So I’ve been fighting a sinus infection for the past week and late at night, as these things are prone to do, it kept me up to about 3am until the decongestant did its damn job and let me sleep. But prior to this I saw a particular article circulating on my Facebook, and I’ll admit, it did not sit well with me.
That’s a kind way of saying it set off my Irish temper–which, to be honest, is not an easy thing to do.
I’m not going to repost it because I feel it’s toxic to mental health (I’ll explain) and I don’t think the author deserves the clicks, but the basic jist was shaming the multitude of people who have been personifying the year 2016, including “can this year be over?” etc etc. It was extremely condescending, called this practice “really dumb” and was out right douchey–especially as it decided to use Carrie Fisher as the jumping off point for this.
First of all, how dare you?
I haven’t spoken too much at length about what Carrie Fisher meant to me, but a huge part of who she was as a person was an advocate for mental health. She was extremely open, frank, and delightfully crass about her own struggles. So to use her at all in this argument just infuriates me.
Spoiler Alert: No one ACTUALLY believes 2016 is responsible for the terrible things that happened during this year. It’s a year. This is redirected anger/pain/frustration.
Now, this particular mental tactic CAN be harmful–for instance, this particular tactic is often used in propaganda. #NotMyPresident-Elect Trump used this tactic to win by rallying anger towards immigrants and anyone of the muslim faith by blaming them for American hardships. They were taking our jobs, they were living off welfare that we paid for, they were ruining our economy etc. This is harmful because it blamed actual groups of people to distract from the genuine issue being caused by unethical business practices by corporations and institutionalized prejudice in our own government practices.
However, this mental tactic is also used in trauma therapy. And THIS is where blaming 2016 lies.
No one legitimately believes 2016 is responsible for all the celebrity deaths this year. We know the long term effects of drug/alcohol addiction shortens life expectancy, even once someone gets clean and sober. You do not have to write a whole damn article explaining this to us. We aren’t actually stupid. We’re COPING.
In an interview with the Princess Bride’s Mandy Patinkin, he opened up about losing his father to cancer.
“The reason I made the movie was coming to fruition, which was I was gonna get the cancer that killed my father. And in my mind, I feel that when I killed that six-fingered man, I killed the cancer that killed my father. And for a moment he was alive.”
This year has been terrible. Yes, I’ve lost heroes I looked up to, I lost artists I admired. Some to terrible diseases, some to failing hearts, some to pure accidents.
But I also watched my country vote in a tyrant who may literally be the death of some very dear friends of mine who are dependent on certain healthcare benefits, or others who have been terrorized because white supremacy has been bolstered by a man who plans on calling himself our leader.
I watched the aftermath of one of the most terrifying mass shootings on US soil. And the mixed response to this attack on my community showed me that despite we had achieved marriage equality–actual equality was even further than we first thought.
I’ve watched people withstand dog attacks, taser guns, and tear gas trying to protect their home from a corporation.
I’ve seen a foreign country make a foolish and widely xenophobic decision, not fully understanding those consequences until it was too late to stop them.
I’ve seen innocent men and women gunned down just by being Black.
I have seen and wept and fought the best I could against terrible things this year, and yet every day made it feel like there was nothing I could do. I would never be enough.
Of course we know it’s not the year’s fault.
But we’re bleeding. And we’re broken. And we have so many things we need to fix to “make this all better” that it’s overwhelming. Sometimes I feel like I’m going to drown when I think about it.
And maybe, just maybe, rallying behind the idea of focusing this anger and sadness and hopelessness at this personified 2016 is the coping mechanism some of us need so we can be ready for the fight we have ahead of us.
Maybe we need to watch this year die so we can fool ourselves into having the strength to tackle the multitude of issues that caused so much of this year’s pain. Maybe we need that ONE victory, regardless how superficial it may seem to you.
Don’t police people’s grief, don’t judge someone’s coping mechanism, don’t look down your nose at someone’s mental health care simply because you don’t actually understand it.
Be the mental health ally Carrie Fisher knew you could be. And if one of your friends is cheering on the death of a terrible year–something that harms no one–don’t shame them. Offer to bring the champagne.