"What happened to your flipper, friend?"
"You've broken your wing, darling!"
"I once did that myself slipping on the side of a pool in Cuba!"
Just some of the comments I've received in the past week from both friends and strangers alike, since I broke my right wrist successfully saving a goal while playing soccer. It was the first bone I've ever broken, and even the crunch of the wrist snapping back had a sense of dignity about it. I took one for the team, so to speak. When you break something visible, at least in my experience, people froth with empathy and camaraderie. I've spoken to more strangers on the subway this previous week alone then in my whole life. People are quick to share their own stories and are instantly protective of you. Children stare in awe at your injured limb covered in hearts and get-well-soon messages. You can accessorize your slings and even glue confetti to your cast. You can wear the plaster openly and with pride.
People have asked me whether breaking a wrist hurts, and I've wanted to say, "not a sliver as much as anxiety." I walked around for 10 or so years with a 'fractured mind' before I found the right help to start healing myself. There's hardly a tell-tale glimmer in a stranger's eye (or lack thereof) that indicates that they too have also suffered from anxiety, depression or what have you. "I too once cried outside of a convenience store because I thought my life was spiraling out of control," doesn't make for great subway small talk.
We are quick to share our stories about broken bones, but missed days at work, mental breakdowns and burnouts, are our burdens and buried secrets. I do think a great deal is changing, though. New dialogues are beginning to take place, but you still have to go out searching for them.
The doctor treated my wrist applauded me for my high-tolerance for physical pain, but it's only because I'm feeling better than I ever have mentally that I'm so calm. Physical pain has luckily been a fleeting romance for me, but for some it's also a chronic battle. I never want to imply that any one type of pain is greater than another.
It's just that in my case, a broken wrist is something I can mythologize in a way that I never can with my mental health, because the after-shock is still there, tiny little earthquakes rumbling under the surface.
So for everyone who is walking around with chronic mental health issues, I want to applaud you for your high tolerance for emotional pain. I hope that your doctor one day calls you a champ for your endurance. I hope you find whatever you need to ease your pain, and while we throngs of strangers may not all be automatically rushing to your side to offer our help on the subway, know that we are all there with you anyhow, the invisible ones.