Mike King in New Zealand has just been voted New Zealander of the year 2019 for his work on raising the awareness of suicide and how we need to connect, be more kind, open and compassionate to all. I have watched him on youtube talking to secondary school kids and his work is fantastic, he normalises a lot of the different feelings and thoughts we all have. He recently posted a video reflecting on his week after winning the award that ended with him being invited to the funeral of a 17 year old young man who took his life. This young man was happy, engaged, successful, had lots of friends, family that cared and yet he took his life. So it lead Mike to ask the question are we missing something… this profile of this young man does not fit the picture we are fed of the depressed person who takes their life, the one with mental health ‘problems’ but rather the opposite. Last year saw high profile people taking their lives, Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain both described as outgoing and happy at the time. None of these people fit the picture we are being fed of someone who is suicidal. Mike then moved on and wondered if it actually comes back to us as the adults and how we are with our children, do we need to be more vulnerable and transparent with how we are feeling. Most parents put on a good show for the kids, a mask of having it all together to offer a place of calm and solidness for their children. He asks if it is more important to show our vulnerability, and the strength in that, rather than being ‘strong’.
In essence he is asking us to take off the masks.
It is actually quite a bold thing to ask of us adults isn’t it… we are so used to putting a face on of ‘being ok’, of surviving, of thriving even, to show anything else is pretty much a foreign land. I think Mike is onto something, at the end of the summer term I felt absolutely exhausted and started the holidays by feeling how knackered I was and experimenting with what supported me. I did a series of videos of how I felt on waking and then how I felt once I got up and did 10mins on the treadmill, then how I felt after a shower and then how I felt after I got dressed, the point was to show the truth of how I felt, to then show how I could shift that depressive given up feeling quite easily through movement and choices but that it wasn’t easy to get to that point, I actually needed the accountability of the video to do it, and that seemed to make a difference. I feel it would be very beneficial to everyone’s mental health if we were to be much more transparent and honest about how we are feeling to ourselves, our close friends, to be real with our family members and then naturally our children.
I think we fear being vulnerable with our children for lots of reasons we have an idea that we are protecting them from the realties of life, that we want to shelter them, that it is a stable home that will support them. But from what I have observed it is the opposite, the young adults I know from childhood who are still very much connected to their essence and open with the world had actually turbulent lives but their parents were very real with them and themselves, they didn’t go into the role of the ‘parent’, whereas those who had the perfect mum and dad with the white picket fence etc are not so in touch with the essence of who they are.
When my father rang and told me he was terminally ill I burst into tears and spent that day shaking with sobs and physical waves of tears, my 4 year old saw a lot of that as I literally couldn’t hide it, it wasn’t something I was not in control of. I then didn’t really cry much again during his illness and feel it was because I just allowed what was there to be felt and move through me. My daughter is in no way scarred from this exposure to intense feelings, she is able to express when she is sad and angry in equal measures and everything in between. When I was training my supervisor said when she was angry she would hit a pillow and once the phone rang and her daughter answered it only to tell the person on the other end of the phone "that Mum couldn’t come to the phone right now as she was hitting the angry pillow." An amusing antidote but a good example of how children are not frightened of big emotions if we ourselves are not afraid of them.
How can we expect our children to learn how to be with feelings and emotions if we hide our own from them? It makes more sense to me to be transparent with those around us so that we start to take off the masks of having it all together and simply be where we are at with no perfection required its time to #takeoffthemask
photography Ksenia Makagonova https://dearseymour.com/about/