Self-Care Tip #116 – Have courage not to presume.
Courage. Courage is doing what frightens us. I heard this definition and as usual I got a little stiff. Definitions sometimes feel sticky to me and I’m trying to understand why. Why is my lip curled?
In line the other day for the theater, a grandfather in front of me got talking. I didn’t get any names; just that he was a grandfather of a 7-year-old girl who owned him. Naturally he drifted into stories about her, including their most recent vacation to Knott’s Berry Farm. They rode “The Pony Express” despite his fear and instincts. I asked him if he was proud of his granddaughter’s courage and he replied, “She wasn’t scared! So she wasn’t the one with courage. I was!” He laughed, and then I laughed, but I walked away to the ticket booth whispering, “What does he know about her thoughts?”
I see so many faces flashing across my mind’s eye. I see them, and I hear them. I realize their whispers have become mine because I believe them. My patients are courageous. These, who have not told others. Who have not screamed when they wanted to. These people who have put on the appearance of calm despite their fears. They are a study in functional mental illness.
Functional mental illness, although historically refers to mal-behaviors and emotions without medical cause, now after years of increased knowledge and study, it includes their biological organic etiology.
As an example of functional mental illness I’ll tell you about Miranda, a mother of 2. Miranda says her kids stress her out and she can barely take care of them. However at her job, she performs adequately and no one would say she seems depressed. She falls into bed when her kids do between 7 or 8 PM yet never feels refreshed. Crying while pouring their cereal each day, she packs them dry bread and a pickle for their lunches. No one would know the courage it takes for her to survive the moment and then the next. They all presume she is fine.
After teasing apart my thoughts on courage, my lip has uncurled. I understand that definitions bother me because they can sometimes imply freedom to presume more than one should. We can never know people’s thoughts, motives, feelings entirely and that bit that we don’t know, may be the bit that changes their story. If you want to read more, check out this post.
So for now, I can push down my fear of definitions, put on the face of calm, …and what? Be a friend to myself.
Question: Where do you need the most courage to do good for yourself? How do you deal with your fears? Please tell me your story.
- Glenn Close: Fighting To Destigmatize ‘Mentally Ill’ (huffingtonpost.com)