Did you know, Traumatized Motherfuckers started as a mental health recovery project called Guinea Living? Before I decided to go the polarizing and dark-humored route of calling everyone a Motherfucker, I was using some cutesy guinea pig art and talking about trauma recovery as an experimental hiking trip. Plus, there were a lot of moss pictures.
Eh, some things still haven't changed. @mas.moss
Anyways, I left a lot of old posts out there in the unpublished ether when I abandoned my first idea and started all over again. I've decided to take another look at these old posts and see if there's anything worthwhile in all the self-described mess...
And hey, this one is alright.
Take a throwback post. You'll notice that my life was in a different place; I was still living with my ex in Atlanta, having a real home and career, for starters. This blogging project I started working on? It dissolved all that. lawl. TMFR for life.
That's it, I'm just republishing this bitch. I'm not even going to touch the formatting. BOOM, HIATUS WEEK CONTINUES!
Possibly the greatest joke of our human existence is pretending that everyone is doing “fine.”
- me, just now.
Despite our universal knowledge that life, in fact, is not always rainbows and unicorns, we desperately try to project these joyous lives to everyone around us. There’s no limitation to who we’ll lie to; our live-in partners, our parents, our oldest friends, coworkers of varying associations, social media followers…. all the way down to the cashier at the drug store who obligatorily asks how the day is going.
We all suffer in silence, and even worse, curate fake lives to demonstrate our glowing personal successes while effectively excluding the relatable difficult parts.
While we might skim over the darker truths in order to spare our closest loved ones from worrying about us (or a million other reasons why we don’t open up to our strongest support network), what is the excuse when it comes to lying to random strangers about your well-being?
Think about your casual interactions with all the people you’ll likely never see again. When they ask “how’s it going?” is your response honest, or is it a shallow programmed message of “everything is fine”?
Even though they absolutely don’t care what you say and wouldn’t even remember if you completely unloaded on them, you don’t. You could go off about the anxiety of working for your asshole boss, the stress of trying to scrape together rent every month for an apartment you hate, and your ongoing feeling that the world is about to end on them, but instead you inherently answer “doing fine,” and continue to suffer silently.
And that isn’t your fault.
Mechanics that had already been at work for thousands of years before your existence on this planet created this mutually-dysfunctional mentality of doing “fine.” The insidious part of all this “fine” is the isolating effect it has on everyone, I mean everyone, in our society.
For better or for worse, we have all been programmed to keep our heads down and project utter bliss, or at least sufficient-satisfaction, to the rest of the planet.
This only equips us with the universal expectation that everyone is actually fine, and we should be too.
But what if you sincerely are not feeling fine?
What if you’re running in endless thought circles every day, ignoring your stomach gnawing painfully with anxiety, and feeling so generally overwhelmed that even the smallest bump in the road throws you into a tailspin?
How do you relate to your peers, who apparently seem to be consistently doing alright, or even prospering, depending on which Instagram account you check into?
“Fine” curates comparison. Comparison curates inferiority. Inferiority curates isolation.
Now, I’m all about faking it until you make it. In my opinion, there is some merit to keeping your chin up and seeing if the universe will deliver on your positive vibe projection.
However, I am not about hiding common human experiences and alienating the folks who are having their turn up to bat with the responsibilities of maintaining adult life and contending daily with mental illness.
Speaking from experience, when you’re going through some shit, this secret societal agreement of “doing fine” makes you feel lesser than everyone around you – from strangers to your closest companions. You’re already dealing with internal stress, and now you feel helpless and stupid on top of it.
You begin to think of yourself as an inferior human compared to the assumed high functioning businessmen and women purposefully carrying coffee down the street. You approach every coworker with the expectation that they can see straight into the space where your dark and disturbed soul lives and judge you as a freak. You look at your friends’ accomplishments and wonder why they even bother to keep you around, since they must know you’re a loser and bring nothing to the table.
As you look around at your peers and listen to their recounts of doing “fine,” you make a lot of assumptions about where they’re coming from. These assumptions will kill you.
You imagine they're waking up feeling like rock stars every day, free of exhaustion, dread, or worry. You compare your own less-than-stellar routine of chugging a gallon of coffee and crying before dragging yourself, shaking with anxiety, to work. You become paranoid that everyone on earth possesses a magic ball and can see how you spend your time spinning in circles among all your flaws.
You lose all sense of commonality and respect for yourself. You assume you’re the only one who needs to improve. You wonder how you, alone, got this way.
Worse yet, you assume that since you’re apparently the only hiker on this long upwards journey, there’s no safe way to the top.
This might be the loneliest corner in the whole world (ask the Menzingers).
The thing is, when we assume that everyone is better, happier, smarter, more whatever than we are, we only do ourselves a huge disservice. When we accept our peers’ instagrams as reality or hear that they’re feeling “great!” every day at work, we build up a mile-high case for hating ourselves.
Step one in self-defeat by comparison is believing that other people aren’t fudging the truth, just like you are, when they project happiness. Step two is comparing your own secret, internal dissatisfaction with their curated facade. Step three is beating the shit out of yourself for this assumed shortcoming with self-imposed shame and guilt.
Rinse, repeat, re-trigger.
My journey – No, I’m not fine.
Let me tell you a bit about myself. I learned a while back that when people first meet me, they generally make some easy-living assumptions.
You might first learn that I’m in a stable relationship, holding a high-functioning full-time job, living in a nice home, traveling often, part of a group of hyper-supportive friend group (all with the added bonus of an adorable dog constantly at my side) and quickly assume I’m the epitome of happiness. It probably sounds like I lived the upper-class American life. My parents put me through school. I’ve never worried about hardship or where my next meal is coming from. I shop freely. I spend a lot of money on myself. I live my life to the fullest.
None of these things are true. None.
But, since I’m a reasonably young and attractive professional with a few irons in the fire, and because I tell people publicly that I’m “fine,” it’s easy to assume the best about me if you don’t know better.
You might start to judge yourself and build a mountain of gut-wrenching shame for your perceived inadequacies. You might opt not to talk to me for fear of being discovered as flawed or feeling that you have nothing to offer in the wake of my unbridled joy.
And that would be a huge mistake.
Don’t worry, it’s not your fault. We’re programmed this way.
If instead of shutting me out you got to know me, you’d realize that we’re one and the same. We share similar characteristics, no matter how different our immediate lives may seem or what our exact circumstances are.
You’d begin to see that shallow, surface-level accomplishments in my life don’t mean anything about my origins, inner world, or daily challenges. You could start to understand me as a whole human, not just the mascara that I wear when I walk out the door. You could see the energy I gain from talking to another anxiety-ridden, intermittently-depressed being. You could almost tangibly grasp the hope that it lends me, as another flawed, sentient, aimlessly wandering animal, to find one of my own out in the wild.
Basically, without snap comparisons you could experience the magic that happens when two humans are honest with each other and connect over their most important life challenges.
Nothing makes me happier.
The reality, briefly, is that I grew up in complete turmoil, I’m constantly plagued by mental dysfunction which bleeds into physical symptoms, I have no fucking idea what I’m doing on this earth, and I work every single moment of the day not to hate myself more than anyone else ever could.
You wouldn’t know by looking at me - mostly because a strategic application of makeup does wonders for hiding insomnia - but I’ve been operating off-kilter for my entire life after being dealt bad hand after bad hand.
What’s more, I’ve felt exactly as inadequate as you in the face of needlessly comparing myself to others and made my own mental health worse in the process.
I’ve beat myself up day after day. I’ve told myself I was incapable. I’ve accepted that I’m a lower-ranking human than everyone I meet. I’ve convinced myself I was a fraud, a burden on everyone I loved, and an energy drain on the universe. I’ve given up on improving myself because I assumed it was impossible. I’ve expected less for myself than I would want for any one else on earth.
To get to the point and stop blabbing about my own damn self…
We’re setting ourselves up for failure when we only acknowledge greatness from everyone but ourselves. Maintaining an isolated mindset of being the lone toy on misfit island, broken beyond repair solidifies your fate. Building everyone up while tearing ourselves down, we only distance ourselves further from our goals of finding connection and (actually) living with mental illness.
Mindset Shift: Humans are Humans are Humans.
Great, so I’ve offered up a bunch of “here’s what’s wrong with society” gobblygook, warned about the natural human tendency to compare, and talked about my own issues. You can’t change society, and you don’t want to be the sole member of the honesty club when everyone else is still playing pretend… so how does this even help? What actionable items have I provided?
Well, my shoulder is hurting from these hours of crunching keys at a laptop and I’m missing out on some primo hiking weather, so I can tell you for certain that there is a purpose to this; I wouldn’t make these sacrifices to my own recovery journey for nothing.
You have to start to practice seeing other people differently, and subsequently, seeing yourself differently.
And by that, I really mean you need to accept that everyone is basically the same.
Woah, woah, woah. That goes against every touchy-feely children’s show we grew up watching. Every diversity poster at the office. Every anti-bullying campaign, ever. It feels blasphemous. It feels wrong. Call the PC police.
Calm down and absorb this one thing with me.
First, an exercise to slow down.
Take a deep breath.
Cheaters, I mean you. Take a deep breath.
Clear your head.
We’re all the same species of animals. Relatively speaking, we are more similar than we are different. We generally live in similar schemes. We have quite similar motivations and core values.
We’re all out in the world, finding our people and trying to make sense of this tumultuous landscape with varying success. We face similar challenges and failures, although our exact experiences are completely unique.
We are affected by things in our environments and do not always have control over our psychological responses. We have many of the same insecurities, worries, and ailments.
We all run with the same basic operating system controlling these chemical bioreactors we call brains and responsive meat bags we call bodies. We are all susceptible to the same experiences, functions, and dysfunctions. Whether or not you, personally, fall into the hole of mental illness and have to claw your way back out just depends on a semi-random genetic lottery and a host of uncontrollable environmental factors.
That means, there’s nothing wrong with just you. You aren’t the only one who feels incompetent. You aren’t the single human who struggles with motivation, exhaustion, and anxiety. You aren’t the sole person who gets bogged down in disorganized thoughts and struggles to take control of their life.
You just don’t hear all that much about it.
We suffer mental strain for being human; but, just like every other animal, we don't often exhibit signs of distress to avoid being perceived the weakest in the pack. Let's start to accept that we're human animals just trying to survive this wild ride. Let's stop judging each other and ourselves so harshly. If it helps, let's think of everyone as a cute little animal - like a guinea.
I know it helps me.
I'll leave you with this. You aren’t alone. You are one of billions of mental health sufferers. Billions (with a b-) of people who are trying, pretending, and failing, to be “fine” so they aren’t the weakest in the pack. All of us experience the same shortcomings, struggles, and self-doubt.
Wouldn’t it be something if together, we b-illions of fakers could honestly say that we aren’t doing “fine”?
Self-compassion starts with accepting that you have human conditions.
And if you need a bit more juice, it doesn’t hurt to remind yourself in layman’s terms; we’re all pretty fucked.
Just really good at hiding it.
Yes, I could have just taken us on a tangent into statistics and clinical health reports, especially following my “billions of sufferers, b-illions" claim. I also could have opened this post with dry facts that often don’t relate to the way you’re feeling. But I don’t think that helps – it didn’t help me during my early recovery and it doesn't to this day. That’s why I’m not looking to relay academic information your direction; anyone can find clinical mental health facts and professional recovery approaches online. Frankly, I just don’t find them useful. You have enough to think about.
Instead, I aim to impart new, positive ways of thinking – mindset shifts - that promote mental health. I want to end the mental illness stigma and open the floor for the hard talks we collectively avoid. I want to foster connection in humanity. I want to promote self-acceptance and compassion for captive humans and trialing guineas on their personal road to recovery.
Let’s take it one experimental mindset shift at a time.
Well, that was fun. I got some chuckles from my old self. How the times have changed since Winter/Spring 2019 - my life literally is nothing like I describe it here... either is this mental health project.
And no, I'm still not really doing "fine."