Monday, August 20, 2018

The Cheese Grates It: The Not So Great Unfriending and Empathy Deficits

I recently unfriended someone that I had been online friends with for 12 years. I encountered him through blogging and a mutual love of the horror genre. He was the coolest guy until his life became all about weight loss. Then the cracks started to show.
I tried to give him a break, even though I found him becoming more and more confrontational. He wasn't friendly anymore, but I hoped maybe the characteristics that made me like him in the first place would resurface.
 I never could be his weight loss cheerleader, and he seemed to resent that. He was always posting pictures of himself next to a pair of his old trousers, announcing how much weight he'd lost, and want people to stroke his ego. 
The only comment I ever made on one of his weight loss pictures was that I thought he was a cool guy regardless of what size he was. He went off on a tangent about how much better he felt and looked and so on. I tried to be sympathetic because I knew he'd gone this route because he'd been bullied, and I didn't blame him.
The straw that broke the camel's back was actually not about weight loss. I was doing my thing, trying to raise awareness and end stigma where suicide is concerned. He wrote this long comment about how he didn't feel sympathy for people who committed suicide, he felt sympathy for the people they left behind. He felt that people who commit suicide are weak and cowardly, and then he went on a tangent about how he had been bullied and molested but he forgave his abuser and he never committed suicide, so why could these people not do the same and realize that whatever higher power they believe in has put them here for a purpose.
And then he went on about how he has lost 368 pounds and his health is sooo much better (except it really isn't, he still has the same underlying issues, he's just thinner so he doesn't get the same ration of shit from the doctor anymore.) I had to hold back from saying "ah yes, your weight loss. Great. What do you want, a cookie? Oh, I'm sorry, that's probably not on your diet. So, I'll eat it for you."
I said that I was sorry that he had endured such a hard life and it was good that he was able to overcome his adversities, but everyone is not wired the same and I was distressed that he seemed so unable to muster any sort of sympathy for people who were unable to go on. I said that I did not feel that my cousin was a weak person for committing suicide after many years of fighting severe depression with no relief. I said that some people are better able to withstand adversity than others, for a variety of reasons. I then said that maybe he was somehow superior because he had come through adversity without attempting suicide, but that doesn't mean that people who aren't able to do so are lesser.
Initially, I didn't unfriend him, but then I realized that I always dreaded interacting with him since he began his "weight loss journey." After about an hour of deliberating (okay, wrestling with myself) I made the decision to cut ties with him. I told him that I felt no animosity towards him but I couldn't be friends with someone who could not muster the least bit of sympathy for people whose despair led them to a desperate act. 
I opened up about a gruesome suicide scene which was burned in my mind and gave me years of PTSD. I said I never hated the person who caused this memory. He was autistic, had brain damage from an incident where he was so severely beaten by his bullies that he nearly died, and had other serious mental health issues, including severe depression. This guy fought on as long and as hard as he could, but eventually, he couldn't anymore. I was angry at him for a time, yes. But I never for even a minute thought that he was weak or selfish or cowardly.
I've lost several people to suicide. I'm willing to realize that people are ignorant about this issue and to educate them, but when you express that much vehemence towards a person who was obviously in a great deal of psychological pain, there is too much of an empathy deficit, and I can't maintain a friendship with people who hold such beliefs.

~The Cheese Hath Grated It~

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