have the absolute privilege of working so closely with my patients and what I’ve discovered is almost universal between them, is that very few, if any, of the people in their lives have any idea about the extent to which they are suffering. I imagine that a huge part of this is feeling unsafe with the vulnerability it would require to share their intimate thoughts, another part is fear that they will be misunderstood and another part is that there is still a major stigma that exists around any mental health issue, which often leaves them feeling judged.
So many people who suffer from anxiety disorders, eating disorders or depression look totally and completely fine from the outside, while being far from on the inside. Unless you are very sensitive or professionally trained, it’s quite likely that you would be completely unaware that some of the people who are around you day-to-day are really, truly suffering.
While you may never know or learn how to detect when these issues are present there is a really simple way that you can make a huge difference; be kind. Be kind to everyone… always.
The tiniest acts of kindness can go a really long way – smiling, paying compliments, asking someone how they are doing and actually caring to listen, learning about the things that are important to someone and then remembering to follow up about them, buying an extra coffee to give to a colleague, etc. On the flip side, the tiniest act of unkindness can also go a really long way, in a really bad way. An off-hand passive aggressive comment, staring, excluding, passing judgement, etc. can be so painful for anyone, but when directed towards someone who is already in a state of being totally disempowered, it can be agonizing. So simply stop giving yourself permission to ever do these things and if it happens (you are human after all!) then apologize!
I promise that if you had the vantage point that I have into the lives of the people that are around you, you would never want to contribute to any more of the already-enormously-heavy burden they are carrying, so don’t… be kind. You’ll love yourself more for it.