Misunderstood

A friend of mine has been battling obesity for a long time now.

It’s affecting her in a multitude of ways, physically and emotionally. Recently she made the difficult decision to address her problem surgically. That means a series of tests before the surgeon would consider her case, including a psychiatric examination.

The conclusion? She wasn’t a suitable candidate.

She was deeply disappointed, but still determined to fight her battle with her weight. However, she wanted to address the issue of her mental or emotional health one more time, so she went back to the psychiatrist who had made the diagnosis.

Turns out, it was a clerical error and didn’t reflect the psychiatrist’s opinion one bit. In fact, my friend is considered to be someone with a high level of probability for success, both short- and long-term.

What she came to realize through all of this was the bitter treatment people with mental illness face. After this mistake was made but before the error was discovered, she found herself being treated harshly by the staff who once were so kind to her. When her chart was corrected, they returned to their friendly behavior.

clipboard smIt reminded me of a close friend’s experience with bigotry after she had a liver transplant. Nurses and others on the hospital staff were abrupt and, on occasion, downright rude. Finally, she asked her doctor to please note her transplant was necessary due to an auto-immune disorder, not because of substance abuse. The doctor wrote AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE in big letters on her chart, and the staff turned around in their judgmental attitudes. Jean was disgusted.

Mental health and substance abuse remain stigmatized in our society,

even among medical professionals who should know better. They presumably have accurate information about the nature of these diseases, and after all, haven’t they committed themselves to a profession of compassion and empathy?

It brings me back to singing a familiar tune: you don’t know what you don’t know. It’s easy, and convenient, to judge another’s behavior. It gives us a feeling of control.

But it’s dangerous, and a crutch for the foolish.

EyesI respect those who are gracious enough to give those with mental illness the room they need to deal with their disease. One of my closest friends has two sisters diagnosed with bipolar disorder, at different levels of severity. The oldest sister has a difficult time functioning in society. With the help of family, she’s chosen to live in a halfway house in a remote area.

The other sister, after years of destructive living, was able to get a handle on her disease and maintain both a job for herself and a home for her son. About every seven years, however, she had a severe relapse. Her son would live his with father during that time, and her employer would give her a leave of absence for as long as she needed it.

The time came when that company was sold, and she decided to apply for disability, knowing that odds were another employer wouldn’t be as kind about her mental health. The courts agreed, and at the age of 56, she was granted disability. She still makes a valuable contribution to society through volunteer work, and her son is healthy, happy and completely supportive of his mother.

Her volunteer work is with mental health awareness, and people listen to her. How they apply what she has to say in their own lives is, of course, an unknown, but we can only hope they open their hearts and listen to what is unsaid.

Because we are often best understood by what is unsaid.


Image Credits: (Woman in Despair) © Bigstock; (Medical Chart) © GraphicStock; (Eyes) courtesy of Pixabay.

What You See…

Nothing is what it appears to be.

Ever been convinced something is true, only to discover there is, indeed, another logical explanation? I admit, it’s easier for me to point out this oh-so-human flaw in others, and I know a few people who routinely will stubbornly insist they are right, regardless of the possibility there is another way of looking at the situation.

Moments ago I was proven wrong about something that seemed so clear to me…okay, I knew my suggestions were off-the-wall, but there honestly was a logic to them. And who knows, in the future someone might say, “hey, she was right…I’ll be darned!” I’m not counting on it, but it has happened in the past.

I try not to judge others, and one of the biggest reasons why is this: we simply don’t have all the information. No matter how wise, sophisticated or informed you may believe yourself to be, you are not omniscient. You are limited in your view of the world by your experience.

One friend of mine practically spits if you mention Melania Trump.

Now, I’m not a fan of our president, never have thought he was anything but a buffoon. I can’t imagine being married to him (the thought of that makes me spit), and neither can my friend. Yet just because we see nothing desirable in the man doesn’t mean some other woman won’t find him attractive.

I hear the laughter — let me finish —

Seriously, while my friend thinks Melania married Donald strictly for his money, I say this: I don’t know the woman. I don’t know why she married him. I don’t know what he was like when he was courting her. You get my point. Maybe the money was the strongest draw, maybe not. I would guess she never genuinely anticipated being First Lady, and that’s a role with a high cost, so I have some sympathy for her. My friend does not; she thinks she got what she deserved.

That’s the kind of judgment I pray you never hear me make about another.

I was the victim of some harsh judgment several years ago,

and I lull myself to sleep many nights thinking how my accusers may have fallen in their pursuit of evidence of my non-existent wrongdoing. They spent a lot of time and money chasing after this information, and someone, somewhere along the line, must have said, “what the hell are you doing?” because they never dug up the dirt they were certain was within their grasp. There must have been enough misinterpreted data along the way for them to continue in this fruitless pursuit, and I imagine they fell victim to their own limited viewpoint when evaluating the facts.

Knowing human nature, and in particular, knowing the individuals involved, they never did give up believing I was guilty of some wrong-doing. Perhaps they are still waiting for me to trip up.

I’m not suggesting
Train Passengers
Each of us has our own unique view, our own experience to draw on.

we remain so open-minded we become gullible, victims of our own consideration. There is a point where we know enough to draw reasonable conclusions. It’s when we think we know more than we actually do that we’re most likely to judge others. The biggest danger is judging people who are more acquaintances than friends, or assessing situations in which we are dabblers, not experts.

Nothing is as it seems…so judge not, lest ye be judged.


Image Credits: (Blue Eyes) © JosefArt — Bigstock; (Crowd on Train) courtesy of Pixabay

As I Appear Before You

How do I know who you are? And what do you know about me by looking at me?

As I write this, I’m wearing clothes that need a good wash, my hair is in desperate need of styling, and any makeup I put on earlier today has worn off. I need some groceries, but I hesitate to head to the store. I don’t want to be judged by my appearance. It probably wouldn’t be complimentary.

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Yet even at my best, my most cleaned up, there are going to be those who judge me in a negative way.

Just as so many make assumptions about others. We all do it to a certain extent, sum a person up with our first impressions. That quick assessment is based on our beliefs and previous experiences, and is likely to be limited and narrow.

You won’t know me until you talk to me, and even then it will take some time. You won’t know me until you see me in separate circumstances, and most people don’t have that opportunity.

We have our beliefs about others that are tidily summed up in stereotypes. The Germans are stoic, if you’re from Latin America, you’re passionate. There is some truth to those beliefs culturally, but not necessarily for individuals. Each of us has our life experience that shapes our unique personality.

In America, if you’re from the south, you’re a bigot, a racist. Yankees are rude. For that last one, I’ll tell you as someone who’s lived in both southern and northern states there is a more genteel, some might say passive, approach to manners in the south. So in contrast, those from up north do appear rude.

bigstock-Cute-Cartoon-Fairytale-Princes-111350732 [Converted]For example, the idea of mirroring someone’s statement to show you understand them is simply not done at the very Southern company I worked for several years ago. It’s considered rude, confrontational. Instead, you should… well, frankly, I never did figure out how you’re supposed to handle it.

And while I wouldn’t call all Southerners racist, there is a remarkable them/us view with many of the people I know born and raised south of the Mason/Dixon line. They don’t see it. In fact, they justify every word of their own beliefs. As do I, with my own beliefs.

There are times when I need to challenge those beliefs. For example, you might arguably say I have some prejudice against those from the southern United States.

We make broad judgments based on a person’s race, ethnicity, gender, manner, clothing, accent, and whatever else we take in during those first seconds of meeting someone. And those judgments stick with us.

Some stubbornly maintain their beliefs, while others are willing to challenge themselves. Some give others a second chance, some are one-and-done.

AdobeStock_98604035 [Converted]Some have seen me at my worst, and don’t want to risk knowing me any further. My disappointment at those times is a challenge for me overcome.

People who know me know I’m a caring person, compassionate and kind. They know I’d do anything for my family, and that includes my cats. They know I shrivel up inside at the thought of hurting my friends.

They know other things about me, too. Things I won’t list here, because why spell out my faults?

They have forgiven me my insensitive moments, my selfish moods.

Each of us is complex, even those who seem the most simple. We all can surprise those who think they know us with an unguarded moment.

So who you think you see is not who I am. Nothing is at it appears, no one is as she appears.

 

Image Credits: © sapunkele — Adobe Stock