I had to look it up, fan as I am of a good turn of phrase, “Hell is other people” is from the philosopher Sartre, an existentialist. Apparently there is some controversy about the phrase and what Sartre meant. I may be misinterpreting, or appropriating it for my own use. As a writer myself, I’d rather my words be used again than people be delicate about it out of fear of misquoting me.
Some things stick with me. I realized this morning that I had the immediate compulsion to hide away, from my pain, from the feelings too big to deal with. I’m making a conscious choice to confront it, but the jury is still out on whether that’s a good idea.
The reason I can’t be happy is the people I can’t forget. Today I was sitting in the pharmacy at the mental health hospital, a pretty normal chore for me. There was this lady who came in, and from her conversation with the pharmacist she needed more help than she was getting. Something about trouble with her kids, again a normal start. But then she got into that her husband was falling apart. He had lost his job, and following that had suffered some sort of respiratory collapse. He wanted to be discharged to go back to work, his identity was so wrapped up in work that not doing it was killing him.
At the same time, the guy was so unstable they almost couldn’t transport him by ambulance to the hospital. Clearly, he needs treatment. I don’t think he’ll get it. Meanwhile his wife is barely hanging on, his kids…. and this isn’t even the first time I’ve heard a story like this. This is typical for my community. I used to sooth myself by getting people to help, connecting them to resources…. but lately I can’t.
The thing is this family was doing everything “right” according to public health authorities. They saw the doctor, they went to therapy, they took their meds. Despite all that effort, this family is dying. Meanwhile, I feel shame. With my education, with my economic resources, shouldn’t I be doing SOMETHING?! The thing is I did, when I was able, I did, and if I was able again I would.
I don’t know what to do with this guilt and shame. I’m so frustrated with the culture around me, with what it does to people that I long to care for. That’s why I want to die, I don’t want to feel these things anymore. There’s no demand for kindness, for being caring
I also think about running away, living somewhere with less suffering people. Then maybe the problems would seem solvable. I could watch more birds, and less broken people. Birds are amazing, they reproduce at a rate that they can afford a very dependent lifestyle. Meanwhile, they do good just by existing. They help control the insect population, and spread essential species of plant.
I wish I was a bird, at least then I’d have some use.