How to get through life (without taking others down with you)
I've written 3 of these 'How to...' posts now and I'm enjoying it so much I think I'm going to make them a proper thing for this blog. They're titled somewhat tongue-in-cheekily because, as I'm sure I've explained before, I don't really know what I'm doing generally so the idea of me telling people how to do anything is self-deprecatingly amusing. Really they've all come about from .having a jolly good think about things that have felt pretty dire and how I can change my perspective and look at them as a positive life lesson.
Let's face it, we all know that Life, as lovely as she is sometimes, can be a total bitch when she wants to be.
Next week is a big week for me; I've been going to counselling more or less every week for almost 2 years but next Monday will be my last session. It's made me reflect on where I am now compared to where I was when I started and, although I still ain't perfect (who is), I'm actually in pretty good shape.
I've obviously shared a few of my run ins with Life on here. At times it's felt like a lot, too much in fact, sometimes I can get it in perspective and be thankful for my lot. Other times I think back to how I was before things started to go properly haywire and you know what? If I'm entirely honest, I didn't always have a lot of patience and understanding for people who were experiencing mental health (or other) problems. I thought I did but now I know, I didn't have a flipping clue.
I'm not going to beat myself up about it; it's something I've learned as I've gotten older and experienced more. Some people have to learn about adversity all too early on while others get to live a relatively charmed life for most of theirs, but here's the thing: it really doesn't matter who you are, what you're like, what you do, what you don't do or how you react to it all along the way, it's highly unlikely you're going to get to where we're all going to without a few bumps and scratches along the way.
No one gets to have a life where everything goes their way all the time and you can guarantee we'll all weather some hardship along the way.
I guess one thing Life has taught me in the last 5 or 6 years, and definitely since writing this blog, is how similar we are despite our differences. We focus on things like the colour of our skin, the language we speak, the people we hang around with, how much money we have and a whole host of other reasons to differentiate ourselves from the people around us. Or to determine what we have in common. But, no matter how you're feeling or whatever you're experiencing, it can surprise you to know there are many people around you, from all walks of life, that are all too able to understand you. It's just that hardly anyone ever talks about it.
I don't exactly know why there's a tendency in us all to put on a front; to pretend that everything is hunky-dory and you're doing just fine thanks. It was certainly complex for me; in part down to worrying what others would think if they knew I wasn't coping, partly it was not wanting to admit to myself I wasn't and partly either not knowing what someone else could do to help or believing there was anything anyone else could do.
I can remember, when my circumstances and depression felt completely overwhelming, how hard it was to meet people I knew in the street or in the playground at school drop offs or pick ups. I'd often keep my head down and avoid eye contact, not to avoid the person specifically but their anticipated greeting: "how are you doing?". Completely innocuous in the vast majority of occasions, it can seem like the world's most difficult question to answer when you are not in fact doing very well at all.
After all, what are you supposed to do; tell them how you're actually feeling?
"Oh hey. Yeah actually I feel really terrible today, I'm so sad and feel like I'm doing such a bad job of living that I think it'd be better if I killed myself. I just can't work out how best to do it without causing too much bother to people."
Not exactly what people are bargaining for at 8:30 on a Monday morning is it? Think about it: do you ask people how they are expecting an honest reply or is it just something to say and you don't expect anything more than "yeah fine thanks"?
So what's my life lesson here? Well I guess it's realising, from being on both sides, that there can be a whole lot more going on with someone than just what they present to you. It's very hard not to judge, to think someone just isn't friendly or that they're making a fuss about nothing or whatever, but you'll never know the full story unless you ask and really want to know and if you don't want to know, don't judge.
Personally I think it would do most people a lot of good to have a go at being truly honest about how they're feeling. For one thing it gives you the opportunity to release some of the tension caused by keeping yourself so contained all the time and, for another, it gives the person you're talking to...well, exactly the same opportunity.
Being honest and avoiding the smoke and mirrors trickery of pretending life was exciting and just grand when it wasn't, led me to start this blog. It opened me up, both to myself and to others and allowed others to share their personal struggles with me. It's helped me feel freer, to evaluate what I actually think about something and what makes me happy. Writing a personal blog may not be for everyone but the lesson of lightening the load, for yourself and others, might just well be.
Thanks for reading.