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There are differences between #empathy, relating and trivialising. #mentalhealth #mentalillness

Hello and a happy new year. How lovely is this card from my dear friend Jodie!?

I’ve been quite quiet on here as I’ve been struggling which is usually when I’m able to write the most, but it felt too ‘band wagon jump like’ in the midst of other Christmas and New Year blogs.

I often write to mum around Christmas and new year. Fill her in. Tell her how it’s been. How she’s still missed. How she’s still needed. How she’s still loved by sore heavy hearts. It’s a time people reflect on growth or challenges overcome. I couldn’t this time around though. I knew the year that was approaching was supposedly, ‘my year’. ‘Our’ year for me and the hubby to be. The year of the wedding. The year of the new job. How could I possibly be sad? Hmmm.

My anxiety and very low mood flared up in the festive season and that ‘first week back blues’ thing people made a fuss of? Well, that hit hard. Those memes galore that flooded your social media accounts only touched and humoured what I felt like I was going through. Thick mud and fog before my eyes.

It’s been a long while or so it seems since I had a panic attack and twice now it’s risen right to the top of my throat bursting at the seams, lusting to come out, but it got caught some how and resembled a choke and stomach wretch instead. How pleasant.

I’m making a really conscious effort though at times, to be a bit more real when answering ‘how are you?’ when I have energy because, well I am part of the movement trying to get people talking without shame (which I still at times struggle with) and I don’t always want to wear a mask, even behind a phone screen.

It’s been interesting the responses that have come. The unsure replies. The dismissive and head straight on to a new conversation types. Those who I believe intend well but blur lines between empathy, relating and trivialising. The ‘everyone gets that. We all just have to get on with it’. The ‘but you have nothing to be sad about. It’s your special year!’. Luckily I haven’t had any of the typical, ‘There are people out there much worse off’ which I sadly think is probably a very common response to those suffering.

I think some people may be (in their minds) trying to ‘make you feel less alone’ by jumping in with their own examples or minimising your experience when perhaps what they could do is simply give you space to express what you need to, offer empathy and be non judgemental.

Trivialising or explaining how you’ve felt something similar but you ‘got/get on with it’ can be unhelpful and lead the other to feel that they’re weaker and unable. That they should be able to manage. However, it is important people know that it is actually strong, to be talking about it, reaching out, support seeking, or just simply being, when your mind is working against you.

Recently many of my days have sadly been filled with a heavy weight of negative and intrusive thoughts and I’ve been wearing a cloak of anxiety that feels sewn to the skin. This is not because I am not grateful. This is not because I am not looking forward to my year ahead. This is just me describing my mental health and I am not to blame. We don’t pick our times to struggle, or perhaps we wouldn’t at all.

A big thank you to my partner who inspired this blog post and responded to my difficult time with active listening skills that would put the inventor of them as a concept to shame. Compassion so beautiful I’ve never received it that organic before and for the gift of his time and patience. He pointed out that not everyone will understand and reminded me how loved I am despite my inner dialogue wandering how that could possibly be.

Thank you to all those around me that have actively been there in presence or through other means.

You make this world a better place and the universe sees your kindness.

Abs x

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