A blog by Amanda Alcantara

Friday, August 8, 2014

Pain becomes suffering: occupied by experiences

I'm finally starting to feel alive again. It's taken a lot of bumps, checking-in at hospitals, seeing different clinicians. It's taken revealing a lot of pain to myself and realizing that some my life experiences actually constitute trauma. It's taken a lot of talking, and a lot of searching for people who will listen.

But I am finally starting to prefer being awake over sleeping my days away. And it's left me with a lot to say on what recovering from depression and dealing with anxiety --or at least beginning that process-- looks like. One of the first lessons being to do what you want when you want it, even if that means being that boring person that leaves the party early or that person who keeps cancelling on people.

Self-care is so important. And it looks like being easy on yourself and doing the things that you love rather than the things that you want to love. It looks like letting go of goals just for one second and setting a new goal: be happy with who you are before wanting to grow even more.

Last weekend I went on a 2 day trip to Philadelphia for a friend's film premiere. I went to the movie premiere on Saturday night, then spent almost all of Sunday roaming the city on my own. There's this awesome place called the Philadelphia Magic Gardens where artist Isaiah Zagar created a mosaicked visionary art environment.  It was created in a street in South Philly that was going to be demolished by the state to make room for new developments. Zagar, who was returning from volunteering with Peace Corps for 3 years in Peru, bought the place and transformed it. I learned that Zagar had been suicidal and was encouraged by his therapist to stop limiting his art to perfection and to simply let go. And Zagar did, building this incredible place.

This has inspired me to take my creative writing to another level. I decided to let my words flow out of me as they come, with no particular order or meaning. Here's one which is mostly about immigration and my experience in being here:

I'm no visual artist, which is probably why this has been so therapeutic. And fun. It is something that I now look forward to every-single-day. What I love the most is the lack of expectations that I have of this, unlike writing for this blog, writing poetry, or even writing in my diary, this project has no outlined goals. It doesn't need to make sense. It doesn't need any explanation.

It's been difficult though, as I wake up from the nightmare that has been happening in my own head, humanity enters it's own nightmare of wars, genocide, and overall injustice.

Eric Garner
Child Immigration
Hobby Lobby

How will the people suffering directly recover from all this? Our emotional pains are incomparable to theirs. As we suffer inside, their bodies burn. Their bodies are erased. People are dying as a direct result of this white supremacist capitalist racist sexist system. Our brown and black and poor bodies are deemed worthless.

In Audre Lorde's essay Eye to Eye, she writes about the difference between pain and suffering. Pain is an event that hurts us, suffering is the consequence of that pain and not dealing with it. She writes of this from an individual level, and it has come to help me understand why I need to deal with my pain rather than keep shoving it in the background.

Lorde writes:
Suffering...is the nightmare reliving of unscrutinized and unmetabolized pain. When I live through pain without recognizing it, self-consciously, I rob myself of the power that can come from using that pain, the power to fuel some movement beyond it. I condemn myself to reliving that pain over and over and over whenever something close triggers it. And that is suffering, a seemingly inescapable cycle.
As I deal with pain, I can begin healing from all the experiences that have occurred to me as a result of being the child of an immigrant, as a result of being a woman of color. I can begin seeing myself for who I am rather than what has happened to me. This process can be applied to our society, to our movements. People have been hurt, they have been stripped of agency, they have been colonized, invaded, bombed, raped, beaten, killed. In order to begin ending the suffering and the cycle of violence and move forward with love, we must deal with this pain and begin repairing it.

Everyone needs to begin living their cultures and being who they are, rather than their experiences of oppression. We must end all occupations.


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