My parents have always described me as being compassionate, but I believe this personal trait developed even more strongly through life experiences during my youth. In my late teens, I experienced sexual abuse, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and drug addiction. These experiences opened my eyes to a whole new world. A world in which I was not predisposed.
Due to my personal experience, I ended up at a treatment facility where I met dozens of people who went through similar situations and dozens more, who were struggling with other related mental health issues. Through these conversations, my eyes opened to others - their upbringing, their trials and tribulations and the life choices that they made to survive.
As I opened my understanding to a whole new world of pain and suffering, I felt my compassion for others (as well as for myself), grow.
Until I met with people just like myself, it became clear to me that I am not alone. I felt that a profound way of feeling more connected came through cultivating compassion for those who surrounded me.
In response to the pandemic, I felt another burst of compassion emerge. This growth came as a result of the suffering that I was witnessing. Around the world, we were put into government lockdown, told to socially distance and shelter-in-place. As the months went on, I started to feel the effects of the isolation. My feelings of vulnerability were real and yet, my compassion for others living in more at-risk conditions became overwhelming. I was longing for connection and making plans with friends.
I began to feel depressed and lose hope that life would never return to normal. And, while there are reasons for feeling vulnerable that I can do little about, there are some powerful lessons that I have learned that I can do to feel more compassion, no matter what. I can make a conscious effort to reach out to my grandmother who I know is feeling hugely lonely. Each day, I can check-in with one of my friends. I can engage in a few acts of self-care without self-judgment. I can practice compassion.
What three things can you do to practice compassion during these challenging times?
By Eli Brown, former NCAA tennis player, public speaker and global citizen. Eli struggled with depression and substance abuse since the age of 14. He kept his struggles in silence until his breaking point at age 20. Having come through his recovery process, Eli created a clothing line called Shine The Light On (STLO) as a platform to stop the stigma surrounding mental health.