Love, Empathy and Compassion

By Stephen Ames

 

I am no one special. I am not smart. I was diagnosed mentally retarded when I was 13. I have also been diagnosed with Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Bipolar Disorder and Attention Deficit Disorder. I have also been labeled a terrorist and a criminal. That sure is a lot of contradictions, but they aren’t mine.

When I was a child, I was also strapped down to a table with wires glued to my head. Everyone couldn’t figure out why I wouldn’t do school work so I was sent off to the Geisinger Medical Center in Danville Pennsylvania for  tests.  After that, I was placed in Special Ed.

I spent 3 years in Special Education coloring, drawing, and counting change until I dropped out of school. I just never could do schoolwork, I thought it was absurd. I don’t have any letters after my name, I haven’t attended and/or graduated from any prestigious schools, I haven’t even dropped out of any prestigious schools demonstrating my self-motivation and non-conformity. I don’t have a degree that automatically makes whatever I attach my name to an instant voice of veracity.

When I was in my early 20s, I barely escaped a lobotomy. They said a lobotomy could cure me. This was from a well-meaning Psychiatrist in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. He knew I was in severe mental pain, but he didn’t know what to do about it.

I’ve been surrounded by S.W.A.T 2 times. I’ve played cards with serial killers and mass murderers during my 3 stays at Mayview State Hospital a maximum security forensic hospital.  I’ve had to go months without bathing, brushing my teeth, or shaving while in the hole in Dauphin County Prison. My teeth rotted, just like the clothes I wore.  Living in and never leaving a 4×8, room for a few months brings on higher states of consciousness—so it was a good thing.  Also in prison, I was stripped naked, handcuffed behind my back and strapped in a chair for days at a time. It’s not much fun sitting in your own excrement and urine, but the pain and suffering make for a wonderful teacher. It gave me a deeper understanding of torture. The people who commit acts of torture are more afraid than those that they torture and they don’t know what they are doing..

The most horrific experience of my life was when the love of my life was killed. She was struck by a car. The last time I saw her, she was lying in the middle of the road. She was unconscious with blood coming out of her open eyes, nose and mouth. It was the final time that I would ever see her. She is the first thing I think about when I awaken in the morning It has been almost five years since she has been gone. We were together for 14 years.  I still have flashbacks and I don’t think the pain will ever go away. I will have to live with the pain for the rest of my life, but I must go on. I experienced a love with her that few have ever experienced.

Knowing all of this may make you into an automatic skeptic, which is fine, but it does more for me. It makes me free to say and do whatever I want.  And what is it that I do and want? I want to share my experiences with others, ease their pain and suffering. Why?  Because I empathize with, have compassion for, love for everyone.  I have tried, oh, believe me, I have tried not to empathize, have compassion and love for others, but it is something I just can’t turn off. People may consider me an enemy, but I never can be. I just can’t hate.

Because I am not confined by letters after my name, a piece of paper certifying my pedigree, any school, business or institution that pays my bills to disappoint or offend, no will whatsoever to uphold my good name. I am neither obligated nor bound to carry out the will of someone else. I realize that pain and suffering are a gift, not a curse. What could be freer than that?

I’ve always been free, because I’ve never been broken. I can’t break, I can’t change, so there is no escape. It is not will or defiance. I can’t do things that I consider wrong or absurd, believe me I have tried.  I can’t give up my freedom, believe me I have tried. The very thought of stealing, lying, cheating, or being deceptive or doing something absurd causes my mind to schism, my heart to race and the sweat pours out of me, it drives me insane. I have always been like this and it has caused me to go through what many consider terrible situations.

I’ve never wanted to be or trade places with anyone else. I’ve been fortunate to see and experience things that most people only read about. I got to experience all of this not by hurting anyone, stealing, lying , etc., no, these events all happened because I couldn’t do what I was told to do. I couldn’t be a slave. Pain and suffering are a gift…probably the greatest gift one could receive.

Pain and suffering can teach one to have empathy, compassion and love for everyone, including those who have committed wrongs against you.  So, if you’re in pain and suffering, it may not seem like it at the moment but, you are surely blessed.

 

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