It must be nice to have such control of your anxieties that you can recognize when your they might be irrational and simply calm yourself down to a functioning level so that you’re not crippled out of action.
It must be nice to not have depression weighing on you so heavily that you are unable to lift it off yourself with a simple statement to yourself: CHEER UP!
It must be nice to logically recognize that binge eating that 12-pack of donuts when you’re upset is a bad idea and simply NOT DO IT.
Some days I can do all of those things. And because many days I can’t do any of them? I savor every day where I’m in control and my sadness or my worry or my edible crutches do not have the power over my actions or my feelings. When I’m feeling a twinge of sadness and I can pop out of it with a run or some writing or resting, then I am grateful for that ability. It is nice.
But many people have those luxuries every moment of every day and – instead of counting their blessings – they judge the people around them who can’t do those simple things. They roll their eyes and talk about how dependent our country has become on psychological medications and how, “No one can deal with their own emotions without chemicals anymore!” They think healthcare coverage for mental health is a waste of time and money and they think that person on Facebook is just wanting some sort of attention and they say to themselves, “Ug…just get over it already.” They know of people struggling with anxiety or sadness in a way that really jeopardizes their lifestyle and they just can’t relate because,”Everyone has bad days…you just have to push forward and stay positive.”
Many maintain a healthy relationship with food and with their bodies and win the battle with tolerable amounts of struggle. They recognize it’s hard, and they assume that anyone overweight is just not willing to work as hard as they are. “You just don’t eat the donuts. You just go for a walk. It’s your choice.” What many don’t realize is that thyroid problems are not a choice. Depression and Anxiety are not choices. Lupus is not a choice. Many illnesses that you can’t diagnose by looking at someone, make their ability to “just go for a walk” or “just don’t eat the donuts” difficult and instead of acting like they know someone’s medical history by looking at them, they talk about how important it is to “be honest with them.”
It must be nice to win your own battles and therefore be in a position to judge those who don’t.
Except it’s not nice.
I see it every day in discussions about mental health and obesity. So many people struggle to keep their anxieties in check or their weight at a healthy level and they feel like since they won their battles, then it’s the same level of difficulty for someone else to win theirs. “It’s not easy!” They say, like that somehow suddenly means that their war with depression was the same war that their friend is having. I don’t necessarily see judgement passed on friends or family, but I see judgement passed on strangers. But what you don’t realize is that if you vocally pass judgement on a stranger online? Then your friends or family who are fighting the same battles as that stranger are simply going to assume you think the same thing about them. That they’re seeking therapy for their depression for attention and just taking the meds because it’s the “easy” way of dealing with things.
Every judgement you make about “strangers” is felt by friends and family. If you are at lunch making fun of the girl in your office who takes tons of meds for her anxiety, “She’s not even married! Doesn’t even have kids! What could possibly be stressing her out? Wait until she has to worry about college tuition!” Then someone you love at that table who is also suffering with anxiety is going to assume you dismiss their struggles just as haphazardly.
You know what’s nice? Being grateful you’ve won your battles and offering support on the field to the friend who is still in the trenches.
“Is there anything I can do to help? Would you like me to watch the kids while you have a quiet day?”
“Would you like some company tonight? Go to dinner?”
“Do you want to try any workout class? I’ll go with you!”
“Do you just want to go for donuts together?”
And if you see someone struggling who is only an acquaintance, so therefore not at the relationship connection where you feel like you could offer help, then maybe not judge them at all? If you’re not close enough to someone to understand their sadness or their worry or their health, then maybe abstain from criticizing how they’re handling those things. Whether it’s that coworker that has put on weight this year or that Mommy Blogger who admitted herself to a mental health facility. Your instinct may be to judge her for abandoning her small children and leaving her husband to care for them, or you may just assume that coworker started binging on donuts and watching non-stop reality TV. But maybe the coworker just lost her Father suddenly, and maybe that Mommy Blogger was one step away from jumping off a bridge but she took the brave step to get help instead.
You know what is nice? It’s nice when you’re struggling and you’re surrounded by supportive people in your life. Every time I’ve faltered with my anxiety or my depression or my relationship with food…I’ve had the voices here to support me and never pass judgement. I’ve got support in my real life too, but it’s the “It will be okay…” support here that saves me every time.
Whenever I see someone being judged, whether it’s the celebrity on the cover of a magazine who is still carrying baby weight…or someone in my community seeking help for depression…I hope they have the network of support and empathy that I’ve found over the years. We all know there are people out there who don’t get it. We hear their voices with every struggle. In some ways my husband is like that. He tries to get it and he offers love and support, but he also sometimes passes judgement and it’s hard to fight the demons when someone who has already conquered their own just wants you to hurry up and win the war already.
If you’re struggling, try to ignore the voices of judgement. Filter out those that matter and savor the words of love and support from the people who truly understand. There are always going to be people who assume if you’re overweight that you’re lazy and gross. There are always going to be people who think you’re pitiful if your anxieties keep you at home or think your just wanting attention if you seek treatment for you depression. Those voices are always going to be out there in the void somewhere, but hopefully you can set up a buffer between them and you. A buffer of love and support like I have, so those words and those voices are muffled a bit before they reach your ears.
And I’m sorry if those words of judgement reach you crisp and clear and loud and puncture your heart. I’m so very sorry. I’ve seen it happen time and time again and every time I see a friend ache over the words read online or the judgement passed at lunch, I just want to wrap them up in light and love. Most of the time the judgement is not even directed at them…but it’s directed at someone in a similar situation and so the words feel like they were thrown directly at them.
When I’m having a good day and the demons are far over the hills, I just want to give everyone around me a hug and lend them my army. Because when I’m cowering in the field as the battle rages on around me, I’m always grateful for the shelter of an understanding friend.