Friday 8 July 2016

The Power of Compassion and Empathy

Never give up on someone with a mental illness. When I becomes we, illness becomes wellness - Shannon L Alder quote For a while, there was a strong chance there wouldn't be a post from me this week. I was considering asking Jess if I could give it a miss; I'm going through a really hard time at the moment, putting the effort in to write any kind of post seemed impossible, and the thought of trying almost brought me to tears. But then a moment of inspiration, a gratitude post that required no real effort, only love.

There have been a lot of terrible things happening around the world lately; Orlando, Istanbul, Baghdad, and not too long ago, Paris. There's so much hate in the world, and it's leading to death. It can be all too easy, in our sorrow, to lose hope and wonder where our humanity has gone. But what we must remember is, there are so many wonderful humans in this world too.

In the two weeks following my last post, Listen to Your Body, my fears over my mental health have become stronger, with more mini/mild/almost panic attacks (whatever they would be called). After writing that post, our very own Faye sent me a message full of support and encouragement to see my doctor, as she could see similarities with her own anxiety. She became a huge help when I was struggling last week, telling me about Ieso Digital Health, a website for self-referral.

Without really thinking, I picked up Under Rose Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall to read, which is about 17-year-old Norah, who has agoraphobia and OCD, and frequent anxiety attacks. At first it seemed like a bad idea to be reading it when I was struggling, but I kept at it, and found it to actually be really helpful. In my review, I wrote about how it had helped me, and Louise Gornall ended up tweeting me - again, offering support and understanding. She told me she was proud of me for being honest about what I'm experiencing, and she told me to drop her an email if I needed anything.

I was supposed to be going to a book launch this week with the lovely Kathy of I am Kathy B, who invited me to be her plus one, but because of how I've been struggling, I cancelled, explained, saying I didn't think it was wise right now. Kathy was absolutely amazing, sending me a message full of raw honesty about her own anxiety, telling me she completely understood. She gave me so much advice, including recommending Anxiety For Beginners: A Personal Investigation by Eleanor Morgan, as well as support and yet another person for me to talk to.

And then there's Caoimhe, my penpal and very good friend, who opened my eyes in the first place. Because of the things I had written about, she gently told me she thought I might have anxiety, which prompted my last post. And have been told her next letter will include the things she does that help her with her own anxiety, on the off chance they might help me, too.

Because I was honest about what I'm going through, to individuals and to the readers of Safe Space and Once Upon a Bookcase, several wonderful people reached out to me in solidarity, offering support, empathy and compassion. Because I chose not to stay silent about what I'm feeling, I've found people who have helped, and have made my struggle a little easier. My reason for being so honest is because, even before my own struggles, I believed that talking about mental illness can only help remove the stigma. But in doing so, amazing, beautiful, incredible people reached out to me, and have helped keep my panic at bay. They've helped me to breathe. They showed me that I'm not alone, that I'd found my people.

The world is not full of terrible people. There are some absolute bloody diamonds out there, you just have to find them. And perhaps honesty may be the key to helping you find yours, too.

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No judgment, no hate, because it is already tough enough being a girl.