“If I don’t understand it, maybe I can listen and dialogue until I do, because ultimately, what affects one of us affects all of us.”
Long before the phrase “So say we all” was made famous in Battlestar Galactica, it was a phrase used at the end of communal prayers in some spiritual circles. It’s a form of solidarity. After I post an Instagram about OCD, I often type in something like #mentalhealthawareness next to my various other hashtags about OCD. But really, there are people out there dealing with a spectrum of mental health issues, and while we can’t champion every cause that comes our way with extreme specificity—there just aren’t enough hours in the day—I do think we can get behind others who deal with mental health issues. It’s about all of us, really. I have obsessive-compulsive disorder, but I know people who struggle with other issues: depression, bipolar disorder, autism. These things can be comorbid with OCD. We have to expand our sphere of awareness, not only our compassion, to welcome them as well.
I’ve dealt with this in other areas of my life too. I recently befriended someone who shared with me that their son was gay. When I told with them that my oldest child was queer, we had even more to relate to. However, when I mentioned that they were also nonbinary, they tilted their head to the side, looked at me strangely, and said, “Now, I just don’t understand that.”
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more and more okay with this reply. Hey, as long as they aren’t clubbing me over the head or fleeing from the room, I look at it as an opportunity. It’s a chance for a dialogue between two people who have something to learn from each other. At this point in our conversation, I explain that from an early age my child cringed when being called “miss,” before they even understood why it bothered them so much. I explain how they told me thinking of themselves as “mister” didn’t feel right either. I wait for my new friend to reply. I listen to their confusion. I breathe. I remind myself we’re all at different places in life. I believe in connection over confrontation any day of the week, and twice on Sunday, as the saying goes.
If I can do this with gender, I can do this with mental health. I may not understand what is going on in someone else’s brain, but I can try. I can listen. I can ask. I can have the conversation.
We’re all at different places on our mental health journey, looking for a little understanding and patience. I hope to carry that understanding to everyone bending beneath the weight of mental illness. If I don’t understand it, maybe I can listen and dialogue until I do, because ultimately, what affects one of us affects all of us.
So say we one, so say we all.