Giving is better than receiving
Back at college when I was completing my English Literature A Level I was given an interesting book to study and discuss. The assignment question was ‘is any charitable act we do for others selfless?’ I remember deliberating endlessly because I couldn’t think of one occasion when I had done something for someone else and not felt good about it. Was I therefore selfish or selfless?
Fast forward to now and I actually embrace the feeling I get from giving to others and helping those less fortunate. It is in fact innate to my ongoing recovery with regards to my bipolar disorder. I want to be active in the community, I want to offer something and I need a purpose to feel fulfilment and self-worth. How lovely and kind is it to offer your time to another human being and share your life experience to enhance theirs? We all know how the simplest acts from others can be instrumental in making us feel better and in some cases, forming our opinions for the future.
I would like to think I have always been a kind and generous person, keen to please others and help in any way I can. However, previous to my diagnosis of bipolar I think I was judgemental. In all honesty I listened to those automatic thoughts telling me other people should ‘try harder’ to help themselves. However, losing my life direction, purpose and motivation changed the person I was. All of a sudden I became the person needing others around me to be kind, patient and supportive. Materialism no longer mattered and I didn’t care about money or presents, I wanted to feel loved, safe and protected. The smallest things lifted my mood and made me smile. A simple letter from another patient telling me to be strong gave me hope. The lovely lady in hospital who made hot drinks always stopped to talk to me and asked me about my life, commending me on my achievements. The friend who paid for dinner because they knew I was having money struggles. The amazing feeling from being asked to be godmother to a friend’s little girl despite my ongoing illness. The list goes on and on.
As a result I give. An old gentleman who lives at the top of our road is eighty-seven years old and his physical health is deteriorating to the point he shuffles to the local pub for his dinner but can’t make the walk home. His life is incredible. He was married at seventeen but sadly lost his wife seven years ago. He was in the army and a tearaway with hilarious stories to share. I love to learn from him as he has so much life experience that deserves nothing but respect. I now walk him home when I can and visit him for a cup of tea. I know he’s lonely but I watch his face light up when he sees me, giving him the opportunity to share more memorable stories.
I also love to visit my friend who is an inpatient in the psychiatric hospital I was admitted to in April. The stay was not a pleasurable experience for me but we bonded and openly shared our thoughts and feelings no matter how intense or scary. I take puzzle books to her and rant about life, boys and home. I know how she feels and sometimes we need an injection of reality to remind us there is more to life than hospital walls.
I decided five years ago to volunteer for mental health charities so I could use my skill set to reach out to others and make a difference. The benefit of doing this throughout my continual battle has been instrumental to my recovery. I have spoken to thousands of people guest speaking and lecturing to receive feedback that has filled me with warmth and pride. People have opened up, engaged, related and left with a different attitude. Knowing I have made a difference has given me confidence and reminded me that I have a lot to give and no matter what my illness does to me I have a purpose, which gives me self-worth.
My willing to give branches out further than mental health. It is a deep set trait that no longer holds judgement or stigma and makes me open to helping anyone. My boyfriend says to me “why do you talk to everyone?” and I say “why not?” For me, it’s all about giving your time in a moment to make a difference. We are forever rushing around thinking of the past and procrastinating about the future and we forget to live in the now. A simple smile to someone whilst queuing and receiving a smile back or a brief chat can feel really positive.
For me, giving is so much better than receiving. It is an act that mutually benefits and makes two people feel really good about themselves. There is nothing wrong with deriving pleasure from giving – in fact we should all do it more! Visiting someone, sending a card, baking a cake, taking their dog for a walk, talking, building confidence, volunteering, reminding someone of their value is what’s important in life. Give a little time over Christmas – it’s a wonderful feeling.
First port of call is speaking to your GP and don’t be afraid to ask for talking therapy. For more information use the following websites – there is lots of support out there I promise!
Self-compassion recommended author:
http://www.youngminds.org.uk/ – For young people with parent helpline.
The Samaritans are a non-judgemental ear where you can talk confidentially about anything
Here is a fantastic carers package if you are supporting someone with mental health problems: