Not Too Dramatic
Please don’t say “she’s so dramatic,” “she’s just looking for attention,” or “it’s a cry for help” about someone you love!
In the past few weeks I have heard two close friends refer to someone they know and deeply love as “so dramatic.”
In the one case, I asked my friend about a recent blog post her sister had shared. Although I don’t know her intimately, I have known the sister since she was a pre-teen, and I know that she has had some emotional struggles. I have also heard her parents make disparaging comments about her “penchant for drama” and other slurs against what I perceive as a sensitive nature.
In her blog post, the sister mentioned that she was crying every day, and felt lonely and stuck in an overwhelming life situation.
These are serious red flags to me.
When I asked my friend whether her sister was struggling with depression, she seemed surprised. My friend was concerned when I mentioned it, but dismissed some of my concern with the comment “oh, but you know her, she’s just so dramatic. It’s hard to know when to take her seriously.”
It’s so sad to me that my friend correctly recognized her sister’s sensitivity, but then dismissed it as drama.
I believe the sister is in a deep depression, and I am concerned for her health and her life.
But my friend, who knows her better and loves her more, just chalked it up to her being “too dramatic.”
In the second case, I was talking to my friend about her daughter, who has been having some trouble acclimating to a new year at school, mainly on a social level. My observations of her daughter suggest that she has some trouble with impulse control and obsessive tendencies (to which I deeply relate!).
I asked for more information about the social struggles, and my friend said, “Well, I think she may just take after my brother a little bit — you know, overly dramatic.”
I was so sad, because what I know of her brother is that he is most likely mentally ill, though I’m not sure of the exact diagnosis.
I know that my friend worries about her daughter’s mental health, but to ascribe the feelings her daughter is having to “drama” is to dismiss real sadness that deserves love and support, not labeling.
Emotional drama is an honest cry for help from those of us who are suffering deeply, yet have no tools for expressing that suffering in what society deems appropriate.
And what would be an appropriate way for us to express deep suffering? In my family, and in many others, unpleasant, ugly feelings were avoided at all costs, not because my parents are monsters, but because they were too afraid to face them.
In our society, it seems that there is no appropriate way to express suffering other than to keep it inside, sometimes stuffing it down with drugs, alcohol, food, work, and other self-defeating behaviors.
To actually cry out in pain, to sob to your mother or sister when you feel completely out of your mind with anxiety and worry, is not just “drama.” It is actually a cry for help in the best possible way. You are turning to someone whom you trust and love and letting them know that you are in deep pain, and you need help.
But, without meaning to, these loving family members ignore a meaningful cry for help because of the discomfort of observing someone in pain.
We just don’t want to see the people we love in pain. We want to make it better. To wipe their tears and take the pain away.
But the pain exists in all of our hearts and minds. Sometimes it’s simple sadness, and sometimes it’s clinical depression. Either way, it hurts, and healthy people are able to reach out to those they love for support and soothing.
I don’t know how many times I tried to get support and soothing from my parents before I attempted to take care of it myself with a suicide attempt at the age of 12. Why would a 12-year-old white girl in a comfortable suburban neighborhood need to kill herself? Because she was clinically depressed, but her parents just thought she was “overly dramatic” and “too sensitive.”
It’s true, I am sensitive. I feel deeply. And I deserved help.
My parents loved me, but they were not equipped to handle my honest emotions of pain and suffering. They were not able, even after I attempted suicide to support and soothe me.
Shortly after my suicide attempt I began a 30-year struggle with bulimia, which was embellished over the years by periods of cutting, deep depression, sexual promiscuity, and disordered use of drugs and alcohol.
Today, I’m in recovery from all of those behaviors. And I’ve learned that all of those behaviors were indeed a cry for help, and that crying for help is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s what we owe our children, our family, and our friends.
My healing is coming from learning to actually feel and express my pain to people who love me and don’t ever call me “dramatic” or “seeking attention.”
I would like to implore anyone who has ever said that a loved one is “dramatic,” “seeking attention,” or making a “cry for help,” to realize that their loved one really does need help.
However many times you think you have heard her pain, if the person you love is still crying out, then she is not OK. She deserves your love. She deserves your comfort and care. She deserves to be soothed by those who love her most.