Patience you are a slippery devil. At times I have a firm grasp on you. But sometimes when you starts to wiggle and squirm, I lose my grip and you slip right through my fingers.
This holiday season has been strange. I worked myself into a lather about a routine mammogram which triggered my anxiety. My eldest daughter is wrestling with her anxiety as she transitions from school to vacation mode. A good friend finds holiday gatherings very difficult and negotiates them as best she can. My Facebook feed confirms that this time of year is damn hard for a lot of people for a whole bunch of different reasons.
I know this. You know this. Even Facebook knows this. And yet we lose patience with ourselves and each other. Patience slips right through our fingers and transforms into unsolicited advice, hurtful comments, neglect and isolation.
I don’t need your judgement. I’m already doing a brilliant job of beating myself up. For example, some of the questions that ran through my head last week included:
“Why can’t I get a grip?”
“What is wrong with me?”
“None of these thoughts are logical.”
“I just need to stop thinking these negative thoughts.”
And yet the thoughts just kept on coming at a relentless pace until I lost patience with myself and booked an appointment with my doctor to review my test results and talk about some coping strategies.
Three days after Christmas as my daughter’s gifts lay unwrapped but not played with or read under the tree, I don’t need you to ask:
“Doesn’t she appreciate her gifts?”
“Why is she so stubborn and rude?”
“What’s wrong exactly?”
Nothing is wrong. But yes, something is different. I don’t know why transitions are so hard for my eldest. What I do know is that she will get there. She will open her microscope and examine all the slides. She will read each graphic novel cover to cover several times. She just needs to process everything at her own pace. And I need to walk patiently beside her as she does this. How amazing it would be if others could come alongside her as well.
Same for me. I’d love some company on this journey. I can’t explain why I got so worried about a routine medical test. If there was an off switch to my anxiety I would have pulled it but that’s not how it works. It’s a big ugly monster that grows bigger with each new thought. And FYI, attempting to explain my anxiety makes me more anxious because I already know how nuts I sound.
So instead of trying to solve my problems, my daughter’s or that random person on Facebook, why not ask, “How can I support you right now?” NOT “What can I do for you?” There is nothing you can do. But you can be. Be with us.
After asking, “How can I support you right now?” pour yourself a tall, cool glass of patience. And hang on tight – don’t let that slippery devil slide from your grasp. It’s so difficult to watch someone struggle with mental illness but just imagine walking in their shoes.