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On Russell Armstrong: We Never Know a Person's Head, Heart or Capacity

By Rae Lewis-Thornton

August 18, 2011

This piece originally appeared in Rae's blog, Diva Living With AIDS.

On Russell Armstrong: We Never Know a Person's Head, Heart or Capacity

A couple of nights ago Russell Armstrong, the husband of Taylor, from Real Housewives of Beverly Hills committed suicide. That was incredibly sad. You never know what someone else is going through.

I must admit this is the one and only reality show that I'm an avid viewer. And from the tweets each night the show airs, Russell seems to be the husband that was most disliked by the public of all the husbands. People thought that he was way too controlling of his wife Taylor, there were even rumors of physical abuse, but nothing confirmed. Honestly, he was also the most introverted of all the husbands, and that made him appear a bit aloof. But, honestly, some people also thought that Taylor was a piece of work. They both took a lot of public flack.

On Russell Armstrong: We Never Know a Person's Head, Heart or Capacity

It's interesting, we look at someone's life from the outside and we make assumptions about them as if they are hard core facts. And quite often those assumptions determined how we treat them. And from the outside looking in, we even make judgements about people's journeys and that also dictates how we respond to them. And I know for my own self most of these assumptions and or judgments are based upon ones value system. How we see life becomes our baseline for how we view and treat others.

When I first started speaking people would come up to me to share bits of their life and they would often start by saying, "My situation isn't as bad as yours, but." Then they would go on and tell me what they were dealing with and I could see the pain in their face as their story unfold. And it hit me, that pain is pain. What might be one person's cake walk may be another person's mountain.

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You never know what's in a person's heart or head. Nor one's capacity to deal with issues that they face. My biological mother attempted suicide in the most horrible way and survived it. I thank God that she never tried again, but she never really recovered emotionally. And no matter how hard I tried, I could never wrap my head around the blood splatters that I saw in her apartment. What would make a person do that to herself? I had only known my mother for five years but by then and from my estimation, I believed that a person could handle anything. I mean at 23, I had already been to hell and back and never really wanted to do anything but live.

But older and wiser, I understand, that a person's pain is a person's pain and it is most unfair for me to measure my pain against theirs. I even dislike when people try to encourage me, by comparing my life to other people with HIV. Don't tell me I'm lucky or fortunate when I have been hurting for months and can barley walk from a neurological issue triggered by AIDS. Tell me to hold on or that you will keep me in your prayers. But don't compare my pain based on your assumptions about my life. If truth be told, if I'm at an emotional low point you really have NO idea what could send me over the edge.

We all struggle in life and have struggles with life. I get that. Some people can breeze though some shit like it don't even stick, while others can't get pass the smell. We have to be sensitive to people's journeys.

There is no one way for a person to deal with tragedy and hardship. Yesterday morning I had a complete and total breakdown, but as the day progressed, I reclaimed that part of me that holds me together. Some people need more time, some people need help, some people never get there. I understand, We Never Know A Person's Head Or Heart or ones Capacity.

As you journey through this life, be sensitive to other people's journey.

Post Script: May Russell Armstrong rest in peace and my Taylor and their daughter find peace.. Amen..

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See Also
TheBody.com's AIDS Memorial
More Viewpoints on Grief, Death and HIV/AIDS
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Rae Lewis-Thornton

Rae Lewis-Thornton

Rae Lewis-Thornton is an Emmy Award-winning AIDS activist who rose to national acclaim when she told her story of living with AIDS in a cover story for Essence Magazine. She has lived with HIV for 27 years and AIDS for 19. Rae travels the country speaking and challenging stereotypes and myths about HIV/AIDS. She has a Master of Divinity degree and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Church History. Rae has been featured on Nightline, Dateline NBC, BET and The Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as in countless magazines and newspapers, including Emerge, Glamour, O, the Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Jet, Ebony, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, to name a few. She earned the coveted Emmy Award for a first-person series on living With AIDS for Chicago's CBS News.

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