I’m sometimes asked what is the best thing you can do for someone struggling with mental illness. It is different for everyone, because as I’ve said before everyone’s mental illness is different. But if you can do anything for anyone, be anything, then be kind.
I have had many hard days. The people who helped me through some of those days probably don’t remember the gifts they gave me on those dark days.
It was the girl in college who simply said, “hi, how are you?” That day I felt like no one wanted me around.
It was the taxi driver who, when I couldn’t remember the address of my friend’s house on Thanksgiving Day, drove around with the meter off for 10 minutes until we found the place.
It was the police officer who gave me and my friend a ride when we were walking home, the officer’s way of thanking us for not drinking and driving.
It was the women who I didn’t know who wished me a good weekend when she got off the elevator of the building where I work.
It was the nurse who played air hockey (and let me win every time) when I was in the hospital in sixth grade with an eye injury. It was thanksgiving and despite extraordinary back and forth by my mom to visit as much as she could, I still would have felt isolated had it not been for that nurse.
These moments, ones I’m sure were forgotten the very next day by the other people in them, have shined like Northern Stars in a sometimes very dark sky for me. Because so often I am broken. And so often the world gives random moments that show I am still accepted. We all are when we find the right people. And that gift, the gift of simple kindness is the greatest gift you will never know you give. Because it will remind someone who might be struggling of their acceptance into this chaotic world, a world that is often shrouded in darkness for those with a mental illness.
Too often you won’t know the impact you had. Those of us who struggle often struggle in silence, embarrassed to show the world our darkest moments, and unable to show what these acts of kindness mean.
My wife, my family, my friends, these are all people who help me everyday. They are my foundation and I am not exaggerating when I say I wouldn’t be here without them. Yet I felt the need to take a moment for the nameless people who helped me without knowing it. Without knowing me.
To those who are struggling, know that these bright moments are out there. Waiting for you. And to those who aren’t struggling, but work in random acts of kindness for strangers, thank you. And to everyone else, think about it next time you get the chance. It may be the greatest gift you’ll never know you gave.