In one such book, The Hidden Writer: Diaries and the Creative Life, Alexandra Johnson focuses on the lives and journals of a few - the one whom I quote below is May Sarton; a struggling poet and novelist who became famous later in life for her published diary, Journal of a Solitude.
Pain is the great teacher. I woke before dawn with this thought. Joy, happiness, are what we take and do not question. They are beyond question, maybe. A matter of being. But pain forces us to think, and to make connections, to sort out what is what, to discover what has been happening to cause it. And, curiously enough, pain draws us to other human beings in a significant way, whereas joy or happiness to some extent, isolates.I like this quote very much; it is succinct and feels true. What can be learnt from joy or happiness? As she says, they are states of being that we may aspire to obtain but then what? Once there, isn't it simply a matter of enjoying and hoping to prolong that state of bliss?
Pain is a different story. Pain is the great teacher. I think of physical pain first. When everything in the body is functioning as it should, we are pain-free. Again, nothing to learn. But when there is pain, we know something is wrong and are motivated to address it. X-rays, MRI's, CAT scans can disclose the culprit. The cause and effect is more readily seen. If the ankle is broken, one cannot walk.
Then I think of mental and emotional pain - internal pain of the mind, of the interior, of the soul. The symptoms are more vague and often hard to describe. How does one accurately depict what is going on inside their head? Their feelings? In a way that others can understand? I feel bad, I feel sad, I feel empty, my mind won't stop racing, I feel someone has high-jacked my mind, etc.
It is this internal pain, within teens, that the Josh Anderson Foundation wants to acknowledge and address: by broadcasting loud and clear that it is OK to be open with their feelings and the craziness that sometimes spins around in their head; by busting the mental health stigma that traps them into silent suffering; by letting them know where and to whom they can turn to for help. All this so that NO other child will turn to suicide as THE solution to their pain.
My last thought on this is that pain does cause solidarity. A brotherhood. Suffering alone intensifies the pain. Shared pain is lessened pain. This is why people gather at funerals. Why so many kids came to Josh's memorial service; they all felt pain and wanted to be with others that felt the same way. And seeing all of them lessened mine. It was a cathartic gathering that provided the opportunity to say a collective "good-bye" to a beloved son and friend.
RIP Josh. I am so sorry that we did not see your pain, that you could not share your pain with us and that this pain became so excruciating and unbearable that you could not see a way out. I wish I had known - I would have helped you through it. And I know many others would have been willing helpers too.