Be the friend you would like to have

On the surface I may not seem like much but I have always held this truth;

“Be the change you want to see” (Gandhi)

That means be the friend you would like to have.

I used to be the typical teenager, self-involved, over-sensitive. I thought I was being a good friend but looking back I can see some easy mistakes I made such as always putting my feelings first and not being able to empathize enough with others.

Now that I’m a bit more empathetic I really try, but I must admit it has been hard to make friends as an ‘adult’ because so often people lie and let you down.

More than anything I wish I had friends where I live now, when I moved to America I really lost the ones I left behind, as distance tends to do that, and I didn’t make new ones. I know I should ‘join a club’ but I’m an introvert and that’s really hard for me to do.

Friendship is so underestimated and one reason adults can be lonely especially if like me they don’t have kids.

I would never treat a friend badly and I really don’t understand those who do. Even on WP I have had some people mistreat me, those days are over, I’m too guarded now, which really if you think about it, is a shame.

If we all treated others as we would wish to be treated and we were HONEST the world would be so much better. Period.

Mental Health Month “Inferiority”

The next time you come across someone who has a mental illness, consider the following…

We poke fun at people calling them mentally ill (Trump) without really considering the effect such labeling may have on someone who IS mentally ill. In poking fun we are looking to someone we do not respect and saying ‘they’re mentally ill’ by implication, someone we do not respect is mentally ill – this is all bad.

Just like saying ‘he’s so gay’ or ‘that’s so gay’ you may mean nothing by it, (good grief who hasn’t said it at least once?) but it is implying a negative connotion.

White people cannot and rightfully so, use the N word, but black people can because they own the rights to that word over anyone else. Likewise if you are gay, you could say to another gay person ‘you are so gay’ and it wouldn’t be offensive because it’s about who is saying it to who. So the same applies to derogatory statements about mental health. If two people are sitting in a psych ward and say “Trump is mentally ill” that doesn’t have the same emotional fall out as if someone who is not mentally ill makes the claim.

That may be hard to undesrtand but it’s about sensisitivity and it’s just like any category of people. A Native American can make jokes about Native Americans but an Anglo person cannot. Is that Political Correctness run amock? Not really, when you consider the history behind this.

Much as I have heard some awful sexist jokes and the only person who could tell them should be a woman, and not even then. Bottom line; Don’t go there, it’s not worth it.

I would argue, black people are better off NOT using the N word, and the same applies to any group who may use derogatory jokes/statements about their group in jest, it’s probably not very funny. If that’s too PC then so be it, I don’t see it as a detriment to world humor if we reduce how many off-color jokes we tell.

Ultimately what we relate things to says a lot about what we think of them. If we compare mentally ill people to someone they know we despise, then it’s a criticism whether wrapped up in a joke or not. Next time you are tempted to joke about mental illness consider whether it’s really worth the punch line and the laughs, and whether it’s really funny or just a means of exploiting an already stigmatized group of people. If that seems too serious, so be it, mental illness IS serious just like racism is, sexism is, prejudice is.

What does the mentally ill person feel when they hear jokes and put downs related to mental illness? Inferior.

One may say, a person who suffers from a mental illness is already subject to feeling of inferiority and this is probably the case, therefore they are vulnerable to begin with, and every subsequent insult and attack adds to that feeling.

Again, I have heard people lament the ‘weakness’ and over-sensitivity, of mentally ill people. The typical taunt being; “Why do you have to be SO over-sensitive?”

I would argue, what does it take to be a little sensitive around someone you know is going through a hard time? What does it actually TAKE?

There are many people who identify or are HSP (Highly Sensitive People) and this is not always related to mental illness but the two have a relationship because of the difficulty  of being an HSP in a world of mostly harder-nosed types, proud of their ability to not be sensitive, who see any sensitivity as a weakness and are not afraid of saying so.

I’m not going to labor the point about the value of having sensitivity or the obvious detriment to compassion if we do not have any, because I know there are two sides to this, and with such extremes it is unlikely they will agree. I would only ask that less judgement and condemnation exist, permitting those who are sensitive to go about their lives unmolested.

If you are a HSP and have a mental illness, your struggle is often magnified by the accute awareness of your situation and others reactions and responses to you. If someone makes a joke at your expense that wounds you on a deeper level than those who are able to shrug it off. For some, sensitivity is perceived as a weakness of character and their attitude is one of a bully who takes pleasure in seeing the sensitive person react. If you know someone like that, maybe now is the time to call them on that.

The TV show Thirteen Reasons Why may not be a good example of mental illness, and is lacking in many ways, but one truism is the development of hurt in the main character by the insensitivity around her. This can be a determining factor that leads to the taking of your own life, as in her case. I would argue that she also hurt others, and this was not explored in the show sufficiently, nor was mental illness really examined which it should have been. But irrespective, it highlights the progression of hurt to someone with presumably a pre-existing mental condition, that acts as a trigger to take her own life.

We can be part of a reason why someone is crushed. We may not realize we have that power, and maybe knowing we do, will make us a worse tormenter, but if we want to avoid hurting others, which I hope most of you do, then considering what our words do to those who are more sensitive, doesn’t take very long, doesn’t cost anything and can literally make such a difference. It can stop someone who already is feeling inferior from feeling so inferior that they see no purpose in going on.

Everyone is equal. Nobody is inferior to someone else until they act badly and show their true colors.

 

Mental Health Month “Friends without benefits”

Friendship.

Watching TV shows, reading books, the influence of an ideal, ‘friends forever’ the friends who are there when you need them, friends for life, friends through thick and thin.

Probably should preface this with “unless you are mentally ill”

Why?

Mentally ill people struggle to maintain life-long friendships and connections. An unkind soul may say “can you blame anyone for not being able to put up with THAT?”

Yes.

One reason mentally ill people struggle is the sense of isolation, loss, abandonment, and judgement, all discussed before. Friendship and ties to the community is the basis for survival for most people. Isolation and rejection can lead to suicide and worsening illness. It is not the duty of anyone to befriend a mentally ill person but equally as a society if we put our rapid judgement aside and turned from only seeking ‘fun happy people’ to socialize with, and gave a little thought to those suffering, our empathy would go a long way.

We are selfish on the whole when it comes to friendships. We don’t want to ‘bother’ too much, we don’t want to make an effort. We want something easy and fun. If it’s not we’re likely to drop it.

But the effort we put into our children, our families, our marriages, should equally be considered when looking at friends in need. If we cannot be a good friend are we even a friend? Or are we just a fair-weather friend?

Many people I have spoken with have talked about how much it hurt to be ‘friend dumped’ and how often this occurs when they are going through a hard time. The worst being, it can compound the already existing feelings of worthlessness and self-blame.

It is not the responsibility of others to take care of mentally ill people but it begs the question … if you are only friends with someone when the going is good, are you really friends? If you only want to be friends with someone without any strings attached and no difficult times, how invested are you? In short, are you even a friend?

Friendship is perhaps an art that is lost on us these days, with our increasingly ‘busy’ lives and selfish preoccupations. But remember, society functions well when all of us care about those in our society. If we simply live for ourselves and give no regard to others and their well-being, are we really the good and giving people we envision ourselves to be?

If we are Christian is this the Christian way? If we are Buddhist is this the way of the Buddha? If we are aiming for empathy and treating others as we would hope we would be treated, are we acting accordingly? What would happen if we suffered from a mental illness? What would we expect?

It is worthwhile considering this. A close friend of mine became incredibly ill with a brain tumor and she observed that she lost many friends, including those who went to her church. It showed her the time observed adage that you know who your friends are in your moments of crisis and need. This is where physical and mental health share something in common, in both instances, people flee the individual like rats from a sinking ship.

Finally we can say this is something both mentally ill and physically ill people experience. But why?

People are afraid of illness. They see someone with a brain tumor and act like it’s contagious. They know it’s not logically but this is an instinctive fear. They want to avoid sadness at any cost, they want to avoid reality at any cost, nobody wants to dwell on the possibility of death. It takes a very strong soul to want to go there.

Consequently at your time of need, the very hour you really need people there, you are deserted. Before I began visiting the hospital regularly I was completely unaware of this, I had no idea how many hospital rooms were emptied of visitors and support systems, how many go without any friends to comfort them in their hour of need.

I recall as a kid going to see a friend who was diagnosed with schizophrenia in the state hospital and how he talked about losing all of his friends. It seems like not much has changed.

And ask yourself this … how much would it take to care?

Recently another acquaintance developed Terminal Stage 4 Ovarian Cancer, when asked, her colleagues, who had worked with her for TWENTY YEARS put off going to visit, until someone posted on Facebook ‘she’s going to die! Go see her before she does!’ and then, the herd mentality took over and everyone went to visit. It was ingenuous and false, and I came to see, these people who had worked with this woman for two decades, really didn’t care, they wanted it over with.

I understand the knee jerk response to death and all things unpleasant, but we’re all going to die, is this how we would wish others to react to us? Empathy means, consideration of how we treat others, as much as how others treat us, and the two are connected by an understanding that it cannot be a one way street. As painful as it may be, supporting those in their hour of need is what makes the world a better place. If we are too busy to attend to that, what does it say about our priorities?

The same applies to the mentally ill. This can literally be a life saver, a life line, a much-needed support network. Suicide often occurs because of isolation and a feeling that the world would be a better place if I were not in it. Surely losing friends and being ignored, adds to that feeling and thus, the reverse is true if loyalty and constancy exist.

Obviously some friendships have an expiry date and that’s okay, that’s the nature of the beast, but if you’ve stopped calling someone because you are fed-up with their mental illness and it’s not ‘fun anymore’ consider this, what would you want if you were going through the same thing? Should friendship simply be about benefits?

Between

ring1Good day then

fais de beaux rêves

between the spectacle

shut your eyes tight

always keep them open

conviction

affliction

conducting weather veins

bristling they ebb

pointing into heavens

would they could talk

up there up there

they look and mock our drama

what we believe ourselves to be

quietly observant at the pew

head down knees knocking

Forgive me Father for I have sinned

the day I turned on others and rubbed in

the same welt

gory and open for flies

to lay their magnitude

little children

little liars

come hold hands by the roses

learn a thorn can prick but words are mightier

wielding penchant for harm

like a crystal ball

hear the soft foot fall of night

clothe us in redeeming disguise

fingers behind our backs twix crossed

one for ourselves, one for luck

nothing left to add to the stew

all poison all venom all malice is

but easy fitting shoes on lusty urge

stay your hand my girl

spend time among the rich of heart

they hold less in their pockets

more in their eyes

as first rays of morning

broker subsuming clouds

of darkness

breaking past

releasing

light

Female friendship

Before I answer the question of what I value most in friendship let me make a few points about the nature of female based friendships that I have noticed.

Madonna wasn’t wrong to say women hate other women. She wasn’t wrong to say the greatest pain in her life has been betrayal by her own gender, or that Hillary Clinton’s defeat (I wouldn’t have wished her to win anymore than the man who did) was in part owing to women hating other women. She also said that as a woman if you make a mistake you pay a higher price, and other women are the first to turn on you.

Madonna said the way she survived was to believe in herself, without this she would have not been able to. My entire life I have struggled with self-belief and confidence, mostly for the obvious reasons (highly critical family, no emotional support, lots of negatives blah blah) and much as I’m of an age where childhood things should NOT still influence me today, they do.

I’ve been lucky enough to be blessed with some wonderful friendships throughout my life. Equally male and female though most of my closest have been with women. Yes I’m a feminist but no man hater, and yes I find it hard being a feminist when so much of the bad things that happen to women are sanctioned or caused by other women. Have I envied men and their simpler lives? Hell yeah. They seem to be more trustworthy as friends, more stable emotionally and more loyal (in friendships) and they play fewer games. That’s my take on things thus far.

Whether you hate or love Madonna she has a point. We screw ourselves.

Many women I talk to say the same thing, “I don’t have many female friends” and when explaining why they point to games, bad experiences and competition as leading causes.

As a woman who believes in championing other women for no other reason than because I believe it helps them, I am dismayed that there is truth to this trait of not being able to lean upon other women as much as we should be able to.

The friend who told me to go to hell the other week, she wasn’t a real friend, more of an acquaintance, but one whom foolishly I had told a few of my vulnerabilities to. Thinking that she would never use them against me as I would never dream of doing this to someone else. She did use them against me, stating “the reason you have lost so many friends is your fault it’s something in YOU” This was said deliberately to undermine my faith in my ability to have good friendships. Briefly it worked. Then I realized that all of what she said came from her own sadness and insecurity and jealousy. Despite knowing this I felt sad that anyone would attempt to treat another person this way.

Call me naive but I believe in treating people well. It is true I have had a few lost and broken friendships along the way like most of us. The woman in question implied my quota was beyond ‘normal’ and it is this stigmatizing and finger-pointing that erodes female’s faith in themselves (this can apply to all genders actually and does). I know she didn’t even mean what she said as days before she was showering me with over-the-top praise, so this was more a mercurial lashing-out as much about her as about anything else.

Despite this the harm was done and whilst I can rationalize it, feel sorry for her and move on perhaps happier to know someone capable of that is no longer in my life, it lingers like a hang-nail in my subconscious. Just as she hoped it would.

That level of deliberate infliction of hurt, is something I have noticed women do especially well, hence the term ‘a woman scorned’ is the most fierce. In the instance of this situation, the girl may have had emotional reasons for her over-reaction, and as I look at all my ‘lost’ friendships they have that in common.

A friend told me shortly after it happened, that I needed to trust my gut more. I couldn’t agree more strongly on this. I had a gut instinct this person was messed up emotionally and being someone who believes in giving second-chances and caring about those who are not always neatly well and normal, I ignored that and the possibility she’d eventually turn it on me. Unfortunately as with the other two women who did similar things, mental problems can turn on those who are caring. It is the price an empathic person pays for not putting up guards or protecting themselves.

That said, I would not wish to stop caring about those people because at times I need help and am not always in perfect shape and I would hate to think someone would side-step me on that basis. So how to care for someone without being burned? Listening to your gut is crucial. I felt in my gut she was playing games and I dismissed that. In hindsight I should have walked away. Cold? Maybe? Self-preserving? You betcha.

I have learned from this. I feel glad to have learned from this. I have turned it into a positive and I feel a relief for the toxic removal of someone who wishes to hurt others. But how as women can we stop being this way? I would say that we need to stop competing with each other. Stop treating every other woman as a possible rival, stop thinking someone who is prettier, richer, more intelligent, etc, is someone we should resent and hate.

In my last job two women joined who were really beautiful. Immediately they were ignored and hated by the other women in the job. I see people as people, I liked them because they were nice people. Shortly afterward I heard rumors circulated that ‘Candy probably fancies them’ which was a pathetic way the haters explained why I was not intimidated or hateful to the new girls. I didn’t fancy them, any more than you fancy every single person you come into contact with, life doesn’t work that way, and it saddened me that this was the extent of their comprehension.

I don’t hate another woman for ANY reason. I dislike a woman if she is cruel or malicious. Other than that, I admire, appreciate and respect women. I truly believe if we all tried harder not to resent other women as females, we’d have a MUCH better world and some really terrific friendships. That does not obviate the value of men by any means, but we’re stronger TOGETHER and hate? Hate is always going to poison the hater the most. We ought to stop treating men as being ‘better’ than we are, or a valuable commodity and treat everyone equally. That means, if a woman you meet wants to be friends and you are suspicious, ask yourself why, rather than wondering why she would wish to be your friend.

So what do I value most in a friendship?

Honesty.

Integrity.

Loyalty.

Soap-box, over and out 😉

Quiet sincerity

575d3e8450d2b93d9ae583716b569a05I learned

long after I should

friendship comes not

in fizz and pour

nor the brightness of

shower and radiance

nor promise and its papery craft of bows

but more often unexpected slow

hesitant over years

water leaving her tears on

marble rock

stalwart and less demonstrative

a cat who watches food put out

does not immediately approach

I fell for the fireworks

the hot kiss on lost ego

glittering words

feathered protests to believe

those party animals in their tinsel crowns

pushing me toward celebration

in those days I did not mind

the quiet soul who hung back

someone you could call upon

when deserters ran out of festivity

turned their backs on former animation

I was suckered by their demands to believe

their loudest call was truth, hear me!

now I know quiet love is the steadiest

those who may seem cold or aloof

often outlast town crier

hawking themselves for fancy

I’m sorry it took me so long to

understand silence and softness

are more often truth

much like the piper who

sung children through the mountain

bewitching their longing for loud

merriment

before they grew and knew

the sweetness of sincerity

whispered