i am a question asker and always have been. i tend to seek the meaning in life’s different events, both big and small. i want to know why things happen the way they do or did.
when difficult things occur, we often ask “why?” why me, why now, why them? we are trying to make sense of what is happening around us.
i was 13 when when my dad killed himself, and i wanted to know why. he didn’t leave a note, but even if he had i am sure it would have raised more questions than it answered. i was told he had depression, but that didn’t mean much to me at the time. why did he leave me? why did he do it? why did he do it in our house? why couldn’t we have prevented this from happening?
i was 21 when my mom was diagnosed with cancer, and i wanted to know why. i had already lost one parent, and now the other was potentially seriously ill. why my mom? why me? why not somebody else’s family?
i was 31 when i had a major panic attack coupled with major depression and went into a psychiatric hospital for the first time. i wanted to know why. why didn’t i see this coming? why am i here?
i have crawled through the last year on my hands and knees, battling a ferocious bout of mental illness head-on. more than ever before, i wanted to know WHY. WHY is this happening to me? WHY am i not feeling better, even though i am trying my best? WHY do i have a mental illness? WHY aren’t my meds working? WHY, after years in therapy, am i still struggling to make sense of my childhood trauma?
i asked my family. i asked my friends. i asked my therapists. i asked my doctor. i asked myself. i asked god. GOD DAMMIT WHY WHY WHY?
guess what? nobody could tell me why. even when i was given explanations or logical answers, it wasn’t satisfying enough because it couldn’t take away the suffering. there are some things we just can’t know, especially when it comes to mental illness.
some wise friends and teachers helped me to see that i could ask a different question. i could start asking “what.” what can i do? what can i try? what do i feel? what have i learned? “why” has a backwards focus, while “what” seems to bring me into the present moment and point me forward. “why” spirals into rumination, while “what” is more proactive. i realize it is not quite this black-and-white, but it is a subtle shift that makes a big difference in my outlook.
my urge to know “why” will always be a part of me, and recognizing that can help me try on this new perspective of “what.” it’s about learning to ask a new set of questions about the things that just are.