A Quick Background:
I was so excited to get connected with Marie recently at Book Con in NYC 2019. She overheard about the business that Rebecca Lee and I are creating called Just Be Books LLC, and we were able to connect that day. In short, Rebecca and I are creating a Children’s Book Series and a product line for teachers and parents. Our goal is to help open up the conversation about mental health within the U.S.
After sharing our personal stories, Marie and I found that, although we have different backgrounds, we have some similar day to day mental difficulties. My “mental health cocktail”: anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts… sometimes a lot of suicidal thoughts.
What Gets Me So Riled Up About Mental Health?
I think some of what gets me riled up is when people have unhealthy power over other people. Especially if the powerless person has no way or understanding of how to balance the situation. I have been in many situations and seen so many situations where the power dynamic is unhealthy and unbalanced. There is hurt and confusion … but there is no understanding of what to do with it … or necessarily that it is happening at all. People find ways to DEAL with difficult situations… but they shouldn’t always have to simply DEAL with something. They are allowed to shift to a healthier dynamic. Stick up for themselves.
Since I had been a kid, I always had a fairly easy time sticking up for other people. If someone was getting made fun of, I would gently speak up that the comment or verbal “poking fun” was hurtful. But I was never great at doing that for myself. I would notice someone was mistreating me, but could never stick up for myself. I would somehow swallow the hurt and swallow any pain.
Stories of Mediation
Something that has come up in my Drexel University therapy is confrontation. I really don’t like confrontation. And I have had to get really good at it in my young adult life. Little moments help me realize how much I don’t like it. One of the most prominent of these moments was from a few years ago, when I was in a serious relationship.
My boyfriend at the time seemed to really enjoy debating. I would consider myself a more of ‘exploratory’ conversationalist (opposite of a debater in my head). One day, we were talking while walking to lunch. The conversation was starting to get heated, and I didn’t realize this until all the sudden, he wasn’t walking next to me. I stopped, looked back and he was a few feet behind me waving at me with a goofy grin on his face. “Bye! You were basically running away from me!” As he said this, I realized that I was so uncomfortable with the conversation that I was LITERALLY trying to get out of it!
Another story that often comes to mind is from when I was little (sometime before the age of 6). I remember my parents were yelling in the kitchen about something. I brought in a picture of them when they were younger, looking really happy. I tried to show it to them and give it to them and at the same time repeated, “I love you mommy, I love you daddy, I love you Chenea, I love you Michel, I love you Jesus” (at the time our family was religious). That the story serves to show that even as a child, I always wanted to mediate, to make arguments stop.
And I have been an mediator since. Often not very successful.
Another example is from when I was in middle school or high school. I was trying to do my homework in the living room/kitchen on the family computer. My mom came into the kitchen and was there for a few minutes. My sister then came in and almost immediately a loud argument started. About what, I don’t remember.
What I do remember was that I asked them very gently, “Hey, would you guys be willing to take this to another room? I am trying to do homework and this is the only place I can do it…” My sister, in return yelled at me, “YOU can leave. This isn’t about you!” (or something like that)… I had to leave the room, put my homework on hold, and wait nearby listening to the fight so that I knew when I was safe to come back.
After I went back to the computer, my mother started asking me questions: “Was I in the wrong? Did I start that?” I replied as the mediator I had learned to be, helping the person in the situation process. I tried to make my mom feel better about herself. Not something a kid should have to do. Not something an adult should put on a kid. (Note: my mom and I have talked about this since, and we are in an awesome place. I use this example because it happens a lot more than we think it does in “normal” households.) However, this type of dynamic was somewhat normal for my mom and I, and it was reinforced through situations like this.
The last story I want to add here focuses on personal boundaries. I shared with the therapist I was seeing that, in the past with someone I was dating, I was pushed a bit more in the physical sense than I was ready for. Because I had been slowly “trained” to be a people pleaser (emotionally) by my family dynamics, there is no surprise that the people pleasing drifted toward the “dating” version of me. In terms of physical boundaries, I was pushed over and over again until I slowly receded my boundaries over the course of a few years. Nothing too traumatic here, but it was not what I needed and not “okay”.
The therapist I was working with suggested that maybe I do not like confrontation because over the course of my growing up, I had continuously been shown that my “no” (in many forms) would not get respected. So, perhaps I did’t like entering confrontation because I knew I would not “win” even when I tried. Since my needs would not be respected, I would not be respected. So I just learned to avoid confrontation all together.
Why Share My Story…
I think it is time to teach people about their personal power and self-respect. It’s important that we understand our boundaries and know how to effectively help ourselves when we need the help. Also understanding what our needs are and that you are allowed to own them. My aunt has said this a lot in the past few years: “Own your no. Own your yes.”
It is so hard as kids to understand a dynamic in any “introspective” way if you have nothing else to compare it to. What we are growing up in is all we know. So, as a kid, even though we might feel something is wrong, how can we communicate that something is wrong? How can we ask for what we need if we don’t really know what it is we need?
That’s why I am SO PASSIONATE at this time about opening up the conversation about mental health. I think childhood is the most important starting point for all of us. We can learn then about how to talk about it, about our needs and respect. About how to talk for ourselves and how to listen to others.
To create power to all of you who are dealing with some difficult situations… I know it is not easy.
About Paris: Paris’s goal with the business she started this year in 2019, Just Be Books LLC, is to open up the conversation about mental health. She is doing this with Rebecca Lee (another Philly college student) through creating a children’s book series about mental health as well as plush toys, downloadable teacher/parent material, and way more…
Follow their journey on social media and get their first batch of products on their Kickstarter
(which is running August 20, 2019 - August 31, 2019)!
Find Paris and her company through these social media handles:
Website/Newsletter Signup: justbebooks.com