I went to a deer skull boil the other week. Wait, how do you not know what that is??? We’re a weird mountain folk here in Denver. It’s a party where kids watch a deer skull get boiled down to all its parts (and odors). They get to see the eyeball sockets, touch the jaw bone, and learn words like “severed brain stem”. Then they sample venison hooray! Just in time for Rudolph!
One of the guests brought her cousin who had moved to Denver the day before. She had no friends, no job, no place to live, and no plan. I was curious so I asked why she moved.
The moment she started talking I was uncomfortable by her erratic energy. I could tell there was some mental instability and the more she told her story, the more uncomfortable I became.
Her story was tragic. She left West Virginia where her recently ex-husband had her committed to a mental institution and took her three children away. She moved to Colorado on a whim to get a handle on her life and away from a very negative situation.
As she was telling her story, she became angry. The story went on and so did the dropping of various F-bombs, S-bombs, and A-bombs. It became clear she wasn’t innocent in the whole tragedy, which is when I awkwardly ended the conversation with a: “Was that my kid crying? Gotta go!”
“What a train wreck,” I thought, “I’d rather probe the deer’s cerebral cortex.”
I avoided her for the rest of the party. I watched the other guests avoid her too. She stood awkwardly among the children running by waving deer hide like baby brutes. Everything about her was wild, broken, unstable.
And then I had a thought – yes, she most likely did have a mental health issue, but didn’t I have a tiny understanding with my own mental health experience what that might be like? Didn’t I know that sometimes it’s beyond your control? Didn’t I know that all I wanted was someone to see my struggle and simply say: “That sucks, I’m so sorry this is happening to you.”?
I walked over and said exactly that: “That sucks, I’m so sorry this is happening to you.” Tears welled up in her eyes, she exhaled and for a moment was calm. Granted the next moment she was telling me the story again about the A-hole who was an F-tard, and did S-tastic things, but aaaah, that one moment of calm. It felt so good to give her that, to let her know I saw her.
At the end of the day, here was a person struggling with mental stability who just lost her kids, her husband, and everything that was home to her. And now she was at some weird pagan party with strangers who found carcass boiling to be a celebratory time. That. Sucks.
I know that mental health is not as guaranteed as I once thought, and those suffering truly are suffering. Instead of pushing them away, they need to be acknowledged and not treated like pariahs. Because trust me, they already think they’re broken and it doesn’t help to be told through our recoiling and avoiding that we agree. Sometimes they just need to know that we see they are suffering and that sucks what is happening to them.
We would all benefit from a figurative human empathy boil where we watch the human condition get boiled down to all it’s various parts (and odors). We would see what we’re made of and how we’re the same. We would see that what it all boils down to is the heart that pumps life into us all. It can also pump life into those around us if we let it, my deer dears.
In unrelated closing, it would be cruel of me to write a post about a deer and not include the best thing on the internet (sound on!):
THINGS THEY FORGOT TO MENTION:
Sometimes the things that make us recoil are the things that need us to lean in. And sometimes things are just a plain ole suck fest and that’s all that’s needed to say. They also forgot to mention that deer skull boils are most definitely celebratory pagan good times!