Bringing up boys I often find myself saying “that’s not very kind” but if one of them asked me to tell them what being kind means, I think I might struggle to articulate an answer succinctly. Sometimes it is a feeling like love, a natural act done subconsciously like my two-year-old planting a kiss on my leg. Sometimes it is done in an obvious way to attract positive praise and attention, sharing a toy for example, when we all know really you had finished playing with it and it would have been discarded for your brother anyway.
For me kindness is showing empathy, compassion and love with a greater understanding of everyone’s own journey through life. It can be a text from a friend to ask how you are, cards, flowers or pictures through the post that always seem to drop on the mat at the right time, or a smile from a stranger in the street. My favourite acts of kindness are caught through the baby monitor when both boys are upstairs playing and don’t know you can hear them, it makes you want to sob uncontrollably as you realise you are doing something right.
I struggle to imagine the pain and suffering around the world, especially the silent pain of mental health battles as we all adjust to a new normal. The headline that really kicked me in the stomach was Matt Handcock’s suggestion we might not be able to hug family and friends until a vaccine is found. We need human contact and a hug from your mum, or a friend can really help in your hour of need, especially spontaneous ones you didn’t even know you needed. The new normal is daunting and scary.
The biggest decision weighing heavily on my mind is if I send my 5-year-old back to school or not. I fear this is causing a lot of parent’s sleepless nights and added stress and worry that impacts our fragile mental health. I keep playing over the scenario in my mind of sending him and regretting it if he falls ill. Having suffered panic attacks and anxiety I know my own triggers and will keep a close eye, drawing on tools to calm my mind like mind maps, meditation and audiobooks to help.
The biggest thing that helped me get through the worst of my panic attacks though was talking about it. Mental Health Awareness Week is so important as we are all susceptible to bouts of illness. Sometimes it hits you completely out of the blue as a panic attack convinces you it is a heart attack and you will die. Sometimes you feel it coming on and watch like a spectator helplessly waiting for the peak.
Finding I wasn’t alone but in fact most of my friends had suffered similar episodes felt like a weight was lifted. I am normal and it is completely normal to suffer sometimes. It is how we react and seek advice that helps us climb out of the black hole, no matter how impossible it feels from the bottom looking up.