My parents spent a good deal of time convincing me there wasn’t one. But that’s the point: They took that time to convince me that I was safe, that it was all okay; that my concern was genuine, even probable (there could well have been a big cat under my bed). And then one night, as they were putting me to sleep, with all the graveness they could muster, all they said was, “The bottom of your bed is a comfortable place but they’ve decided to leave us in peace. The forest is a lot more suited to their needs. And it’s almost impossible to return once you’re lost in the wilderness”.
I think they entered my worried mind and imagined just what it was like, with visions of a tiger eating me up when I was fast asleep. They took time to come up with a believable, reassuring explanation for why it wouldn’t.
I wonder how it would have been if I didn’t have that explanation. If my fears were brushed aside or dismissed or if I was deemed a sissy or if I wasn’t taken seriously despite being little and ludicrous.
Well, I’d have been older and a tad less put together.
It isn’t entirely about bad or absent or inadequate parenting. It’s about how considerate we’re willing to be at any age, at every age to one another – however strange, familiar, helpless or strong we may appear.
The cure for the mind is in the heart. Not one heart. But many. It might help us to know that when pitted against love, we don’t stand a chance. We’re facing an indomitable opponent. And our brains often clear out with the right quantities of it.
Most mental unwellness is a direct consequence of a deficit of love.
The process of giving it is not limited to romance and sentimentality. It often involves just staying put – going nowhere when someone needs you around; answering that phone call at an unearthly hour when the person at the other end needs a listen; loving someone for who they are rather than for anything they do; helping someone tolerate themselves when they seem unable to and most importantly, not pitying them and instead simply silently standing by for as long as they will take to heal.
Loving is also an opportunity to be non-judgmental. Seizing that chance is a very individual decision, a promise we make to ourselves about the kind of person we want to be, not just within, but for someone else.
Love is slathering yourself with vulnerability. We can’t quite help if we haven’t been helpless ourselves. To help is to know what it is like to have none. We may be mentally well, but we’ve had these challenges, we’ve been in some rough spaces, we’ve had to battle many I-don’t-want-to-get-out-of-bed-and-face-the-world days, we’ve been scared and the love we decide to give allows us to share our fears and share in with those of others.
Love is not pity or looking down to acknowledge anyone’s mental misery, it is looking level at them like you would yourself because it could well have been you!
Love makes it manageable – the situations we can’t immediately perceive as so. If our presence is a little more reassuring, a little more reasonable and a little more sympathetic without seeming patronizing, love would have mollified a mind going mad in the moment.
And then, it will know it can manage; make it through.
Are we willing to adult for the child struggling inside another?
Are we willing to address the tiger under the bed?
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