Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2016 Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry
Recently, I upgraded to Windows 10 and made a discovery. After pressing SEND, there is a temporary option to stop your message by using an UNDO button! Where has this been all my life? Dear Microsoft, may I have a regular conversation version as well?
You’ve seen it in sitcoms; suddenly a character wishes he or she could take back the words that gave away a secret. In the movies, would-be romantics want conversation do-overs. How many times have you wished you could erase something you said, while muttering under your breath, “When will I ever learn?”
“When is your baby due?” (“There is no pregnancy.”)
“Did you get to visit your father while you were there?” (“It was my father’s funeral.”)
“Sorry I had to miss your son’s recital. I had to help my sister.” (“Your sister came to the recital.”)
When I first started out as a mental health and recovery advocatem I was still very much in the process of healing. Occasionally my words didn’t represent well the point of view I now hold. Given the opportunity, there are a few podcast episodes and articles I would redo. They are out there, offering less-than-stellar impressions of my work. It’s professionally embarrassing, especially since friends and family tuned in back then to show support.
Learning is an action, a proactive one often. I am not the only one responsible for speaking the truth about mental illness. Stigma blossoms in lack of knowledge. It obstructs growth in our application of treatments. It blocks financial support for research and long-term studies.
Stigma changes how we relate to people during and after a mental health crisis. Sometimes those with histories of mental illness are distrusted, considered frightening or even dangerous. They may be turned down for work and held at arm’s length by family and friends.
People who are suffering fear admitting it. By simplifying problems and offering one-dimensional solutions, we not only perpetuate our own ignorance but hold back the flow of knowledge from people who need it most.
We can all learn. Resources are at hand. New information is a little scary when it shakes our worldview. Maybe we are afraid truth as we understand it won’t hold up under scrutiny.
Learn anyway, and cut back on the number of messages to UNDO.
NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.