This blog first appeared on Healthy Minds Canada’s website: https://healthymindscanada.ca/how-to-practice-compassion/
I’ve written before about how powerful and overwhelming thoughts can be. When you are feeling anxious or feeling depressed, or a combination of both, you have thoughts that are hard to process and thoughts that lead to further feelings of distress. These thoughts are real to you and are important as part of your mental health journey.
There will always be people who think that our anxious or depressed thoughts make no sense, are illogical, and essentially are trivial thoughts. You know the people who I am talking about. The people who think other people have “real” problems (i.e. physical injury or illness, suffering a loss, surviving a disaster) and therefore your symptoms of mental illness don’t count, because other people “have worse problems than you do“.
Coming out and being open about living with a mental illness is courageous and a brave thing to do. I wanted to share my story and encourage others to do so because suffering in silence is painful and feeling ashamed of something that is no fault of your own is foolish. It’s just plain wrong. I say we are brave to be open and share our stories because that stigma is a real b**** and we have to teach her a lesson.
I always tell people don’t apologize for something you didn’t do, or something that isn’t your fault. So why feel ashamed, or apologize for our condition, or symptoms of our condition?
I know we can’t expect everyone to understand what mental illness is, what it looks like, or how it affects us on a day to day basis, but a little compassion goes a long way.
How can someone show compassion or understanding?
Let us be our real selves.Tell us it’s okay to let it all out. Tell us to take off the “normal mask” we may have been wearing all week at work (to make things easier at work), so the real self can breathe.
Don’t make us think our thoughts have no value, or are trivial. Help us work through our thoughts if we are willing to talk about them.
Let us be silent if we don’t want to talk. Enjoy the silence with us.
Let us speak when we are ready to.
Give us space when we need it. We need down time to decompress. Mental illness is exhausting.
Make sure we practice self-care and self-compassion. Teach us to relax if you can. Give us gentle reminders that self-care is important and that whatever we insist we must finish today can wait until tomorrow, because most of the time, it really can.