It’s not fair that I have to pay for my own therapy. It’s not fair that I’m all alone. It’s not fair that I’m so unwell. It’s not fair that there’s no support. It’s not fair that I’m in so much pain. It’s not fair that I was abused.
You’re absolutely right. It’s not fair.
Whenever I suggest steps towards healing, things to do to manage triggers, ways of coping with flashbacks – that there are things that survivors must do if they want to recover – then invariably someone responds angrily: You don’t understand what it’s like! How am I supposed to do that? It’s alright for you! I don’t have anyone to help me! It’s not fair!
And they’re absolutely right. It’s not fair.
But what I’m particularly interested in is relieving suffering. There is the suffering – unfair, unjust, undeserved, unwanted – of abuse. We can’t turn the clock back and make it so that it didn’t happen. It’s not fair, but it is what it is. But what we can do is work to relieve that suffering, rather than falling into a second pit of suffering: the paralysis of It’s not fair.
You are walking down the pavement on a quiet road. You’re not doing anything wrong. You are on your way to work, to contribute to society and to support yourself. It’s right to be walking where you are. And then before you have a chance to respond, a drunk driver veers off the road and smashes into you. You survive, but with broken bones. It’s not fair.
You’re standing by the parallel bars with the physio. She’s encouraging you to grip the bars, support your weight, and walk. You need to train your brain and strengthen your muscles, to be able to walk again. It hurts. It hurts like hell. Every step takes everything from you. You’re not sure if you can do it. But she encourages you: keep going.
The pain is too much. ‘It’s not fair!’ you say. ‘It’s not fair that it’s so difficult. It’s not fair what happened to me. It’s not fair that I can’t walk.’
You’re absolutely right. It’s not fair. But whether it’s fair or not, that’s not going to help you walk. The only thing that will get you mobile again is your attitude. Do you push through the pain and do the hard work? Or you do refuse to move forwards because you’re still trying to convince everyone that it’s not fair?
The thing is, people know it’s not fair. People feel for you. The surgeon, the nurses, the physio … they’re motivated to help you partly because they see that it’s not fair. They want to see you walking again. They want good things for you.
‘You don’t understand what it’s like!’ you complain to them. And in some respects they don’t, because didn’t have to be wiped up off the pavement by a paramedic. But that doesn’t mean to say they don’t care. And it doesn’t mean to say that the exercises the physio gives you won’t work. They will work – if you do them.
It’s not fair. No one could possibly think it is. But don’t compound your suffering by getting stuck in the unfairness of it. Instead, do the work you need to do for life to be less painful. Because only you can do that work.
And no, that’s not fair either.