We all have memories that stick out clearly for recall to any situation. A memory that you can apply to almost any situation. It could be a series of them or just one really poignant one. I have several. Like when I was six and I kept trying to ride my Great Dane dog as a horse. She didn't really appreciate my efforts to ride her and my Dad told me dogs were not for riding even if they were almost as big as horses, that didn't mean they were horses. Kind of like the opposite of the adage if walks like a duck and quacks like a duck then it must be a duck. He taught me it might actually be a zebra in duck's feathers. Make sure that you really clearly see people and things for what they are. Just because the resemble something or act a certain way doesn't necessarily mean they are what they appear to be. Also, apparently trying to ride a dog is frowned upon.
Another poignant memory I have from childhood that has applied to me in many ways is when I was around seven and my brother was around eleven years old. My mother and Dad had taken us into a very expensive store. We were scolded and warned in the harsh, authoritative whispers that only a parent can muster out of nowhere. You know the kind of whisper that is so serious that only two words come out at a time leaving slight pauses in speech that emphasize the importance of them. "Do not ........touch anything....in this store. Don't touch anything, don't look at it, don't even breathe on anything in this store."
We looked at each other and then my parents and nodded solemnly further proving that we agreed we would indeed not touch anything, look at anything, or get close enough to breathe on anything in the store.
Walking behind our parents slowly ,as not to accidentally bump any of the objects for sale, we were dumbfounded. Surely this store was a place of magic.We had been transformed from the cracked sidewalk and hot stifling weather of a summer Texas day into a new world. A new world where everything was beautiful and exciting. Where colorful do-dads, shiny thing-a-ma-jigs, and brilliant baubles lined the shelves. There was fancy china arranged neatly on shelves under a golden glass chandelier. The light bounced cheerily off the crystal wine glasses and glass bowls. The reflections danced around on the ceiling like diamonds. The store smelled so strongly of spiced candles that it actually made one's stomach growl in anticipation of what must be cooking. Spiced apple, spiced cookies, spiced whatever....it was a wondrous almost ethereal place. We were too stunned to even move. It was the holy grail of all things beautiful, or at least it was to my seven year old mind.
My mother turned to remind us yet one more time not to touch anything and we nodded again in agreement. Then it happened. In my mind it plays as a slow motion reel. As she turned back around her giant purse circa 1985 ever so slightly tapped one of the stately shelves lifting the edge of her purse just high enough to tip over one glass goblet after another creating a cascade of beautiful broken glass tumbling onto the floor with such force it looked like a shattered waterfall. The sound was that of some horridly fast screeching comet crashing into the earth at break neck speed. I believe the sound can only be described correctly as "A bull in a china shop".
We all stood there frozen. It seemed like ages before my ever so observant brother tilted his head towards my ear and whispered with awe mixed with complete and utter shock,"We didn't do it this time." We stood there wide eyed as big as saucers and mouths agape. And although there was great apprehension in how the store owner's would react there was a slight smugness, a slight giggle that we forced down, specifically because mother was so worried about what we would do that it never occurred to her to be equally careful and maybe leave her ginormous purse in the car.
The store owners accepted mother's apology and we promptly left the magical store. My brother and I giggled a little to the car. To this day he and I find this quiet amusing. My mother....not so much. It turns out the store had this happen several times and my mother's massacre of all things shiny and breakable was the last straw in how they placed the glassware. They removed that particular display.
What this has represented to me in my life as a lesson is that it is not always the things you think are going to cause problems that actually do. Just like our general health. We often are so consumed with physical health that we may overlook the importance of mental health. Mental illness can, in fact, come into your life and cause many beautiful things in your life crashing to the ground. Like self esteem, confidence, the illusion of control over our lives, our friendships and relationships, our jobs or schooling. It can be the giant purse from 1985 that knocks everything off the shelves and you end up shocked and dumbfounded not knowing where you stand in anything anymore. We often do not realize that mental illness is a possibility, leaving us caught unaware and unprepared. We treat it differently rather than if we were just diagnosed with diabetes. No one whispers about you when you just have high blood sugar. They do, however, tend to whisper when you have been diagnosed with a mental illness. And when being diagnosed we sometimes forget to take into consideration that we are in fact carrying it around like a hideous satchel that takes up to much space and never matches our outfits. We forget to pay attention to when the satchel becomes to heavy a burden to carry by ourselves. We get busy. We get stressed. We ignore the signs because we think we don't have time to take care of our mental needs. We knock over display shelves.
So my post is really about learning to recognize the signs of mental illness. Learning to pay attention to not only when your body is telling you you need to be wary but also when your mind is telling you it needs help as well. There is absolutely no shame in asking for help and if someone thinks differently then they do not have your best interests at heart. Take time to not just look at what is going on with others that you care about around you but also take a very careful look at what is going on with you and where you are. Not just at this moment in time but in every situation. It's important. You are important.
So put down that ugly purse and take a load off. Rub your feet, take in a movie, read a book. Don't keep dragging that albatross around everywhere you go and not take care of yourself every once in a while, and never....I repeat never try to ride a dog. They don't like it.