Apathy sounds a lot like depression or at least like many of its symptoms. Wikipedia has this to say about apathy:
Apathy (also called impassivity or perfunctoriness) is a state of indifference, or the suppression of emotions such as concern, excitement, motivation and passion.
Suppression of emotions like concern, excitement, motivation, and passion. Hmmm.
I have occasional bursts of these things, then they get weighed down and buried, usually under layers of physical and psychological pain.
Coping with too much pain over a lifetime, especially when a) you are naturally a hypersensitive and empathetic being and b) when the only ways of handling pain that are exemplified or taught are denial, avoidance, and numbing out, can lead to a presentation of apathy.
I believe that many people who appear apathetic are, in fact, anything but. I think that an apathetic demeanor may be the only armor some of us have to defend ourselves against more pain than we think we can handle.
The son who received so much verbal, emotional, and physical abuse learns to “turn off” and put up a front of indifference and not respond to further punishment. The girl who is ridiculed by her peers so often that she chooses to become the thing she was ridiculed for in the first place has lost her motivation to be anything other than what everyone expects of her anyway. You get the idea.
Then there are those who have experienced those kinds of things and then came to experience physical injury or impairment that is accompanied by chronic, severe, and debilitating physical pain.
If you are spending all of your emotional and physical energy to “never let them see you sweat,” by whatever means possible, there isn’t much left over to take an interest and be concerned about the larger matters in life.
Eventually, it becomes easier to avoid people than putting on the show. It becomes easier to avoid knowing what other pain and injustice there is in the world. If you can’t cope with the pain in your own life, how are you supposed to cope with the pain of others?
A friend of mine said something along the lines of,”I like to be a strong, independent person and take care of myself. The past while has shown me how that isn’t necessarily a good way to be.” Those aren’t her exact words, I paraphrased a bit.
Being strong and independent are qualities that our American society respects, admires, and promotes. We tend to judge negatively those who are weak, impaired, and reliant on or interdependent with others in order to function or make progress in our lives. We have a distinct prejudice against the philosophies and practices that indicate we are responsible for each others well-being or that what is good for everyone may also be what’s good for the individual.
We like to admonish each other to help the less fortunate, but turn around and in the quiet of our own minds judge the less fortunate for needing our help and God forbid that we ever allow ourselves to get that low in our own lives.
So, when it happens through a series of events and circumstances that got out of our control or were never in control to begin with, after a certain amount of energy and effort to fight, control and avoid the pain, we withdraw and become apathetic, at least on the outside.
I reached out and asked someone from the new church I’ve been attending if she might be able to give me a ride to the grocery store. I felt awkward and uncomfortable needing to do so. I masked the desperation behind my need and told her if she couldn’t, it was fine. She agreed and we were able to connect a couple of days ago.
By the time we were done and back into her car, I was in so much pain from my back and the lower left side of my body, I couldn’t contain the tears. The thought of carrying the bags of groceries up the stairs for multiple trips was unbearable. She volunteered to do that for me. I felt weak, pathetic, and useless.
Two days have passed and I have three days, but really only today to clean and prepare for Jerry to be home because tomorrow and Monday are full of pre scheduled appointments and activities. Luna pounced on my left leg this morning. I am in such pain, physically. Mentally and emotionally, I am trying not to give in to the shaming and hopeless thoughts and feelings.
I don’t want to engage with people. But I will because I know it’s what Luna and I both need. I’ll put on my broken mask with it’s cracks that allow my pain and vulnerability shine through and pray for the strength and stamina to override the apathy.
Gratitude Day 17
People: my children for giving me the will and determination to keep trying and for the kindness and willingness of near strangers to lend a helping hand.
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