December 12, 2012

Maryam, a Time to Change bloggerI was recently touched deeply by two TED talks by Brene Brown, ‘The Power of Vulnerability’ and the second is ‘Listening to Shame.’

The two quotes which sum up these talk beautifully are:

‘Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.'

‘Vulnerability is not weakness. And that myth is profoundly dangerous.’

Before I stumbled across these talks during my frequent wanderings on ted.com I opened up to someone in a way that I hadn't done in a long while. I talked about why a friend’s death had affected me so much. My friend’s death, more specifically suicide, was a tragic event to say the least. He was an amazing young man who had such a big heart and would always listen and help you no matter what time of the day or night you sought his help.

When a friend informed me of his death it took me back in such a way that I was metaphorically knocked off my feet. Why? Because the previous year I had considered doing the same. I have struggled with my sexuality, religion and culture for as long as I can remember and I reached a point in my life where I thought it would be better to end my own life rather than to continue living in that misery.

a friend pointed out that it sounded like I was going through depression

It wasn't until years later that a friend pointed out that it sounded like I was going through depression. In hindsight, I think she was right and it scared me to admit that. I can’t help but feel some shame attached to that vulnerability, especially considering that suicide is against Islam. The thing that upset me the most about my friend’s suicide was the fact that he had helped me so much. Actually that’s a massive understatement; he was one of the people who saved my life. He wholeheartedly believed that coming out to my mum would be okay and that she would still love me. Friends had tried to comfort me with similar words before but I knew that deep down they didn't really believe it. When Peter said it, it was genuine and honest and I took great comfort in this and ultimately he was right.

My guilt lies in the fact that Peter was one of the people who saved my life and yet I was unable to save his. If only I had told him how much of a profound impact he had on my life than perhaps he would have reconsidered his decision? I know that rationally this argument doesn't make much sense and that it is a waste of time and energy in thinking ‘what ifs’ and ‘if only’ but I just can’t help it. This is something that hopefully I will come to terms with. In any case, it has allowed me realise even more so just how much our actions or even inaction can affect other people. Simple and indeed random acts of kindness are sometimes more than enough to make anyone’s day and quite literally change their lives.

he biggest comfort when talking about vulnerability and shame was when my friend replied ‘me too’

I felt vulnerable in telling someone how I really felt. I had shame in the fact that, as a queer Black feminist Muslim, I still, even now, find it difficult to be who I am in my culture and religion. Even though I have reconciled them now I have the added difficulty of trying to deal with my mental health issues in a more productive way. The biggest comfort when talking about vulnerability and shame was when my friend replied ‘me too’.

Knowing that other people are going through a similar situation is incredibly comforting because when they listen and offer you advice you know they are truly able to understand and empathise with how you feel. The vulnerability that I felt when talking to my friend about these two issues was difficult to say the least but I knew that it was important to carry on even through the sweating, the shaking and feeling of exposure when talking about things so close to my heart, my deepest fears, regret, guilt and shame.

Vulnerability and shame may be somewhat scary but they shouldn't be stigmatised

Vulnerability and shame may be somewhat scary but they shouldn't be stigmatised and deemed as negative emotions to hide away from. Something that we should all try and remember is that vulnerability really is our most accurate measurement of courage and understanding that courage is not the absence of fear but rather the recognition that some things are more important than fear.

I have struggled with my mental health on and off for years but I think I am finally at a place where I am somewhat comfortable with dealing with it. The help that I've chosen to seek is counselling, again. Before, I half-heartedly went but this time I almost feel compelled to go as I think it’s important for me to. I sent off my counselling referral form a few weeks ago and I have recently heard back from them. My initial appointment is tomorrow.

There really is no shame in talking about mental health

There really is no shame in talking about mental health (both positive and negative because we all have a state of mental health) or in seeking help when you need it. You may not need to tell the world as I do in my blog posts but please do not be afraid. You are not alone.

I hope that I, or rather Brené Brown, has given you some food for thought. Whilst you ponder over those thoughts I shall be recovering from my ‘vulnerability hangover’.

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