Category Archives: Relationships

KINDNESS

 

It’s clear to those of us who use social media that we live in a world saturated by memes and inspirational quotes. The topic I see pop up the most is: kindness. It seems that there are countless variations of the ‘be kind’ meme. We hit the ‘like’ button, charged with the judgment that everyone should be kinder (because we have felt the barbs of unkindness) but are we taking the time to consider our own words and actions? When I ‘like’ these memes, I know I’m judging others more than I’m judging myself.

 

BLACK, WHITE AND HAZY

What does being kind look like, exactly? The obvious themes are: having goodwill, not ill will, being gentle, not violent, being considerate, not selfish, speaking words of love, not hatred, helping, not harming. But then there’s a gulf between kindness and unkindness that is filled with words and actions that don’t definitively belong on one side or the other. Being kind, while at the same time respecting yourself, is one scenario that hangs in this hazy space.

 

BOUNDARIES

I probably seem kindest when I’m meek and mild (like a mouse). In these mousy moments, I don’t openly take issue with the hurtful words or behaviours of others, but this quiet manner often equates to the practice of subjugation. By subjugation, I mean submitting to others in order to avoid unpleasant consequences. In the past, I’ve let people cross boundaries because I felt that pushing them back would equate to being unkind. But whatever kindness costs, I’m learning that it should never cost a personal boundary.

 

TAKING A STAND CAN BE PROBLEMATIC

In a recent instance, when I took a justified stand for my value, I was barraged with a torrent of vitriol. Although I had pushed back as politely as possible, it provoked an entirely negative reaction from the other person. I was unfairly slammed as being unkind.

 

THE KINDNESS FRAME

I was lead by this experience to wonder, ‘How does being kind fit in the same frame as self-worth?’ No matter what angle I look at kindness, I have to admit that it always contains respect – the quality that allows both kindness and self-worth to exist in the same space. If I can’t show respect for another person when I make a stand, then silence has to be the next best thing. Sometimes silence is kindest – for the other person as well as yourself.

 

KINDNESS COSTS NOTHING

Rubbish. We have to lay down our ego, among other things we hold dear, to be kind. Sometimes it takes a lot of effort. And sometimes a kind response means taking a hit for the wellbeing of the other person, but it should never equate to subjugation. In a century when kindness is valued above all, I fear that the quietest people are subjugating too much.

 

THE CHALLENGE

Perhaps the truest test of kindness is whether we act lovingly toward those who we feel little or no respect. It’s easy to be kind in the face of kindness, but it’s hard to be kind in the face of unkindness.

If you’re anything like me, people test my capacity for kindness regularly so there are many opportunities to practice getting it right. This week, I challenge you to pay attention when you’re hitting the like button on a kindness meme and consider how well you’ve shown kindness recently. Then identify one way you can be kinder in the coming weeks and see it through with action. If you’re treated unkindly, be kind to yourself and take a polite stand for your self-worth.

 

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Letter to a Friend About Mental Illness

Dear Friend,

You’ve often said to me that nobody is normal and we all have our problems. I completely agree – and I appreciate your efforts of trying to make me feel acceptable – but I think that perhaps you don’t really understand.

It’s true that everyone has their issues; we’ve all experienced traumas; we’re all broken. What we share in common are our human natures and the whole range of human emotions. What we are less likely to share in common – diagnosed or not – is mental illness.

Someone who is sad may say they’re depressed when they have no clue what real depression is like. It is not sadness – it’s worse.

Someone who is particular might say they’re OCD about something when they have no real understanding of the brutality of the disorder. In its most destructive form, OCD is oppressive and relentless.

You lack motivation? Sure, everyone does but do you know that tight grip of depression that feels like 20kgs of weight strapped to your feet? You can’t move, no matter how hard you try.

Someone who is feeling stressed from having too much on their plate may not truly know what real sensory overwhelm feels like – that state where your anxious mind meets a barrage of overbearing stimulants. The result is internal chaos.

You say you feel anxious. Everyone experiences anxiety – true – but not everyone understands the extreme stress response that comes in the form of a panic attack. It is truly awful and can be extremely hard to prevent, even after all your best efforts.

Someone whose brain has checked out for the day due to busyness, may not know what real dissociation feels like – that state in which you lose all sense of yourself. In fact, you don’t even know you’ve ‘left’ and so have no idea when you’ll be ‘back’.

Someone who feels lonely for a spell maybe doesn’t understand the feelings of abandonment and despair that you have to deal with as a person with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

These examples are just a few of the ‘not so ordinary’ issues I – and many others – have to deal with, on a regular basis.Whilst BPD, depression and anxiety don’t define who I am, they follow me everywhere. They are more than mere labels, simply because I have to live with them day in and day out. Relief is hard to get.

BPD, depression and anxiety – like all mental illnesses – are serious and can’t be equated with all manner of human nature and human experience. (Did you know that the most common reason why people engage in self-harm or attempt suicide is to escape unbearable emotional pain?)

So sure, no one is normal. Normal doesn’t exist. But one person’s ‘not normal’ is different to another person’s ‘not normal’. And mental illness is the most debilitating ‘not normal’ out there.

So now that you understand the difference between the things we share in common as humans and a few of the symptoms of mental illness, dear friend, please stop comparing me to everyone else and telling me that my suffering is no different.

Perhaps you will never fully understand, and that’s okay, but I’d really appreciate it if you continue to try and as you try, be careful not to dismiss the gravity of mental illness.

Love Jodie x

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Pledge

I made a pledge to myself a few months ago.

I made this promise because I feel like there’s too much isolated, silent struggle going on out there. It breaks my heart.

My pledge is this:

I will be honest about the struggle I go through with my thoughts and emotions. I will help to overcome the conspiracy of silence. I will speak up.

I’ve struggled with depression, anxiety, poor health, relationships, conflict and life in general, in both silence and isolation – it’s horrible. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

My aim is to be transparent and honest with people about the battles I face – to set an example and to encourage community.

I want to be someone who’ll never cease caring about others. I want to be someone who others are willing to confide in. More than anything, I want to somehow help those who are struggling on their own, in silence. Even if all I can do for them is just listen.

I’ve discovered some lonely, silently suffering people in the world and they’re the most beautiful of souls. I’ve made friends with many of them.

I’m passionate in my belief that we’re all meant to be helping each other in this life. Let’s stop judging each other and living individualistic lives. Let’s get our act together and break out of our boxes to speak up and help someone.

Are you with me?

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