean much if you're playing kickball most of the time.  If you can cheer up a friend who had a bad day, the problem is gone, but if you cheer up a friend who is depressed, you know their depression will be back the next day.  Maybe we treat temporary problems more seriously because they are more in our power to solve.  But we all need to remember that getting used to something does not make it okay. 

No comments:

Post a Comment