As a mental health advocate, most of my experiences with people’s reactions to my ‘mental health openness’ have been very positive. But nonetheless, there have been occasions where I have had hurtful comments sent my way and have had people vanish from my life, and because of this, I’ve built a lot resiliency to said hurt over the last four years; and at the end of the day have truly become a better person because of each and every experience. Allow me to explain…
People have asked me at times how I deal with negative ‘feedback’ (to put it politely) and here are my answers. After taking a good look at myself to see if/what role I had to play in the situation, I then consider the following points:
- People don’t always know what to say in response to my illness/injury. If even I didn’t know what to say to others about my illness/injury for most of my life, how am I to expect others to know what to say about it to me? In actuality, (whether I like it or not), lack of education and stigma surrounding mental illness still causes confusion about how to communicate with someone with mental illness. My best piece of advice if someone asks me what to say is, “validate their concerns. Believe them and don’t offer advice if you don’t feel comfortable doing so. You don’t have to have the solution. You just need to be there for them”.
- Is it time to set healthy boundaries on MY terms? I used to eat, sleep and breathe perfectionism. So much so that it was my mission for everyone to like me – which was an exhausting and futile mission to say the least. I never understood until the last few years that I didn’t have to have everyone in my ‘circle’ or life. Even more so, I now know that I should be making boundaries with respect to my interactions with toxic people. These boundaries may include, limiting my contact with a person, to stopping any contact with that person all together. It’s ok to give yourself permission to choose who takes up your precious time both in your day, and in your mind.
- People come and go in our lives. Most of the time they are just moving with the flow of their own lives and not leaving me behind. I have heard the saying, “there’s a reason, a season, and a lifetime” for someone to be in our life, and I agree. People move fluidly in and out of our lives as our lives change – and that’s ok. And if I am to live contently with moving away from others for one reason or another, then I must let others move away from me too. And who knows, I may be connected with them again in the future, if the universe says so.
- All difficult situations are providing me with an opportunity to send out love. Every situation in my life presents me with an opportunity to grow in love. When someone is hurtful I use that experience to be mindful of the love I am radiating out and make sure that I am not shutting down and reserving love for a rainy day. Sending out love always, to everyone, remedies and prevents resentment which is poison to my body and soul. If I can send out love to everyone I meet, nothing can hurt me because love is the most powerful emotion of all. This ability takes practice and patience, but over time I have come to reap the rewards of doing so, and have witnessed the love I send out reach even those who once hurt me. How beautiful is that?