Let me ask you this – “How do you see me?”
It is an interesting question don’t you think? I mean do you see me as a person, a blogger, a persona and blogger, a person with mental health issues, a blogger with mental health issues, a person and blogger with mental health issues? Or perhaps something totally different.
How others see me is by no means a fixation of mine but it is something that interests me – especially when it comes to my mental health and how it affects the way others see me.
I am a big guy, a very big guy, I am morbidly obese and have numerous health issues and I walk with a cane. Sometime ago I was walking down the road and across the road one youth turned to his mates – there were a group of them and said, “Look at the fat guy with the walking stick”
Ah the blessing that is young people and how sweet to announce my presence – what with me being so tiny that no-one else would have noticed me NOT! Did that young person see another human who has health issues and needs a walking stick to get around? Did he see another human being and one who has numerous health issues and thus has a constant battle with his weight and mobility? No of course not and indeed why should he?
Of course my walking stick and my morbid obesity are very obvious. My mental health on the other hand, well now that is a different matter entirely. Most of the time, thankfully, you actually have to get to know me to know that I struggle with poor mental health since I tend to withdraw and isolate when my mental health is so bad that it becomes very noticeable.
Of course it may be that you have gotten to know me only a little but that I have been upfront and forthcoming about my mental health. The truth is that I do tend to be more candid and open about it nowadays. I spent years hiding it but learned that actually all this does is afford me the opportunity to invest in relationships that all too often suddenly change once something goes wrong and I am unable to hide my mental health issues. Why does this happen? Is it because I suddenly change once someone knows about my mental health? No I don’t think I do. What changes is the way people see me once they become aware of it.
You see, as I have said before, mental health can be like a bubble. It can separate and isolate to varying degrees. It can distort or magnify to varying degrees. It can smother and it yet it can protect.
Here’s an interesting bit of fun for those who do know me or who have been following this blog. Below are a series of photo’s that I have manipulated of me an my mental health bubble. Take a look at them and consider which one is the closet to how YOU see ME…
Or this one?
How about this one?
Ok How about this one?
Hm, What about this one?
Ok, what about this one?
Or do you think this is more accurate?
Which of those pictures featuring me and/or the bubble that represents my mental health is closest to the way that you see me?
Of course it is a question that I do not expect you to actually answer.
You see some questions are asked not in order that you share the answer with the person asking the question but so that you actually consider the question for yourself.
In this exercise I have used a picture (albeit not tremendously recent) of myself and one of a bubble and I have merged them to varying extents in order to demonstrate the fact that actually people do see me in different ways.
Some see just me and ignore my mental health, others just see my mental health and thus don’t get to know the real me.
Yet others have varying degrees of focus on me and/or on my mental health. How they interact with me, how they accept me, communicate with me, love me, interact with me, seems to depend entirely on how they see me and on how much they focus on me versus how much they focus on my mental health.
And here’s the rub of it all. Whilst how people choose to see me and thus accept or indeed not accept me as the case may be, sometimes hurts me. The fact of the matter is I am a big guy who has had this mental health for most of my fifty year life and I can pretty much cope with how people choose to accept me or not accept me.
But what of others? What of those who are perhaps younger, perhaps less experienced, perhaps less confident, less secure in who they are?
What of those who are truly struggling to accept themselves and their own mental health issues, let alone accept that others can and will truly accept them?
And what about where it isn’t mental health that is the issue? What about those with other challenges or circumstances or illnesses or deformities to deal with? What about the cripple, the blind man, the person with downs-syndrome? What about the homeless guy in the store front doorway trying to get warm? What about the Aids sufferer? What about the refugee? What about the…… and the list goes on.
And what about you and the issues or challenges that you have to deal with? What about the way that YOU see YOU?
How you see me will have a direct impact on how you treat me, just as how I see you will have a direct impact on how I treat you and how I allow you to treat me. But whilst I have indeed asked you, via this post, to consider how you see me, I am not asking you to change that. No. I only did that to make a point and to invite you to think about how we all see each of and how we treat each other subsequent to that.
No. What I am asking you to consider is not really how you see me at all. But how you see others and how you see yourself and in so doing to consider how you treat others and how you treat yourself.
And let me very open with you here. I ask this not because I know for certain that you need a different way of seeing others and yourself but because I am fairly sure we all – including me – need a different way of seeing.