At the moment I am in Thailand volunteering at a centre for people recovering from drug and alcohol abuse. The centre isn’t restricted to just addiction but also supports those suffering with depression, anxiety, burnout, trauma and any other mental illnesses. I came here on the recommendation from a friend who also volunteered at the centre. I will be here for 2 months.
I have a strong interest in mental wellbeing and recovery. I can still relate to so many stories and behaviours based on my background with depression and overcoming an eating disorder. I am here to love and to learn.
Stepping into this community on day one was incredibly daunting and quite overwhelming, even for me. Meeting new people and finding a connection with a person is something I love most in life. When there is a big group of people I can find it frustrating as I know I want to connect with each individual and understand who they are, but that’s tricky when there people are on mass.
I call the centre a community, because that is exactly what it is. A community of people who live together, work together and share together.
The community is made up of residents recovering, long and short term volunteers and staff. Today there are approximately 40 people in total.
It’s day 7 for me. In the past week I have been tried and tested externally and internally, questioning myself in certain situations and observing the different feelings develop as a result.
This place is a mini society. The forever changing dynamics of the community have a constant impact. It is up to me as to whether I let the daily activity, interactions and bonds (or lack of bonds) with people bring me down or build me up.
Regardless of where you are in the world or what you are doing: your job, relationships, parenting, hobbies, day to day activities – the concept of letting something or somebody from your day bring you down or build you up is forever being tested. It’s how we react in those moment or deal with those challenges that will eventually uncover some interesting answers for us as individuals.
From the moment I got here to the moment I sit here writing this now I have realised that I have been testing some beliefs that are are at core of my make up. I can apply these beliefs to every single moment I spend in the community. But not just that, I can transfer them into the real world too. See if you can connect with some of these beliefs too.
Not just of others, but of yourself.
I have observed every feeling of discomfort and every moment of joy within me over the last 7 days. I have allowed those feelings to coarse through my mind and body and I have allowed them to settle without any judgment. I have sat with different feelings and observed them for what they truly are. I accept that I will be challenged even more in the next 2 months.
Feelings pass. It’s what we learn from them that stays with us.
When I arrived it was clear that bonds had already been formed within the community. Friendships had been made. Experiences as a group had taken place. And somethings weren’t able to be shared with me. I was an outsider. This is only natural when entering a new community.
Rather than forcing myself onto groups to make myself a part of something for the sake of not being alone, I sat back and observed the dynamics of the community so that I could understand how it was structured and where my place should be. And I will continue to observe that dynamic because it will change every single day. Especially as people leave the community and new arrivals come.
It has taken some time to for me to feel completely comfortable and at home. I have suddenly plunged myself into a situation of complete uncertainty. I have not been able to predict the mood, the activities, the food, the conversations, the challenges of each day.
I have urged myself to be calm, to be patient knowing that things will unfold as they have to. There is no rush.
My patience paid off and I have made some great friends. I have also been tasked with welcoming the newcomers with warmth and inclusion.
There is never a day that goes by in life where we are not faced with a personal challenge. It can take anything to unsettle your inner core.
Someone may say something that disturbs your peace. Or if you are not already at peace, it just adds to your anxiety.
If your inner core is rocked, just let it be.
A common imbedded coping mechanism we have is to react to other’s actions by saying something back in defence, creating a debate, causing tension or perhaps you may even withdraw from the situation and isolate yourself.
I am learning that to be forgiving is a much more harmonious way of dealing with a situation that might arise. I know that for me, forgiveness is the best possible outcome for maintaining the equilibrium of my inner core. It means that I hold no animosity towards a person, an action or a situation that may have challenged this balance. It is what it is. And I am totally OK with that. Grudges only turn into bigger problems the more we hold onto them without the act of forgiveness.
Forgiveness also applies to the act of forgiving yourself and that’s where it takes a little more effort! If there is a situation where you act in a way you are ashamed of, recognise that feeling. Know that you can make amends for your actions. And be kind to yourself.
Giving myself a hard time for an action I am not proud of will only lead to further tensions the more I hold onto them.
Imagine if there was more kindness in the world? What a beautiful place this would be?
Rather than dwelling on the suffering and pain that each and every one of us have to deal with, show more kindness. Kindness towards yourself and kindness towards others.
It’s no surprise that kindness has a domino effect, and that the more kind we are to one person – the more kind they are to you and others.
A simple act of kindness is offering someone a smile, a hug, offering to make them a hot drink, washing their cup, telling them something you find beautiful about them. Kindness in a funny way is just as selfish as it is selfless. Being kind can bring you so much joy. Be kind to be kind.
New situations are tough. Some people become a chameleon to fit in with the crowd. Others may withdraw and retreat within themselves. Notice the feelings of discomfort within you, when a new situation arises. That knot in your stomach. That resistance to be seen. That inability to speak out.
We spend half our time worrying what people think of us, how they perceive us and what judgments are being made. But in that moment, the real judge is ourself. Remember that people are too caught up in their own thoughts and feelings, and ironically may even be worrying about how you perceive them.
Be assured that there is only one you and you are totally unique. You don’t need anything external to prove this, you only have to look inside and see that your thoughts, your actions, your beliefs, your kindness, your observations and your forgiveness is yours, and yours only.