How did we even get to this stage where labels and stigmas are so freely gifted out to others?
What has today's society turned into? Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?
People so quickly have you summarised and boxed, and they know how you should react and even how to fix you. A response of, 'Oh, you've got depression / PTSD', I read about that. And therefore they have you acting like this and that. Or 'I had that and didn't affect me,' so what is wrong with you, type attitude.
Well maybe they just aren't informed enough and don't realise that we are all completely different so therefore will respond and react differently too. The more we can openly discuss these issues, the more people will have a better understanding. Someone who has physically broken an arm for example goes to the hospital or doctor and questions are asked on how it happened and then they are treated.
What is the difference just because it's mental health and not visible?
What was the root cause?
When and how did this start happening?
What are the underlying factors?
How can we help?
And yes I can hear you and I am listening. This is huge!
Without the broken bone being set and cast, the healing cannot begin.
Well, over the many years, I have collected all my 'gifted' stigmas and labels so willingly dished out by many, like unwanted presents under a Christmas tree, and I have learnt to either throw them away, box them back up or just give them back to those who so lovingly threw them at me during my dark and hard times. Completely misinformed or unaware of the full story obviously, but hey it's the season to be jolly and forgiving, so at some point, we have to let things go.
Letting go is a liberating feeling.
It may be a symbolic cutting of a tie or an acceptance or an emotional outburst, tears or a scream. It's a release!
But it's also a time of year when many will struggle and become even more insular. Hands up who has been avoiding big crowds and parties.......I know I have and still do.
Stigmas will be taken on by some and weigh even heavier than usual.
Depending on how we are that time depends on how we will cope. And seeing so many others out this time of year partying, can make it more complex.
I have like so many others that serve in the Emergency services have had many Xmas days or nights on duty. It's just another day really, yet so much pressure is placed upon it. We just put our heads down and cope. Or is it, shut down and ignore? For me, it was the latter. I cannot get the time back seeing my kids smiling faces, or having missed out on some of the presents opened as they couldn't wait any longer as I returned from a night shift. So feelings get pushed away and locked in deep down.
Christmas has been and remains to me, about hope. About 'giving.' Giving the smallest of things can be the largest gift of all. Time and gratitude cannot be bought or wrapped up.
A time for coming together and letting quarrels or grudges go. To share the simplicities and be 'present.' This is hard again as living abroad, but this is by choice. The internet and reaching out makes it more bearable and connections are formed once more. Trust me, energy can be felt across screens and 1000's of miles.
But with everything, it takes effort and action. The mindest to be the first to say sorry, or ask if the other person is doing ok? To pick up the phone and text, not dismiss it 'answering your own question of 'are they busy?' .... with ' of course, they will be they have their family and kids. Best not pester them.' A call out of the blue may be exactly what the other person needed. Now there's a thought.
I've never been one to conform, so doing something out of the ordinary or something that would not be expected is not phasing to me. Sometimes saying what everyone else is thinking can be an ice breaker. It's being real and being yourself.
So with all this going on in the world where we have screens showing us how we should and shouldn't be, my simple advice......be yourself. As long as it's not derogatory to anyone else.
As long as it's not affecting others or by excessive drinking or over-indulgent eating we feel regret and makes us feel worse, do it! There is a huge difference between living and existing.
How many times have we had the 'Living the Dream' phrase said to us, some have said with excitement and awe and some have said with spite and jealousy.
Wow, what is living the dream? For me, it's 'Living by Choice.'
Choice of what I eat, drink, say and do. What activity I decide to do and how far I push myself.
And ultimately, how I choose to react and respond.
The choice on how I treat others and look at the world.
Maybe my long Karate path has helped allow me to see humility and respect more clearly.
This photo was of a charity fundraiser at Chippenham for Children in Need in 1992. Just the 3 of us. My Sensei and Sempai, (Instructor and senior,) and also a fellow Firefighter. It was a demonstration to show the basics of Karate and tamashawari, (breaking.) This is part of Karate that students can choose to pursue to gain strength in their punching and kicking. Hitting something to get feedback on a technique. Timing and impact, focus and muscle tension all come together with movement and speed.
The mind plays a huge part to see through the tiles or wood you are breaking.
Believe in yourself and your ability.
So take this back to PTSD and mental health. When dealing with a huge issue, if we look at the whole issue then it may seem unachievable to overcome or deal with. Yet if we break it down into smaller chunks and deal with one thing at a time, it is always possible. The more we can overcome one problem the more confidence grows and self-esteem rises.
This small stack was my very first breaking in a demo. It had to break, as all my colleagues were watching on. Piss taking would be carried for years. All this would be meant in a fun way, but depending on my mindset, it could have taken me on another road entirely. This stack was going to break at any cost!
The support and encouragement from both these 2 amazing people has always been there, and my respect remains. They believed in me! When you have someone who truly believes in you, you can achieve most things you set your mind to. Confidence rises and you can start to see the positive results.
If I were to see this as my first therapy session, I may have looked at the stack and thought, how can I possibly do this? Well maybe look at each tile as an individual problem.
Then there is reoccurring and huge anxiety feeling..........What if it doesn't break and I fail? Everyone will laugh and I will feel shame and ridicule and with them comes the gifts of Stigma, being thrown like confetti at a wedding surrounded by the fanfare of laughter aimed at me.
This is where alternative thinking comes in!!
I was up there, prepared to give it a go, and more importantly, I was willing to try.
Anyone who has the courage to get into a boxing ring, (or on stage and sing, for example,) to fight centre stage and on show carrying out this brutal and primal activity has respect. They are willing to step over the line and try, even though they are completely uncomfortable and way outside their comfort zone, with no idea of the outcome or end. This is the same for anyone starting out running or anything else to better themselves, as they know how hard it is. Going to a therapist is a complete unknown. And yes failing is part of it. Having a bad day is a bad day, but it will pass. Like a severe stitch when taking up running. It's little prompts to persuade you to quit. It's whether you listen to these prompts or not. There isn't anyone who is a master in their field that hasn't failed.
It's how we learn and learn about ourselves.
So if you see anyone trying to better themselves, stop the initial response of laughing or ridicule, it's not big or clever or trendy. Instead, maybe call out and wave, encourage or silently smile with a thumbs up. They may be at the point of quitting and your small act of random kindness and little boost may be all they needed to continue. That person you could have judged and labelled may just go on to be something incredible and influential in their lives and bring more encouragement to many others. Assisting them to continue to unlock their true potential.
The gifts of insults and fault highlighting have detrimental effects on others that can be carried for years, holding them back from their true potential.
Imagine receiving such a gift.
Now imagine sharing a beautiful gift that inspires and encourages.
Warming and definitely infectious.
I hope this helps.
Reach out and stay connected.
If you believe you can achieve.
I haven't got it all figured out, I'm just willing to try.
We all need encouragement and support.