I have been reading a lot lately that has reminded me how frail humanity is. How vulnerable we are. Our bodies, our nervous systems, the balances of the chemicals in various systems that keep us functioning are so finely balanced. And so, so often is our sense of self. Our sense of our own competence and worth. We become vulnerable to so many thoughts and perceptions that we may once have never thought possible – may once have thought weak once this is penetrated.
I have been reading people’s writings – people who are feeling worthless, yet working daily at moving forward – at overcoming illnesses that sap energy and personal reserves like parasites. For as surely as I breathe Depression and Bipolar Disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorders, Psychosis, Schizophrenia, Personality Disorders and Anxiety are parasites that draw upon the heart and soul, the will and desire, the sense of purpose and confidence in one’s own capacity.
And yet as I read I see evidence that these illnesses and disorders are liars. I read words written by brave people who are still wrestling, still fighting, still entering the ring round after round. Sometimes they come out on top. Sometimes they come out feeling hopeless and defeated. But I say this. While people are still willing to step into the ring, they are not losing the war.
The human body, while fragile is also amazingly robust. We survive enormous things. Our bodies fight infections. It is well designed to protect its more fragile organs. It is our sense of self that is the fragile part.
Each person is unique.
Each person has a different combination of qualities – of strengths and weaknesses to the next.
Each person has something about them that is admirable. Worthy of respect.
Each person is entitled to dignity.
It is hard to breathe, hard to grow, hard to believe any of these things amid the lies of mental illness when it is out of control and where it has left its scars. It is hard to believe that friends still care when they are getting on with their lives while you are feeling stagnant and stuck wrestling just to keep your head just above water. If they haven’t been here they can’t possibly understand that you are feeling left behind. And so friendships grow fragile too.
Families tell us anything from we “just need to try harder” to telling us “not to push ourselves” because we’re too fragile. Sometimes they expect the world of us – and sometimes they seem to expect nothing at all. I’m not sure which is worse. Those who push too hard make us feel like we are inadequate and seem to think that we are just lazy – and that does wonders for our sense of self. Those who seem to think that we are too fragile to try don’t inspire hope that anything will ever get better although they mean well. How hard it is for a family to understand if they have never been here. They usually mean for the best – which leaves us feeling guilty for being annoyed by at their lack of understanding. How do we deal with this? Most of the time when we’re not well we’re not in a state where we feel eloquent enough to express ourselves well and we fear that it will all come out the wrong way. Sometimes it has before. And so some of us feel that our family is far from us.
And so we stand; feeling as though we could break at any moment. Our lives, our friendships, our relationships with our families, our very selves.
Hear me say – I believe that people who make it to this point can still be strong. Simply deceived.
Yes, your situation may be fragile. This does not mean that you are weak, undeserving of hope or inadequate.
You don’t have to believe me. You don’t have to believe it’s true as though you have had some kind of epiphany.
But treat the thoughts with the suspicion they deserve. Perhaps the same suspicion that you treat my claims. Keep stepping up for another day. Keep looking for tools to arm yourself with – mindfulness, sensory strategies, CBT, relaxation (see the link in today’s poll), self-affirming statements, support people, distraction, your medications – whatever is positive and works for you.
You too have strength within you. Even you – the one who doesn’t believe me yet.