We all have our own battles going on in our worlds, some we express to others, and some we keep bottled up inside. No battle should be seen as too tough. If it was going to be too tough for us to work out it would come with an instruction manual. But life does not come with an instruction manual, and neither does the challenges that we face.
As I sat here commuting home from University, I began to think about all the challenges I have faced. One event that struck me in particular was when I was told who I shouldn’t be friends with based on ‘the problems they were facing’ at the time. Now, I cannot begin to explain how proud I am of my past self for being wise enough to make my own decision about who to be friends with, and who to stay away from. Let me put this into a bit more context and you might see what I’m getting at.
I would have been in about year 8 (age 14ish). I was so young and naive, but that didn’t mean that I let people’s opinions persuade me. I listened to my parent’s guidance, and I followed what they told me. But when it came to adults telling me their opinions, I deciphered whether I should follow them or not. I always prided myself on this because it allowed me to not just follow other people in what they thought and did.
The particular event that I want to share with you, involves a girl who was in year 11 at the time. Let’s call her Stacey for the purpose of the story. Stacey and I were getting along. We became quite close over such a couple of short weeks and she began to tell me stories of her past. Stories that I wish weren’t true, but they were and there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn't change the past but I could help her with the battles that she was facing every day. She would tell me that even those school lunch sessions that we would have made her happy. That was the greatest compliment I have ever received, – I made her happy by just talking and being with her.
And then comes the bit that I will never ever forget. A teacher that I had at the time, knew what had happened in Stacey’s past as well as some of the battles she had at the time. And so she turned to me and said “You should not be hanging out with Stacey.” I remember her words so vividly. “She is bad for you and she has problems that will only be inflicted on you.” If I could go back to this moment as an adult, I would tell her all the things that were wrong with those two sentences.
Yes, I was young and the teacher was only concerned, but, mental illnesses are NOT contagious. Just by talking to someone they cannot inflict a mental illness onto you no matter what mental illness it is. It is not like the common cold that just spreads from person to person by as small as a touch. A mental illness can develop from a chemical imbalance in the brain, an event that occurs, or it can simply develop over time. I’m not a doctor, and there are more scientific explanations behind why mental illnesses occur, but they are the basics.
The point that I am trying to get across is - a mental illness does not transfer from one person to another. People with a mental illness should not be treated any differently to someone who does not suffer a mental illness. Do not lock them up in a room just because they need a little extra help. Be friends with everyone no matter what their circumstances are. It is more than likely that some of your other friends have a mental illness that they just haven’t told you about. The happiest may not always be truly happy – just remember that.
Until next time,
Look after your friends and treat them all equally no matter what.