August 6, 2015

How my Best Friend Helped Save my Mind.


Yesterday, rolling through Vancouver, B.C.’s VanDusen Botanical Garden Park, I was patronized by the tour guide from hell.

Apparently one isn’t supposed to ask questions, so my inquiry about deciduous trees earned me a wolfish sneer. “If you are so ignorant about the gardens,” my guide stammered. “you should sit in the back of the cart.”

Up till this moment I had never felt an inclination to clock an elderly woman.

Yet I wasn’t irked for long: I envisioned my best friend sitting beside me, joking.

After laughing silently, I felt better.

I’m starting to conclude that if just thinking about someone can cheer you up, you probably love them.

I have been known to be hyperbolic. I tend to adopt the “all or nothing” model.  I believe most relationships either are Downers or Uppers.

Downer relationships thrive on indifferent conversations and continuous competition. They often linger because of familiarity and investment, but will inevitably fizzle.

If we are wise and lucky enough to avoid such toxic relationships, magnificent ones will emerge from a velvet mist and push us to the equally steep and satisfying peak of potential.

When Ginny found out I was struggling with a serious mental illness, she didn’t waste time trying to find out what exactly the illness was. She simply tried to keep me present when my mind was gone. She simply supported me, helping me understand my situation and helping me battle it.

At no point did she patronize or question a reality that was completely foreign to her, one that can be demanding and confusing.

A relationship worth treasuring is free from trivial politics. It’s founded in encouragement and the best kind of stubbornness.

It is a relationship that makes us wish to live solely to keep such a luminous energy radiating, with someone who can help you tell mirrors from mirages. Even the heaviest depression can’t manipulate the pure joy of this truth.

It’s so important to love someone unconditionally or at least try to.

So I want to talk about my best friend and how she encourages everyone around her to become the best versions of themselves, sometimes without even knowing it.

We first met when we made the same soccer team. We were eleven and at any given time were guaranteed to be the most high-maintenance kids on the field. I had an incurable need to be the team’s comic relief at the expense of my coach. Ginny cried whenever met with any physical contact during practices or games.

It was enough to drive even the calmest people to the brink.

Our faith or, in my case, the lack of it, has been the cause of ample disagreements between us. She is greatly guided and fulfilled by Christianity, and I don’t identify with any religious or spiritual teachings.

I didn’t try to appreciate that her faith was true for her. So, any time she would explain how her faith was helping her get through an obstacle, I would separate myself from her, instead of listening, contributing and comforting her.

Most people leave when a tornado forms, but my friend was the first one to come looking for me.

Dear Friend: We will always view some things a little differently, but I hope we can always try to find beauty and inspiration in that difference. I’m working as hard as I can to become the most compassionate and empathetic person I can be and it will take a lot more experience and reflection to even come close to being as kind as you are—because you don’t really have to learn how to be selfless and loyal.

You just are. You always have been. You lead by example because you’re already where a lot of us are trying to get. We will continuously challenge one another, which is a great and essential thing, but I’m also excited to be part of a friendship that makes both of us kinder each day and stronger each year.

For those of you reading, I encourage you to try opening your arms before closing them.

Instead of taking away from a belief that keeps someone going, try to help them build on it so it can never be shaken. Be as open and diplomatic as possible so they’re never afraid to tell you something that could change their life.
Go up to a person you may have been quick to dismiss in the past, put down your phone, put down your ego, and try to pick up from where you left off.

Why? Because you’re ready to listen now.


~       Relephant Read:

The Stigma Around Mental Illness is Hurting All of Us.


Author: Elise Horton 

Editor: David Lewis

Photo: pixabay

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