(By Corey Rotella, CNA Extraordinaire)
Everyone has a story. It’s such a truth. I don’t understand how people can be so cruel to someone that they don’t even know. Those were my thoughts as I read the comments with a growing sense of horror and despair on an online news article.
It wasn’t the subject of the article. Truth be told, I don’t even remember the topic of the piece. It was of little consequence. What WAS concerning was the rhetoric and bullying with which everyday people were unabashedly engaging. The level of rage combined with the freedom of anonymity turned seemingly normal adults into rabid, raving lunatics with no conscience or restraint.
“You’re going to HELL!”, one poster wrote to another, the words leaping off the page and screaming their fury. Fat bitch. Illiterate redneck. Rot in hell. She had it coming…each comment from both sides of whatever pointless argument in which they were engaged attempting to one up the other. It was awful. I don’t like to be around this sort of bullying. It brings up all sorts of ghosts and tears at old scars and yet I couldn’t look away.
It surprises me; the level of anger and lengths people are willing to go to express it. These commentators were ripping away the dignity of others without stopping to consider that there is a HUMAN BEING on the other side of that computer screen. They either don’t know or don’t care. That is a problem. This sort of callous, apathetic acceptance of such behavior is also a problem.
I got in my head about this. It affected my mood, robbed me of my peace of mind and kicked up my anxiety for a quite a while. After a few days of pondering the potential implications of an apparently global lack of empathy, it hit me; I may be powerless over all those people but I’m not powerless over me! I’m a writer. If I have a message I’d like to get out to people, I should write it. So here it goes:
To those who feel lonely and lost: Don’t be afraid. I’ve been there and believe me when I say that no matter how it feels right now, you are not alone. There isn’t a person on this earth that isn’t loved by at least one person and this includes you.
To those who feel hopeless:
I know many people, myself included, who despaired of ever getting their feet on the ground and we’ve all beaten the odds. So, will you. Have more faith in yourself? There is either hope for everybody or hope for nobody. The fact that you’re reading this means there must be hope for everybody because if ever there was a hopeless case it was me.
To those who grieve: I know there is nothing I can say to ease your pain. But I can walk with you from a distance through it. In my experience, time doesn’t heal all wounds. What it does is teach you how to create a new normal and in doing so, you heal and develop an empathy that will enable you to help and connect with others.
To all the “weirdos”,”outcasts”, “freaks”, “misfits”, “broken” and the gloriously flawed individuals who have the courage to be themselves in a world that attempts to dictate how they should be to be “normal”. To all who struggle with depression or anxiety or addiction or just life: YOU are my people. You have all the gifts and abilities within you to thrive. You will learn more from facing adversity than the average person and your journey will be anything but ordinary if you keep putting one foot in front of the other. You are so much bigger than your challenges. Never give up. An interesting and worthwhile life is so much better than a “normal” one.
Finally, to those who feel the need to cruelly belittle others who have the audacity to look, think, believe, feel, pray, hold an opposing opinion or express themselves differently than you do: Just because today’s climate may appear to validate your ugly and judgmental rhetoric does not make it any less ugly. Ganging up anonymously with like-minded people and ripping apart those who are different is not righteous. It’s cowardice. Name calling, bullying and kicking people who are down in the name of God is not a trait in which one should take pride. And I would not be so certain of everything. The very people you are so eager to condemn online are very real in your outside life. We are your sons, daughters, co-workers, and friends. We come in all shapes, sizes, genders and belief systems. We will meet your anger and hatred with compassion and truth. We will not be bullied or shamed into silence. We will remember that everyone has a story…even you.
Corey Anne Rotella co-authored the book CNA Edge: Reflections from year one along with Bob Goddard and Hannah Hedges. It’s collection of essays from their blog CNA Edge: A Voice from the trenches of Long Term Care