The Quest Begins
Having experienced adversity and mental challenges personally one of the more positive rewards if one could call it that is compassion for others. Suffering does have a worthy purpose because it gives one the opportunity to nurture empathy and tolerance for those who are often shunned by the norms of society. There is no hierarchy to pain and suffering nor is there any immunity to mental illness through intellectual or academic prowess.
Just as alcoholism does not discriminate in any way so too can mental illness strike anyone at any time.
John and I always try to stop and ask the name of the homeless person on the street and hear their story. They are not unlike any of us. We all have our stories and no one is immune to the scars of life. Anyone of us can be just one event away from disaster. There should be no stigma or judgement imposed upon those who suffer from the harsh consequences of misfortune.
A couple of Christmas’s ago in Victoria John and I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day driving around in a van packed with warm clothes, hot chocolate and cookies donated by kind volunteers from the community. We were simply amazed not only at the poignancy of their stories but in the generosity, gratitude and compassion they each demonstrated for one another. Paradoxically there was more compassion and caring between these people of little means than there appeared to be in many of the more affluent homes which in such stark contrast surrounded us. It was a very humbling experience and to be very honest one of the most memorable Christmas’s we have ever shared together.
As a society we need to talk to one another and when we hurt we shouldn’t be afraid or ashamed to say so. I know I was afraid not only to ask for help but admit that I even needed it. And where is the real help when you need it the most? To simply say “oh just go and get it!” doesn’t really cut it. It just isn’t that easy… Often times the system actually puts up road blocks compounding the problem.
Discouraging so many of us from reaching out and asking for help or worse still in hiding our inner pain in secret and not even talking about it at all. Festering for years, eventually revealing itself in a myriad of dysfunctional behaviours and tragic outcomes from which both John and I have suffered. If anything we live in a society that actually sows the seeds of mental illness demanding the almost impossible from so many who are just not equipped to withstand its harsh realities.
If there is any fragility within us, contrary to supporting us, the pressures of life can actually end up breaking us. Ultimately by creating and then floundering in such an uninhabitable system only exacerbates the problem rather than solves it. The present approach or lack of it ultimately costs our health care system tenfold taking its toll on society both economically and emotionally and leaving far too many people in the margins.