Um, am I the only one who has no idea what that word even means really? I mean it’s trendy and people throw it around a lot and I get the gist, but what’s the deal with it? I’ll go Google it quick, be right back.
Okay, I found a few definitions that I think fit how the word is usually used. One is from the Urban Dictionary interestingly:
[Solidarity] is often used when someone is not able to support with actions, so instead, support is shown through social communication.
This one’s from Vocabulary.com:
Any time you express support of a group or the people in it, you’re showing solidarity with them. The word is used most often to describe a sense of unity with a political group, a group of striking workers, or people who have been deprived of their rights in some way.
In the mental health world, solidarity is used to describe this feeling of “I’m not in this alone, all of these other people are fighting a similar battle.” While that kind of solidarity is wonderful, I want to talk about a different kind- like in the definition from Vocabulary.com, the kind of solidarity where we show support to someone, even someone whose struggle we don’t understand at all.
Everybody Cries on the Bathroom Floor Sometimes
The thing is, we all understand struggle. No human life is immune to excruciating pain, heartbreaking loss, painful season and crushing disappointments. We are capable of feeling so many emotions and an infinite number of “flavors of suffering” (a phrase I borrow from the great Dr. Kristin Neff).
Speaking of her, Dr. Neff’s work on self-compassion which I reference often, puts great emphasis on the concept of common humanity. Basically, as we acknowledge that suffering is a part of everyone’s journey and that no one else is perfect either, we are able to be kinder to ourselves. Solidarity (showing support and empathy for someone’s struggle we don’t understand) breeds self-compassion for the struggle we are experiencing (which we understand intensely).
Since I started college I started having my breakdowns in the bathroom. I know it’s gross and I’m lucky not to have a host of diseases, but the bathroom is sometimes the only secluded place where a girl can lock herself in to cry. I’ve spent hours curled on the bathroom floor riding the waves of a panic attack, life disappointment, grief, or breakup.
I spent a long time thinking I was the only one who did that, the only one who came apart when the pressure became too much. I would see beautiful, put together women and think “I’m sure she has it all figured out.”
Then one anxious day on my mission when I simply couldn’t fight the anxiety to go talk to people, we went to the duck park instead. There was a little walking trail going around a small murky pond that was home to a few well-fed ducks. My companion and I sat on a bench for a long time watching the people. One woman was walking her baby in an expensive looking stroller. She had on cute workout clothes that accentuated her perfect body. Her baby was cute and well dressed and not screaming. At first the familiar voice in my head said, “Wow, I will never be as put together and perfect as her.” But then I turned to my companion and said “I bet she cries on the bathroom floor sometimes too.”
And that’s when “Everybody cries on the bathroom floor” came to mean “I understand and appreciate that you struggle just as much as I do. I don’t understand your suffering but I do understand suffering.”
I can’t fix this, but I can be here.
As I was researching I came across this article-https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/02/time-to-talk-day-mental-health-sympathy-welcome-solidarity-go-further and the following quote:
In his novel Things can Only Get Better, John O’Farrell recalls having the Jamaican poet Michael Smith as a guest at an early 80s university radical poetry evening. Afterwards Smith was turned away from a club for being black. Back at a student house Smith exclaimed: “I want justice!” to be answered by a young woman saying “I can’t give you justice but I can give you a hug.”
That’s the very definition of solidarity to me- I can’t fix this, but I can recognize your struggle and sit with you through it.
May we all practice more solidarity. May we all come out the other side of suffering better and kinder people.. And may we all be gentle to ourselves and others through this messy, beautiful journey of life. Much love, Kearis