11/02/2020

Seek Not to Alter Me

Posted in Family, General, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 6:17 pm by The Water Bearer

“Cheer up”

“Calm Down”

“Harden Up”

“Take a Breath”

“Just Chill”

“What’s Wrong Now?”

“That’s crazy talk”

“Geeze you’re a lot to take, aren’t you!”

If you have a mental illness, you might hear feedback like this all the time. Usually from those around you who feel they are being helpful by telling you how to ACT ‘normally’.

I recently watched the movie ‘Joker‘, and yep ok it was little darker than I usually like, but for the sake of research into mental illness I thought “Heck, I’m just gonna give it a go.”

Just as predicted it was dark, I mean really dark, and brilliantly acted!

As I watched intently, gripping my throw-pillow and cringing at the brutality, one statement POPPED like fireworks when I saw it. It was simply brilliant!

Joker writes in his journal –

‘The worst part about having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t.”

This sums it up folks! WOW! I mean WOW!

I’ve been at this a long time, well over a decade, I am unmedicated and functional despite my episodes of Cyclothymia (a form of Bipolar with long-lasting episodes, some last months, others can last years). I know the tools that help me avoid episodes and the tools that help me cope with episodes, and I use them daily. When I’m feeling at my worst, I struggle to be around anyone who wants me to behave like they want, or even to behave like I would when I’m not episodic. But the reality is, I can’t keep that up for long, and often “playing sane” can trigger a spiral into an even more severe episode, making life so much harder to deal with.

I often think how nice it would be if someone asked “How you doing today Claire-Bear?”

and I could reply “I’m actually mid-episode at the moment and struggling to be here.”

and have them reply, “Well good on you for showing up and giving it a go, if you need a time out or want someone to talk it all through with, just holler.”

But I rarely reply that way, and the times I do, I usually get looks of pity or motivational speeches and well meaning advice on how to manage my mood better. Some people just back away slowly, wide-eyed, not making any sudden movements, never to ask how I am again. I’ve even had people take offence and say “well I’m here now, you could at least cheer up for me!” or “I can’t believe you didn’t accept my invitation” or “I can’t believe you asked me to leave before I was ready.”

With all the awareness around mental illness of late, when will we as a society realise that there is no benefit in encouraging people to “Be Normal” when none of us are normal all the time, and life would be very boring if we were. You’d prefer to be accepted or at least tolerated, even if you don’t have a diagnosed mental illness, because lets face it, you’re not perfect, no one is. Perhaps more of you could be authentic in your downtimes and weirdness if there wasn’t such negative feedback when you come clean?

Remember: An episode is not just a sad mood, or an extra does of energy, that can be altered to suit the crowd if you will it…And it doesn’t mean we can be written off as dysfunctional and useless either!

I am very lucky, I have a number of friends, family and colleagues who get me, they just do. They appreciate my amazing qualities and accept my horrifying ones. They don’t hold it against me when I act in ways that seem selfish or crazy, they give me the benefit of the doubt and don’t take it personally. They show support and they listen, they don’t sit counting how many times I interrupted them while in a manic state or take offense, demanding that I should “learn how to LISTEN!” They don’t get pissed off when I drop off the grid for a bit and stop initiating contact when I’m wrestling with depression, they reach out and say “Hi” with no expectations. They don’t hold against me the stances I take or excessive advice I give, they appreciate the wisdom I’ve gained from my overactive analytical mind and depth of thought.

So the next time you notice our imperfections…. instead of trying to make us act like you want, you could try saying

“That’s cool, You just do You.” or “I’m here if you need, Babe.” or a simple “I love you”.

That goes for behind our backs too, because eventually snide remarks all come out and who can tell the damage they can do to someone’s soul?

23/10/2013

A Need for Tolerance

Posted in Encouragement, Family, General, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , at 5:21 pm by The Water Bearer

tolerance

Lately I have noticed that I am praying a lot for tolerance… Tolerance from others while I am at my worst, tolerance for others when I’m irritated by them, and tolerance in others when they need it.

Tolerance is defined, in the Miriam-Webster Online Dictionary as –

*Willingness to accept feelings, habits, or beliefs that are different from your own.

*The ability to accept, experience, or survive something harmful or unpleasant.

“Tolerance” … This word just seems to keep popping up all over conversations lately. Or is it only around me?

For most of my “pre-therapy” life, and before my Dad began to show me a new way, I used to have very little tolerance. If I thought you were out of line I would call you on it straight away, no grace, no compassion, no self-awareness. I was young, defensive, and quite honestly, very insecure. It made me feel better about myself, if I came across faults in others. I notice this is very common practice in many people.

When my Dad taught me about grace, he made me try to find excuses for all types of behaviours which I regularly found unacceptable. He tried to get me to step out from who I am, what I know, what I think, and see any situation from another perspective. It helped me begin to give grace to others for things I would usually get annoyed at. This didn’t only help others feel more comfortable around me, it also made me feel more comfortable in situations that would usually irritate me. That’s the thing about tolerance, it works both ways. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being irritated or blindly irritating others, so this was such a blessed lesson for me.

After years of therapy and faith, I have noticed something valuable that I want to share with you….

The more I love and accept myself, the more I work on being my best self, the more tolerance I have for my imperfections, then the more I seem to create a buffer of tolerance around me.

I began to notice more and more, that the small annoying imperfections of others generally roll off my back. I no longer go about continuously and harshly judging others because I know how hard it can be to get things right all the time. Snide remarks don’t always make me feel like I must respond and put them back in their place. The criticisms of others don’t always make me defend myself by trying to make them change their mind about me. Almost like a big cushion softening the blows that would normally have me reeling in despair and reacting with aggression. Life has taught me about grace. How greatly we need it ourselves when we are at our worst. How genuinely we can give it when others are at their worst.

Having greater tolerance doesn’t mean you permit others to treat you badly or make you feel bad about yourself. It is that you are less effected by their ill-treatment or irritating behaviour. It doesn’t bother you as much as it does when your level of tolerance is low. What it does give you, is a more stable platform from which you can decide when someone’s behaviour has crossed a line, rather than reacting irrationally out of intolerance. Then you can set a boundary in place to protect yourself, before their behaviour begins to effect you in an extremely negative way.

There is only so much tolerance we can have when we are exposed to nastiness, abuse, and attack. We may tolerate these things for a period of time, but once you stand firmly on a foundation of self-acceptance and put up that boundary, you are stating to those around you that you will not tolerate being treated in a way that lacks decency.

I believe it is important for people to own their actions. Setting in place a boundary, gives you a place of protection until they are willing to own up to their mistreatment of you and repair any damage. Some will, and many won’t, but at least you won’t spend your days being in a state of irritated intolerance. You may even be able to move forward with peace…..

less friction

Dear Heavenly Father, I pray for tolerance. Help us all come to understand your grace and build up your truths in our hearts and minds. Help us accept ourselves as your wonderfully made creations, and help us increase the amount of tolerance in our lives. Let us know your instructions clearly when it is time to set up a boundary, and give us security in your strength and protection. In Yeshua’s Mighty Name, I pray.

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