Do we believe people too quickly ? Do we skim the surface ? Are we guilty of not looking deeply enough, of not paying attention? Do we see it, really, but choose to look away?
I’m thinking of my son, diagnosed with ASD and ADHD, who is a bright, sensitive child. Who suffers with awful meltdowns within the security of the family structure and his own home. Who might seem naughty, but in fact is struggling to cope with the demands of school and everyday life. Who everyone tells me does not seem like he has Autism Spectrum Disorder. He seems fine, they say.
I’m thinking of me; a beautiful family,my health, a job, the health of my extended family. But I am overwhelmed: I am the very epitomy of the swan (ok,maybe a duck), gliding on the surface, paddling frantically beneath. You’re so calm, so patient, people tell me. They do not know behind closed doors, I shout at my children and I cry in the shower. Everyday, I think to myself, ‘I can’t do this, I can’t do this, I can’t do this.‘
I’m thinking of Clodagh Hawe, and her three beautiful boys, murdered by her husband, their father earlier this week. Who everyone says was a loving husband and father, a pillar of the community. His actions belie those words, he was not as he seemed.
I’m thinking of your colleague, who seems really quiet today. Or your friend, who doesn’t keep in contact as much anymore, or your brother, who doesn’t go out as much as he used to. I’m thinking of the family living next door who never have any visitors, or the new mother always out pushing the buggy alone.
Maybe we could all pay a little more attention. Ask a few more questions, allow space for the answer to come, without being intrusive. Give people space to reveal themselves if they want to.
Maybe we could all just pause, and consider that things might not be as they seem. And when someone tells you something that is real to them, believe them. Accept it. If someone’s actions belie your preconceptions, believe them.
If you’re struggling and someone asks if you’re OK, and you trust them, tell them you’re not. I promise you it will help. It helps me.