“Get over it!”
We hear that a lot. We say it a lot. I say it to myself when someone cuts me off in traffic, or my arms are too short for me to read the instructions I’m holding. Sometimes, we just need to move on.
We don’t say it to people who are sick. If you have a loved one with cancer, or as in my family where diabetes is a cross many bear, we would never tell that hurting person to, “Get over it!” To do so would be cruel and also a completely ridiculous suggestion.
However, when it comes to folks with mental health issues, which are just as much about sickness… and can be just as terminal as physical maladies, our society is still impatient. Sometimes it seems that mental health sufferers should just “get over it” and move on. So you were abused as a child, or schizophrenia runs in your family, or your parents were both addicts… somehow that is something that is in the past, and we want the person to just be better already.
I sometimes hear it from otherwise loving family members of children at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. Sentiments like, “We know she was hungry and hurt before she was with us, but now she is safe and loved. Why can’t she just “get over it?” These are good people who simply want to love the illness out of the child. It doesn’t work that way.
Because just as physical injury hurts the body, so does emotional trauma. Only trauma does damage in the brain, where it isn’t easily seen. The damage exhibits itself in behaviors that are unusual and do not easily evoke sympathy. Loss of hair from chemotherapy, or the indignities caused by diabetes tell a story that we want to rally around. But aggression, self-harm, drug use, or being deeply sad are viewed as poor choices. We overlook that those behaviors may be symptoms of injuries. Injuries that require great courage, medicine, and faith to live with. The illness can be forced into remission. People can lead good lives but will always need to address and be conscious of their healthcare needs, just like the others.
I read a book by the actor Alan Arkin, who has been on a long search for life’s meaning (not sure where he landed yet, but that’s another story), and he surprised me by writing about, “Get over it.” He said that telling someone with painful challenges or trauma history to, “Get over it!” is like telling that person to run as hard as they can at a 30-foot brick wall as many times as they have to until they “Get over it!” I thought that was a pretty good analogy.
I guess my overall thought is that mercy, patience, and kindness, as Jesus taught, are the best approaches for all who are injured or ill. Whether that injury is to a leg, an eye… or the brain.
I’ll save my “Get over it!” for the person who passes me on Interstate and then goes ten mph slower than I was going. That is a wall I can get over.
Please keep our kids and staff in your prayers.
In His love,
Joy Ryan, President/CEO
Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch
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