I’m learning in this journey that judgement is a big part of my battle. I spent months playing the role of working mom, supportive friend and all the while I was hiding my crippling anxiety and bouts of emotional turmoil. For months’ certain daily events would ravage my mind at night keeping me awake. One of these events still sticks out in my mind many months later into my recovery when I’ve finally decided to take a leave to heal and no longer let fear of judgement stop me from admitting that I am in the midst of a mental health crisis.
It was a rainy morning, 7:05am when a stout elderly woman with salt and pepper hair and a large facial mole entered the bus doors. She was wearing running shoes with a long skirt clutching her handbag under one arm with her blue and white plaid grocery carrier trailing behind her she gave me the elevator look. You know the one from back in the day the girls gave to each other as they approached the bar at the local night club… That look!
A young lady sits a few seats next to her she is a frequent rider like myself typically wearing an infectious smile that makes you wonder if she's on the brink of losing her mind or has already done so and found herself somewhere inside. Most days she is bopping her head to music being played through her earbuds while smiling at boarding passengers. Today she doesn't seem as exuberant as usual I can’t help but wonder what she is thinking about. She has the most beautiful chestnut brown hair
As another woman enters the bus and connects with a friend this spreads a smile across the chestnut haired beauties face. It seems she connects with the light in others connection this is where her smile is cultivated then worn like a warm greeting to the Universe.
The large elderly woman is checking her out as well sizing her up as though she wants to be her. As we pass one of the many churches along the route the judgmental woman seeks repentance for “coveting thy neighbor”. Then as the bus passes the church she blesses herself with the sign of the cross. As she is anticipating her stop it seems like she can't wait to escape riff raff she's shared her brief journey with. Eyeballing others before exiting, checking the space she was sitting in prior to exiting ensuring she hasn’t left any treasures behind to be pillaged. With a glance and a decision to avoid the back door as her exit strategy she makes her way through the front out into one of the rougher parts of town
Who is she? Why did she capture my attention? What is her story?
So many months later I realize it wasn’t the elderly woman who captured my attention. It was the story I had created of her harsh judgement of my lovely chestnut haired friend with the beautiful smile. I have no idea if the stories I created about these individuals or their actions are even remotely true but I now knew one of the many fears keeping me awake at night.
Judgement we all do it.
This is a horrible trait we have as humans to assume we know someone else’s challenges, their thoughts, moods, or circumstances in life. Here I was suffering in silence but so wrapped up in what a random elderly woman’s thought of a complete stranger in early 20’s was, when to my knowledge none of us had even uttered a single word to each other in our entire lives.
So how do you balance a curious observation with a harsh judgement of someone you’ve never met. Rule #1 don’t let your anxiety decide which is which. The difference between observation and judgement is one is based on the light within all of us to see the good in others and the other is based on the darkness which focuses on the negative.
I have been spending far too much time occupied with what others will think of my struggle…
-will they think because I’m smiling I’m not struggling
-will they think I am ungrateful for this amazing life I’ve been given
-will they think I don’t look like I’m depressed
-will they think she’s so different then she used to be
-will they think I am weak
-will they think I am unreliable
-will they think I am lazy
All of the above judgements and a million more spiral through my mind daily.
Just last night I met with someone who is doing some amazing work within my community to raise awareness for mental health support. It was during this meeting that I was able to quiet these thoughts and realize that if I speak my truth freely people are able to observe instead of judge. If you tell your story others listen and if they judge that it is on them but if you hide your truth people are able to fabricate your story for you.
As we sat in this quaint 15 seat café and freely shared our struggles with the labels we’d been given. I shared my challenges these past few months as the barista observed and for the first time since my accident I didn’t even care what she thought about my story. I wanted to explain how I was taking charge of my recovery and how I intended to rehab my way back to work by owning my truth and confronting the judgements formed by others.
Remembering the story about the women on the bus I recognize that we no longer chose to interact with each other in this busy life but would rather hide behind handheld devices and our own daily activities to avoid hearing each others stories. It is much easier to form a judgement then observe a story and learn the truth. The truth isn’t always comfortable to confront so we hide behind stories created to soften the judgement we all know is happening in each of our minds.
Next time you start to write someone’s story take a look within for the truth in your own.