This happened to me today…
Context: I’m on holiday in Cornwall with my two little ones. We’re at the Eden Project, one of my happy places. I’ve been really struggling with my mental health for about a month. I’m doing my best… it’s not great.
I’m queuing for a coffee. A 70 something woman starts queuing behind me and as soon as she arrives I feel anxiety. She’s right behind me, a total space invader.
I move forwards, backwards, sideways to try and get some space. She moves closer to me every single time. You’re not going to get there any quicker!
Normally in this situation, I’d spend the next ten minutes queuing and feeling uncomfortable. Today, I decided to pluck up the courage to speak.
I turn around and say ‘would it be ok if you gave me a little bit of space please?’
Her response could have been: ‘yes of course… oh I’m sorry… yep, ok’ anything. Or no reply and just take a step away from me.
Instead, she said ‘oh for goodness sake, everyone is wearing masks, the people in front are just as close, how ridiculous!’
What the actual fuck????
So I spent the next ten minutes trying to hold it together. I pay for my flat white and carrot cake. I go to the table where my little ones are waiting and… I cry.
I should have turned around and said ‘I have serious mental health issues and you’re making me feel uncomfortable.’ But to be honest I don’t trust myself not to scream ‘move away from me you fucking stupid cow I’ve got bipolar 2 and I will stab you in the eye with my cake fork!!!’
So when someone is polite to you. When they ask you to give them a little space… regardless of whether there is a global pandemic happening, maybe be a little kinder. Maybe move one step back. Maybe think before you speak.
This is how my children then reacted to my tears. My seven year old put her hand on my arm and quietly said ‘it’s ok’. My four year old started feeding me his ice cream before coming over and cuddling me. They both did this calmly and with nothing but utter love and understanding. I said ‘I’m sorry my darlings’ and they said ‘it’s ok to cry mummy.’ I’m so proud of them.
I get that my generation is more open and have an understanding of mental health. The post-war, baby boomer generation had secure jobs that they stayed in for 40 years, they bought houses for £10k, have pensions and not a lot of pressure, plus they frocking love to queue. So if you’re in this category please try to understand that currently 1 in 4 people in the UK have mental health issues (ref Mind), so it is highly likely that you’re queuing next to someone who is struggling. Be kind.