Rain, mental illness, murderers and sexism …

sourced from YouTube

These four topics have consumed mainstream media and social media feeds for days it would seem! 


Rain sucks unless you are a farmer in drought or rely on rain to fill your tanks for you know showers, drinking, washing etc.  When you are a farmer the rain still really needs to fall at the right time even if you are in drought!  Rain at the wrong time of the year could ruin the crops and that could mean the loss of more money.   

City kids complain about rain for different reasons it means that they can’t get outside and do the things that they might want to like skateboard or swimming or bike riding.  Parents have another reason altogether and that is we cannot banish the kids outside when they are fighting or getting on our nerves especially in the school holidays.  We are forever looking for inside things to do that don’t require some form of electronic device!  Everyone gets a little sick of each other and cabin fever sets in!  This is really never a good thing especially in the middle of the summer holidays when we should be outside enjoying sunshine and doing outside things.  


One day of rain is kind of nice to have a doona and hot chocolate day but day after day gets a little bit tedious really. The environmentalist in me feels terribly guilt about wanting the rain to go away because I know how much we need it, frankly though I am just over it, the grey skies, the kids whinging, the boredom (even my 69yr old Dad told me that he was bored today and that is really saying something!), and well the flooding and all the damage that rain can bring that is another ball game altogether.  Stay safe out there folks and remember if it’s flooded, forget it! 


What all this inside time means of course there is more time for reading and as I said at the beginning there are four topics that seem to be dominating all of my feeds both mainstream and social media rain/floods, mental illness, murderers and sexism.  It has been a busy little week and we are only at Wednesday!  Rain like lots of things in life is all about perspective to some it is renewing, life blood and to others it is a burden.  


Mental illness is in the papers again for all the wrong reasons sadly.  It is not to raise much needed understanding and awareness.  It is as some people believe being used as an excuse for murder in a very devastating and tragic murder/suicide that occurred in Port Lincoln earlier in the week.  I have a very different take on this and perhaps that is because of my own experiences with mental illness or perhaps it is because I have a less black and white view on the world.  Just because someone is smiling on the outside you can never know what is happening on the inside.  Sometimes the very need to control the smile (or every aspect of your life to be perfect!) is the very thing holding them together.  Don’t ever assume a smile or an appearance of “normal” means that everything is ok. 

self 

The judgement and vitriol that is appearing in comments on articles is really very sad.  It also shows that regardless of how far we have come in raising awareness about mental illness the reality is there is still very little real understanding and we have such a long way to go.  For many people they see mental illness as isolated to depression, anxiety or bipolar which means really that you feel a bit sad but if you take a pill that sadness will go away and anxiety is simply a matter of keeping calm and breathing through difficult situations.  Of course, I have over simplified things and while people cognitively know there is more to it than that, it is difficult to understand unless you have some sort of first hand experience of it.  Mental illness can often manifest in some form of self harm be it suicide, alcoholism, addiction of any sort, non-life threatening self-harm, visions, delusions, disassociation, voices, OCD,you name it.  There are lots and lots of mis-understood or mis-diagnosed forms of mental illness.  It is when it gets to this point in many cases it can be past the point of reason, rationality and reality.  

There is no doubt that someone who takes another person’s life is a murderer, however, when mental illness is involved the situation is far more complicated than it might otherwise be.  Mental illness when untreated and even when treated can manifest in all sorts of ways some of these rob us of the ability to think clearly and rationally.  Generally we like to believe that every action is thought through properly, understanding the consequences, knowing right from wrong and being in a position to fully accept responsibility for our actions whatever they might be.  This is great in a perfect world where the brain is functioning properly and firing on all cylinders so to speak.  When mental illness invades our brains it can rob us (even the most rational, loving, normal etc people) of the ability to think through how to breathe.  Thankfully this is where the brain kicks in and it simply shuts out all the higher level functions and withdraws to the basic primitive levels that are required to keep us alive so we don’t have to think about breathing to stay alive.  


The problem occurs when that loss of rationally and reality collides with an extreme deep-felt heartache and pain that is simply indescribable then people even very, very good people are capable of doing things that would normally in a normal world be so far removed from what they believe about themselves and what they hold as true to them.  This is by no means to say that mental illness should be ever used as an excuse for any actions.  It is however to simply say that sometimes mental illness and a far greater understanding of it could go a long way to helping provide an explanation for things.  I just can’t reconcile how the vitriol and extreme judgement on this man will as many people believe help others to recognise mental illness in themselves so that they can reach out and get help.  There is no doubt that there is specialist help available, however this can be out of reach to many for so many reasons including (but not limited to) living in a regional area, not recognising in yourself you need help, fear of judgement, financial, lack of adequate help and so many more.  All too often people who desperately need help cannot get it when they need it or they do not get the right help.  Equally we speak of this man as though he was in a rational space who could recognise that he needed the hep.  Knowing right from wrong is one thing, sometimes our brains slowly rob us of our ability to see things clearly, most often it is so slow no-one really notices least of all the person themselves until it is too late.  


I say this as someone who has read over my journals today and have discovered that I have had to take responsibility for my actions, actions I do not remember, actions that hurt and disappointed those closest to me.  What I read is that even though I cannot understand the why, the what, the how or even remember the doing I have never shied away from accepting responsibility and making restitution.  This has included apologising to all those involved.  All that I can do is offer up my at the time undiagnosed mental illness as an explanation but never an excuse.  All that I can do from here is to accept that it has happened and that the apology has been accepted and it is time to move forward.  


This leads me to today’s latest scandal in the sexism scandal and that is the apologies.  The quick recap is there have been a few politicians behaving really badly (sadly this is not really news) and a sportsman also behaving in a way that is generally accepted as not appropriate in this day and age.  I am not going to get into these issues honestly they have been done to death by many media outlets and social commentators and whilst there are lots of fence sitters out there it is generally accepted that the behaviour by the men involved is not on.  Now or ever again.  


My issue with these situations is the non-apology-apology.  This is when someone says “If X is offended/hurt/upset/etc by my actions then I am sorry” or when someone says “I’m sorry but I did X because X happened to me so …”  Guess what fellas (and gals out there!) this is NOT an apology.  An apology needs to be heartfelt, it needs to show contrition, it is always handy if the person apologising shows some empathy towards the aggrieved party, it needs to be unreserved and it needs to be real with no excuses.  


The examples of apologies that have been offered up in the last few days are really pretty ordinary in the way of apologies.  They do not appear to take into account the effect their actions have had towards the other people and in all three situations (Briggs, Dutton and Gayle) the apology has only been proffered due to being caught out.  Let’s face it that is really why most apologies occur but in these three instances there seems to be no reflection on the actions that they are inappropriate in the first place.  I am not sure how we get people to understand that a real apology can make all the difference even in the most difficult of situations.  Sure an apology is often also an acceptance of guilt but isn’t that ok, if you have been made aware that you have in some way hurt someone shouldn’t you own up and offer an apology.  Sometimes this will make all the difference and everyone can move forward together, sometimes this is just part of the solution.  Whatever the case a heartfelt apology is never going to make things worse.  


Image source:  theencouragementehaven.com

Reading over this and everything else I’ve read today, including what I wrote yesterday I think the biggest issue is that we still see the world in extremes.  Black and White.  Good versus Bad.  Right and Wrong.  We want to package everything up into nice little boxes because it helps us make sense of things.  Bad people do bad things to good people.  Good people know the difference between right and wrong.  

Sadly, I just don’t think we can do that now or ever really.  I think that if we look back over history there are lots of examples where good people have done bad things for all sorts of reasons often these have been reasons of duress but they have happened.  Does that mean that they did not know right from wrong?  Of course not it means they found themselves in a situation where they couldn’t find an alternative or they couldn’t process the difference who knows.  We can never truly understand why some things happen.  


Sometimes bad things happen to good people and good people do bad things.  That doesn’t mean because there is a possibility bad things might happen we should all wrap ourselves in cotton wool and never venture outside because trust me cabin fever sets in very quickly! It also doesn’t mean that all good people will do bad things given the right circumstances or that otherwise good people should be defined by their actions.  Of course this is not the case for everything sometimes bad crap happens for no reason at all, there are no explanations, there is no-one or thing to blame and it still happens.  Equally there are plenty of bad people out there who simply do not care how they might hurt someone.  I am not talking about those situations.  


It would be great if in a perfect world we could package everything up into neat little boxes, it would help everyone really but that is not how life is.  There are many shades of grey between the extremes that many of us live.  Like the rain life is all about perspective and it will all depend on the perspective you have will often determine your response.  Rain can be a source of renewal and cleansing and perhaps what we need to do as a society is use the rain to help us wash away the old and learn to live in the middle ground, showing more kindness, understand and empathy.  This might help people to learn how to apologise properly, to understand mental illness, to not get cranky at the weather, to accept they need help before it is past the point of no return, to understand and listen to other points of view, to accept difference and the list goes on.  Ahhhh who am I kidding the weather is always going to be the bane of my existence it will always be too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry and never quite just right, a little bit like life for Eeyore.





Anyone experiencing personal difficulties can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit www.lifeline.org.au or contact Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636 or visit beyondblue.org.au 

Be gentle and kind to yourself and others it will really make the world a better place. 

Hugs
Cathy xoxo


Video:  Break in the Weather – Jenny Morris 

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