By Anita Manley
It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’ve been busy enjoying my summer, taking care of myself and visiting family out west. I’ll write more about this in future posts.
I’ve been thinking of writing this post about “respect” for a while now. I’m hoping it will help some people navigate difficult conversations about periods of illness.
On the Mother’s Day weekend, 2022, an old friend of mine came into town and we went for coffee at my favourite coffee house, Little Victories. I was a bit anxious about our meet-up as he and his wife had seen me during my darkest times. Although I was excited to reconnect, since we’ve known each other for over 35 years and I hadn’t seen him since about 2009, and a visit was way overdue, I was also worried about potential talk of my illness. This is a topic and period of time that I really prefer not to revisit. It is very painful for me and retraumatizing whenever friends/psychiatrists/psychologists take me back to that time in my life.
So, Allan pulled up in front of my building on his very cool motorcycle. He was in town with his wife from Toronto visting his inlaws. We greeted each other with big smiles and hugs, as long lost friends do. Then, we just picked up where we left off, sharing stories of what we’d been up to, reminiscing about our pasts, etc., as we walked over for coffee.
Eventually, as we were laughing and sipping our hot beverages, the dreaded topic of my illness came up.
Allan inquired, “Do you remember anything about what you were like back then?”, referring to our last encounter in 2009.
“Some of it,” I replied with sadness. “But, I really don’t want to remember or discuss it as I find it way too traumatizing.”
Then, just like that, Allan nodded that he understood and changed the topic skillfully to some joyful memories and started sharing photos and we were laughing again.
I felt heard. I felt respected. He did not push the issue, even though I’m certain he had many questions for me about that period of time.
When we left the coffee shop, we went over to another local business to pick up some sandwiches for lunch. I know the owner, so I motioned towards my friend, saying, “This is my friend Allan, we haven’t seen each other in over 12 years.”
Allan interjected, “Actually, it’s been over 20 years!”
He decided that he would leave out the times when he’d seen me when I was not myself, saying instead that the last time he’d been with the “real, Anita” had been a long time ago, indeed.
I cannot tell you how much I appreciated Allan’s approach. It was heartwarming for me to have someone care for me so much that they did not want to retraumatize me, or evoke memories of what I was like when I was in the throes of severe mental illness. I really did not need to be reminded. It was horrendous enough the first time around. Who needs to revisit a time when they’d lost absolutely everything that was important to them?
Thank you so much, Allan, for the kindness and respect you displayed on that Mother’s Day weekend visit.
Until we meet again my friend!