I Care but I Feel Like I Don't
I sat on the hardwood floor with a pint of beer and my cat on a poof next to me, I was watching YouTube on my TV. This is an average Sunday night, and, like most Sunday nights, I was scrolling through various apps trying to stay updated with conversations and people.
It was then I saw news articles and charities for all sorts of things creep into my feed. They took up space in my head and all I could think about was the awful things happening everywhere but my apartment. I should’ve felt upset or sad or something, but I didn’t feel anything. I put my phone down and looked at the television that I wasn’t paying attention to anymore.
I wondered if I cared? I did; at least, I felt like I cared a lot. I donated, I kept up to date, and I didn’t get in the way. That was exactly what I should be doing, but it didn’t feel that way.
Instead I felt guilt, guilt that I sat here surrounded by comfort and safety and didn’t feel the need to stand up and do something. Everything negative that was happening to me was swallowed up by the ever-present injustice and horror of reality.
I had to switch off the TV and spent a while petting my cat. She purred like normal and I just enjoyed the warmth of her fur. As the panic and nerves lessened, something bubbled up and exploded in my head. A booming voice that said I was a coward, a hypocrite, a part of the awful mechanisms that make terrible things happen.
In all my privilege, I sat and wished these awful feelings would go away—it was pathetic in my mind.
I went to sleep and woke up feeling the same. I would walk down street after street and see posters, flags, passion, anger, contempt—all these things that I didn’t feel at that moment. I didn’t agree with what was wrong, but I didn’t fight for what was right. That was the constant thought playing in my head.
I stopped going through my feed to try and make things better and, at first, it compounded every negative emotion into my head and heart. As the days passed, though, I wondered if I should feel this way in the first place. Would this be the big catalyst that would drive me to join the protests and make a more tangible effort of support?
No, it didn’t do that.
Instead, it made me fall into an old pattern of self-hatred and pity. A cycle I had spent so long trying to break and work through, but here it was playing and playing.
It stopped eventually when I spent some time with my best friend. She could tell I was feeling terrible—I mean it wasn’t hard to notice—and when I brought my worries to her, she said that it sounded like I cared a lot.
I didn’t care, I argued.
“You do care, but you’re not one of those people.”
I was confused.
“You’re not someone who feels strongly about these things, you do care but you know you’re not the one who is gonna change things.”
We didn’t speak about it for the rest of the night, but her words ignited something; they would spill over in the middle of the night when I battled my bout of insomnia. I did care (she was right) but I didn’t care enough (I was right). Neither completely right nor wrong.
It was the back and forth in my head that led me to the conclusion that I was tired.
That seems like a bullshit excuse. I laughed at my thought and scoffed and insulted myself in self-deprecating tones until I fell asleep. I woke up the next morning exhausted.
I was tired; I was tired of seeing it and hearing about it. I understood that things were bad all over the world and probably in places I didn’t see. I knew that, I knew it and just knowing that it was there made me tired. I was tired from the overwhelming amount of negative information that piled on itself until there was nothing left underneath.
I felt better being away from it, but I couldn’t run from it because that was unfair.
I couldn’t turn a blind eye forever, but I did need to heal before continuing.
I was scared to tell some of my friends who did make positive change everywhere they went. They were fiery and bold in ways that I just wasn’t, and didn’t necessarily want to be. I admired that about them but never felt jealous of that drive. I moved that thought process to how I looked at the news. I didn’t have to go to every protest. I didn’t have to donate to every charity, but there were some things I needed to do.
I checked the sources of articles, I donated in amounts that were OK for me. I congratulated and supported my friends who did more than me.
With everything I did, I remembered how I used to deal with this feeling.
Caring about anything every hour of every day is hard, and it’s much harder when the world is constantly in such a state that people need help and support. They need you to care all the time and that’s extremely important.
Every once in a while, take a step back. It’s alright I’m sure your friends won’t judge you. I know I won’t. We can’t ignore it but someone told me a proverb about pouring from an empty cup, nothing comes out.
Take a breath, relax and return. You are important too.