A key element in healing or preventing mental illnesses is a little recognised factor. This factor is respect. Someone that you can respect profoundly and that is standing by you at the time of hardship.
Fears, uncertainties, despair are representing a single person mental state, where that single person is perceived as lost, lonely, exposed, in danger. Often friends, family is unable to help, the words they say seem to make no sense, not relevant, like droplets off a ducks feather, they fall off.
When I lost my beloved fourth baby in the midst of postnatal mental health symptoms, I was grieving as deeply as human existence allows. I had three other children, a husband, and the world didn’t seem to make sense anymore. I was prevented from destructive grieving though.
What prevented me, wasn’t councelling, medicine or mindfulness techniques. It was a person that I respected. This respect and trust was more profound than my sense of dispair. This person was my 94 year old grandmother, who said to me:
“I know you lost your baby, but you must be strong. Focus on your children who live, they are the ones that need you.”
Simple words. I’d heard them from others. They didn’t make sense before. Strong? I don’t want to be strong, I don’t know how to be strong, you can’t expect to me strong. My children who live, don’t need me anymore the same way, they’ll live without me just fine, unlike the little one that died because my body had a transient illness, a hiccup, a failure. No, I felt, these words don’t make sense.
When my 94 year old grandmother uttered them though, that was different. I knew her to know things better than I do. I knew her to be incredibly empathetic. I knew she knew where I was, how I felt. She spoke from a point of wisdom and care, from a point where I could trust her through my respect. I knew her to be right. So I just went and did what she said. I didn’t ask questions. I didn’t have to decide whether I agree. I respected her more than that.
She left this world two years ago. Even though I am lucky enough to have had several wise people that I could respect over my lifetime, neither of them are standing next to me know.
I went to church today though. As I was listening to the sermon that I actually do have someone I know to be wise. There is someone I can have an utmost respect for. I know someone, who is by my side.