Sunday, 5 January 2014

Looks Can Be Deceiving

How many people does each of us walk past every day, do you think? I certainly don’t know. Let’s be more specific so, how many people does each of us walk past every day in our respective workplaces? In my case, I walk past hundreds of girls in blue uniforms, unfamiliar faces that mean nothing to me, nor should they. It’s not my business to know their business; in fact it would be rather intrusive of me if I did. Sometimes though, these faces reveal a lot more to me than they probably intend to. I see faces trying to hide secrets by blending in with the crowd, and for the most part they succeed in doing so.

How many of us have walked past someone and immediately thought “She’s not okay” or “There’s something wrong with him.” It’s very easy to look at someone we don’t know and identify their problems because we know we won’t actually have to confront them about it. Yet when it comes to those closest to us, we are prone to handing their problems an invisibility cloak and looking the other way.

“Sure give it a few days and they’ll be fine.” Oh how I loathe this expression. It’s almost as if we give people the benefit of the doubt, as if we could most definitely be a source of support if it was necessary. As if our care is too sacred to be wasted on someone that doesn’t hold the required credentials. We like to imagine that people with issues magically resolve them by being left on their own to pick up the pieces of their shattered world. “A bit of space is what they need, that’s all.” Sound familiar? Is it perhaps something you may have whispered in the past? Now I’m not trying to pin everything on us that make little effort to involve ourselves in the lives of others, oh no. I mean, it’s obvious that this is just a matter of confidence. We feel inadequate as foundations of insight and support, and we firmly believe that we will in no way, shape or form be able to assist this person in their recovery. What most of us don’t realise, however, is that any form of support can make the greatest of impacts.

Take my story, for example. During my darkest hours I had but two friends that never once treated me any differently to before I started losing control of my life. One of those girls helped me by only ever allowing me to briefly discuss my worries with her before quickly changing the subject to something she knew would make me smile (HSM songs). The other friend aided me in my recovery by never once questioning my actions, she just listened. It was rare for either of those girls to ever respond with prodigious words of wisdom, but they were there for me every day when I was invisible to everyone else.

Neither of those girls gave me lifelong advice that have stuck with me to this day and that I can recite to you now, in fact they didn’t even know how to reply to some of the things I told them. What those girls did for me though was far greater than any of that. They made me feel safe. They reminded me that I wasn’t going through it alone. They may not have said it upfront to me (they weren’t the kind) but I knew they cared. Knowing that alone gave me the strength not to give up on myself. They may not have given me the help I had been longing and hoping for, but they ensured I never gave up searching for it. And that’s more than I could’ve ever asked of them.

I don’t think we realise just how much of an impact we each can make by simply asking someone how they are. As a matter of fact, it is so rare for someone to ask us how we are that we should not be so foolish as to answer “I’m fine” if we’re clearly not fine. What does “I’m fine” even mean these days? Does it mean “I appreciate the effort you have made but I shan’t put you under any further stress by enlightening you as to how I really feel.” Ah yes, and then the concerned friend (that’s us) responds with “Are you sure?” translating as “Am I really off the hook?” with the straightforward answer being “Yes.” Why all the pretence? I wish someone had asked me how I was three years ago… “Actually I fell asleep crying last night and I think I’m suffering from depression.” Respond to that one, bitch.

I’ve sworn to myself that if any person ever comes to me with a problem I will do my utmost to be there for them. I made this decision because I know first-hand what it’s like to sit at home wishing that the phone would vibrate or the doorbell would ring. I have spent hours sitting on the floor of my bedroom looking into the mirror, enjoying imaginary conversations I hoped would someday take place, which in reality never did. I used to pretend to host a sort of talk show where I was interviewing myself, allowing myself the opportunity I was never given to tell my side of the story. At that age I assumed this was how every person dealt with their problems – on their own. I was too young to know that I deserved support. My peers were also too young and too blissfully unaware to even consider being that support. And so I tried my level best to put on a brave face and get on with things. To a certain extend I succeeded in doing so as many may not have fully understood my story until I set up this blog. I became a face in the crowd trying to hide my secrets by blending in, and it worked.

This is why I can easily pick out those people that I pass each day that have a thousand things flowing through their mind. It shows, it really does. Cracks begin to appear and before long your deepest thoughts are smeared across your smile for everyone to see. To be fair, the majority of people utilising this coping method get away with it. But this is not because of how they have mastered the art of deceiving, it’s because we, the onlookers, only see the person. We see them, we don’t look at them.

If we were all just that bit more aware of those around us maybe we could be the difference between giving up and getting up. Maybe, just maybe we could save someone. When we start to ignore a person’s problem, they follow suit and before we have time to reconsider it, the problem has escalated to heights it should never have reached.

If we could step outside our comfort zone for a brief moment we could make a difference we never imagined possible. But are we still too afraid of the unknown depths of a person’s mind to take that step? I believe we are. In fact, I don’t think we’ll ever willingly be so selfless as to offer up our support knowing we are not benefitting from it. Or are we? I know the answer to that, yet I’m positive some of you never will. So go on, now is your chance to shut me up. Take that step. Prove me wrong, I dare you.