I am going to stop being picky about the way people want to support my pain and struggle. At best, everyone is trying to be kind. At worst, you learn how to communicate your emotions better.
In this age of awakening to the reality that mental health is real and raw and scary, we have become very particular about what "the right or the wrong way" to help others is. I am here to tell you that I am learning, for myself, there is no right or wrong way to help or to be helped but it is okay to have preferences for what makes you feel safe.
We have become a list of "Say this but do not say that." And now we have become more anxious to communicate with one another because we might accidently say something on the "do not say this" side of of the list, offend somone, and instantly lose a friend.
My question is, "Haven't we already been here before? Say religious agendas where people are disfellowed for being humans to one another?"
We have created enough agendas, when do we get to be what the Creator is creating in real-time which is imperfect and constantly being formed but generally, kind and desiring to be helpful?
Granted, lists regarding how to handle one another has opened a door to becoming softer with one another and they have certainly raised awareness to issues regarding prejudices...they are helpful but are they sustainable?
At the core of it all, what I have realized that I needed the most in times of despair, darkness, and suicidial thoughts was genuine connection, not a list. A list is there and then gone. A genuine connnection involves devotion to one another. It shows up even in the dark.
I have learned recently that I needed to speak up for my emotions. I needed to stand up for my mental health like I would anything else I defend in my life.
I needed to say, "You know, for you, it might be easy to get out of a depressive, dark funk but can I explain how it is for me without you wanting to fix my way of coping?"
There are so many shades of mental health. On the outside, a person can look like sunshine and sundresses but on the inside, it is raincoats and storms and we all do not need the same solution...some do not need the sun to come back out but rather a lighthouse or a boat.
It does not mean they are always in the rain, always sad, always moping like Eeorye in Winnie The Pooh, trying to find a glimpse of beauty but when they are, they are definitely not trying to be like Winnie, you know? There is actually beauty in the darkness too. It is just that we are told otherwise.
Lest, I am speaking for myself so again, I state that there are so many shades of mental health and what everyone needs is vastly different. It is important to note that whatever you said or did not say has nothing to do with a person who is struggling & their choices after the fact.
Yet, my question is, when do stop creating agendas around communicating and start creating true connection?
I believe that learning how to speak our emotions and not feel shame for them is one of the first steps in the "general" healing of mental health for future generations & for the now.
No doubt, religious agendas and dogmas are known for their insensitivity to expression and to me, this has NEVER made sense seeing that God is the greatest expression of all.
Yes, God is absolute but if we read between the lines, God is honest when he feels anger, sadness, and even regret. Was it not God that sent a flood to wipe out humanity and then said, "I will never do that again?"
But it is not just religion that shuns expression. It is childhood development.
I watch so many children being told to switch their emotions quickly. We put resilience before expression and I feel like putting it before causes an interuption in the process of healing rather than an interceding.
Resilience is like The Holy Spirit--it intercedes on our behalf but in order for there to be an interception, we have to be holding the pain in our hands, outwardly, unshamefully, like a baby dove ready to simply learn the process of being set free.
We have to call out, reach out, pick it up and demand that the pain we are holding is heavy. My 8 year old nephew was wailing on Easter because he spilled all of his bubbles. As adults, we can think "No big deal buddy, get it together!" but what about when my nephew turns 16 and gets his heart broken for the first time or when he is a fully grown man and grieving one of his parents who has passed? It might be bubbles now but loss will not always be just bubbles.
His parents let him wail it out. No one told him he was "wrong" in the storm of his emotions or tried to rescue him. Later on, I overheard him at the kid table. He was calmly telling his 3 year old sister why he was so upset and why he thought her chasing him was a bad idea because then he fell over and spilled his bubbles. He was transmuting the feelings into a sound and reasonable lesson. He did this on his own AND with the support of others. After he expressed his emotions, he was able to listen to his dad & I know that he appreciated his mother letting him cry the way she did.
What I am trying to say is that it starts with spilled bubbles. That grief and that pain is so raw in the moment--his joy sucked right out of him, never knowing if he will ever get the bubbles back because in that moment, they are GONE.
It does not matter if somone says, "Do not worry, we can get more!" The fact of the matter is that ten seconds ago, I was blowing bubbles and now, I cannot because of an unforseen circumstance.
That is depression and grief sometimes.
It is spilled bubbles and the reality that while I can always get more bubbles, I can not get back all things or that moment before the heartbreak or my parent who has passed.
I believe there is a time and place to explain to children when "quick resilience" is necessary, such as being out in public and learning how to walk away and come back to the issue--though let us be real, even as adults, we wear our hearts on our sleeves and it is HARD to be okay until we are able to express it!
We are growing in the department of expressing our emotions, do not get me wrong, we are learning great lessons about how to not take our emotions out on others but in the same breath, this does not mean we cannot lean on one another without the pressure to be "fixed" right away or to be the fixer. I lean heavily on prayer nowadays and not in some half-hearted Christian, "I will pray for you" way. Nah, it goes much deeper than that. It falls on the notion that if I know I am too weak to do it on my own then I know we all are.
Back to children & resilience, if a child is at home, at school, or any place where there is a caretaker, we should care more about expression first, resilience after.
If you cannot hear the emotion, hear your rage, feel your sadness--how will you know how to bounce back from it?
Expression is messy at first. It is the paint going on the canvas that makes no sense. At first, it is a black blob but later, you see it is the milky way.
It all takes time.
I think that is why we love false resilience more than we love the true process of expression & healing. False resilience is pretty and seamed perfectly. It is quick and shows well.
Expression is a shirt turned inside out and upside down. A little too tight too. Eventually, we learn to look in the mirror and say, "Wow. What I am wearing/carrying is messy and does not fit."
But at first, we feel the uncomfortablility...the threads exposed, the shirt clinging to our ribcage and some people point it out rather than giving us the space to notice it for ourselves.
I have a friend who never points out when my shirt is inside out until I laugh and say, "Hey, my shirt was inside out for awhile there!" She just nonchalantly says, "Hey I noticed that too. Glad you noticed "
She is not pointing out because she is praying it out.
I know she is. Behind the scenes.
I think we all know that she is. It is why we all have the same message about her as a friend.
Sometimes that mirror is yourself praying for yourself. Sometimes that mirror is a friend who just becomes your backboard, not your tennis racket. Let me tell you my theory of how to be and ask for backboard friends instead of tennis racket friends.
[By the way, I have felt both and BEEN both--I am still learning and not trying to create another agenda but rather an essence. The friend I spoke about--a backboard, for sure, a soundboard of prayer--I think it is safe to say that we all kind of wish we could be a little more like that and so, I am learning.]
Backboard friends always know you are going to make it in that hoop but they allow you to aim towards them for support. They listen and occassionally, your aim bounces off of them and back to you. You catch the ball and it sounds like YOU--not them, but YOU--they just become the feedback system but not necessarily the "feedback."
It resonates and works because they were actually just very good listeners and able to give you space to hear yourself out.
Tennis racket friends are always hitting the ball back to you expecting you to bounce back from their suggestion quickly. "Just be happy. Just learn the lesson and move on. Try this. Maybe it will work."
They mean well but it becomes tiring. I would know. I have been a tennis racket more than a backboard. I still catch myself doing that sometimes. It is actually okay though-we have to unlearn how to become fixers and learn how to become friends again.
God is like a backboard. Steadfast, never rushing, never demanding and certainly has no personal agenda for you. He has faith and a path for you but just as God takes moments to examine his creations, He too gives us time to process before we move on.
He does not expect us to understand, "We can always get more bubbles!" right away. Can you imagine if we all bounced back that quickly? I cannot. It sounds terrible.
This does not mean "Let yourself and others suffer." It does not mean to stay in the dark. Like a parent, there will be times that your child will fall and you will let them get back up on their own and yet, there will be times when you know the pain is unbearable and they need you to swoop in and pick up and dust off and assure them that it will be okay.
I am learning to discern the types of falls myself and others around me are in. Do I need this person to pick me up? Do I need to take the gift of therapy that God has given us? Does my friend need that suggestion?
I feel God saying to me, "Know yourself and know that others are the same and yet, different and so, get to know them too."
In conclusion, be gentle with yourself and others. Slow down with one another. Lean more towards being a backboard and searching for hoops instead of rackets when you need support. Cry when you have spilled your bubbles and do not, for a second, think that your grief is meant to be filled instantaneously.
Allow yourself to be in despair and be angry but also allow yourself to be helped and walked home by others who genuinely just want to be there on the walk; rain, snow, or sunshine.
Do not bring your friends A+ progress reports of how well you are handling the darkness just because you think that is what they want to hear.
Wail because the bubbles are gone and if it causes someone else to feel awkward or not know what to say, let them be there too--and if it feels right, let them know that it is OKAY to not know how to fix and give them the grace of being a human too--sometimes without a solution but always with the power to surrender to a greater force of Love.