Recently I posted a touching story about the "Sting of Stigma and Unconditional Love" here.
And for the longest time I've thought about writing a post on the idea of "What is Love"? Well, Mel's story about her friend Julie's journey and death following her diagnosis of "mental illness" seemed the right prompt for this post as we approach the end of "Mental Health Awareness Month" for 2010.
There are two things that truly suck about this struggle to maintain psychological integrity - the first is being given that free, lifetime membership to "Club M.I." without asking for it. That stigmatizing "mark" that goes with the label of "diagnosis" that often leads to discrimination or being treated differently, sometimes as "less than".
The second is how this label affects relationships with the people who could make the biggest difference in the life of someone who is struggling with mental health issues from family and friends - to Medical Providers, Doctors and Therapists.
These are often the people we turn to when we are needing that "soft place to fall" when life's journey hits a rough patch. Unfortunately these are oftentimes the same people who can compound the problem by offering "conditional" love and acceptance vs the unconditional love that Mel gave her friend, Julie, as she was dying from a disease that may have been curable - had she not been labeled "mentally ill" and her physical needs gone unmet. (In the comments of this post you can read how Suzanne nearly died when her physical complaints were attributed to her being a "hypochondriac" and "delusional" - click here to read.)
In Mel's story I noticed first her attitude toward Julie as being one of acceptance of Julie as she was with no inkling of judgement or attempt to minimize Julie's experience or effort to influence her in order to make Mel feel more comfortable...
"She was so amazing. Funny thing was I always told her I didn't think she was bipolar, some would view her as acting crazy at times but strangely I saw it as being in another dimension or something."
And I saw compassion for her friend's situation...."I never told her that seeing men in trees was her imagination, just that I couldn't see them."
So what is "love" - I mean true, selfless love? Love that put's another's needs before my own?
It's the love that says "in all your muck, your crap, your issues....I will stand beside you through it all..."
Q: What does "unconditional love" look like in your world?