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The Gift of Compassion

Compassion

Last week I gave a presentation at work on self-compassion, which was perfect timing. I had just posted my story about depression a few days before and was still reeling from all the thoughts and feelings that had exploded inside me as a result.

Blogging is truly a pay it forward kind of gift. I blog to help other people, but as I said in that post, it has turned out to be the best gift I have given myself. I’ve never had so many people thank me for talking about me. It was as though I had expressed compassion for their suffering when all I did was tell my story. When people thank me and tell me their own stories, every comment is another gift to me. So I received a lot of gifts last week, and I thank you if you were one of the gift givers.

One reader in particular, Abby Gardiner (AKA Stress Bubbles) said that she was sorry that I had suffered so much. I was taken aback. Until then, I was happy with the post because I thought it was a thorough and honest account of my depression, which I had never shared. And I was happy that I was in a place where I could accept my depression rather than feel ashamed about it. But I had not thought of it as a story of someone who had struggled with depression most of her life and whose shame kept her from seeking help.

I felt like Neo at the end of the Matrix when he broke open the code and everything suddenly made sense. I saw how impossible it was not to get depressed given my genes. My family members who are always in crisis. My tendency to choose people who need help because I had always played the helping role in my family. How little help I was able to receive from my family and my partners because of their own problems. And from anyone else because I never said how badly I was hurting. How I had cared about functioning more than myself. I had to get good grades. Get a Ph.D. Teach classes and see clients and rescue everyone I met.

Because she expressed compassion for me, I was able to have compassion for myself. Now, when I think about my story, it feels as though something is pressing against my heart. Perhaps the way it feels to someone whose heart has been jump started with a defibrillator. A bit painful and disorienting, I imagine, but you’re alive. What a powerful gift it is, compassion.

Since then, I make a point of thanking anyone who has shown me compassion. And I make it a point to have compassion for myself–even for the small things. Like having to spend a thousand dollars on a water heater. Or having a cold. Or having to cancel tennis when I was looking forward to it all week.

Because, if I’m being compassionate, then all the small things really aren’t small at all.

About Christy Barongan

I didn't know it at the time, but I wanted to be a psychologist so that I could figure out how to be normal. I think many people come to counseling for the same reason. What I've come to learn is that feeling good about myself is not about trying to be normal. It's about trying to be me. But it's a constant struggle for me, just like it is for everyone else. So I thought I would approach this task with openness and honesty and use myself as an example for how to practice self-acceptance.

16 responses »

  1. I really love what you’re writing here. We tend to think that we don’t deserve any compassion, from others or ourselves. So we just brush it off and move on. But giving and receiving compassion is so important. Thank you for saying it 🙂
    Hailey

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  2. Cristy I wonder if part of why you didn’t stop to see your own story before someone else pointed it out is because sometimes it’s just easier to keep putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward.

    There was a time I wouldn’t allow myself to think about things because I felt if I ever started crying I wouldn’t be able to stop. Then I cried. I thought I would dehydrate before it ended but it did end. Now I try to cry tears at the time they need crying instead of stockpiling and believing that makes them go away. They don’t just go away. They transform into things like fear, avoidance, bitterness, and distance.

    Don’t forget to accept and love yourself – regardless.

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    • Thanks Anita. I think that’s right. At the time I just needed to survive. Like being in a war zone. And sometimes that is what I needed to do. Now my commitment to blogging the truth forces me to write when I want to hide, and for that I am thankful.

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  3. Very true. Learn self compassion the hard way, still reminding myself.

    Thanks for the reminder.

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  4. I like what you say about self-compassion. I had to learn how to love myself and to treat myself with compassion. When I learned this, I was able to see the gift of compassion that I had been given by my “Higher Power” through my own suffering. Thank you for being so honest and posting. 🙂

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  5. The small things—no matter what they are—will lead to big things if we don’t stop and focus on them while they are small. At least, that’s what I think. :o)

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  6. Lisa @ The Meaning of Me

    Completely brand new here, I clicked over from the #1000Speak page on Facebook. I love your thoughts here about self-compassion. Too often we forget to be compassionate and understanding with ourselves and that can lead to so much unhappiness.
    And I’m so with you on the point that blogging has turned out to be one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever given myself.
    Have a great day!

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  7. I really love your focus on self compassion and the thread you drew from compassion for others and compassion for ourselves!

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  8. Yup say your thank yous and don’t sweat the small stuff is a mantra I believe in, too. Thank yous are easy to come by. It’s the small stuff that I need to master. Even as much as I try, it is human nature. Someday, inner peace shall find me. 🙂

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