Years ago when my children were small and I was very depressed, a friend arrived on my doorstep with a homemade meal.
I had gone from an energetic high to a motionless low.
I always managed to look after my children but everything took so much effort and time.
My friend was concerned about me, she had a sense I wasn’t well in the way friends know. She had no idea of or experience with what I was going through but thought a home cooked meal would be useful.
She was so right.
The fact she offered no advice and was honest about not knowing what I was going through, was such a relief from the well-meaning but ill-informed advice that I had been receiving from other people.
She made me feel so cared for – and what a relief to know that I could feed my family that night without worrying about what I was going to cook.
It’s a gesture that touched me and one I have tried to pass on; seeing someone in need and trying to think of something practical to do for them.
It can be just sitting with a person, folding laundry, bringing in firewood, taking children to school, feeding a pet, or going to the shops.
We don’t need to understand fully what someone is going through in order to help them.
When someone is ill it can be hard to know what sort of assistance is needed and even hard for the person who is unwell to know. So if you want to help – start with the simple stuff.
For me, when I was sick I felt I was so isolated, so alone, like no one understood.
When I received that home cooked meal all of a sudden I was not forgotten or alone, I was given strength to get through another day, a day closer to wellness.
During Mental Health Month there is much emphasis on what the individual can do to maintain their own mental health.
The importance of diet, plenty of exercise, being connected to the community, positive ways of thinking, coping with a stressful life by using meditation, mindfulness, cognitive behaviour therapy – all are seen as important parts to promoting mental health.
I am adding something new, an idea from author and philosopher Shannon L Alder:
“When the “I” is replaced by “We” illness becomes wellness.”
We all have the potential to make such a difference in someone’s life, and all it can take is a small gesture like a delivered homemade meal…or writing an article and sharing your experience.
Don’t be afraid to be the ‘we’ Shannon Alder talks about.
Leah Milston was diagnosed as being Bipolar over 40 years ago.
She says she spent the first 16 years living in denial, the next 16 she describes as ‘reluctant’ but for the last 9 years Leah has embraced the way she is wired.
So much so Leah is now a voluntary speaker for Beyondblue and was previously a voluntary rural ambassador for Black Dog Institute (2007-2010) and regularly writes articles and speaks on radio about mental health issues.
She is also a representative on the Eurobodalla Health Services Community Representative Committee.
Since 2005 Leah has been the owner, manager and personality behind Milston’s Past and Present in Mogo. The shop has enough order and enough chaos and quirkiness (just like it’s owner) to make it a wonderful place to browse.