Give me a smile

As part of World Mental Health Day, we asked Karan James, a regular visitor to Wayside, to share her experience living with mental health issues.

“I didn’t ask to be mentally ill. I always had good jobs, sometimes two or three jobs at a time. In fact, I was a workaholic. I loved jumping out of bed excited about what the day would bring and the things I would learn and the people I would meet. Then one day I woke up and life as I knew it was gone. Something traumatic happened to me and somehow I knew I would never be the same.”

“Going from a happy-go-lucky workaholic to a sad, pathetic creature who hated most people, and didn’t trust the ones I did like, was traumatising all over again. I lost my house, my child, my jobs and everything I owned, but the worst thing I lost was my mind.”

“People see the outside me but they don’t actually ‘see’ the real me. Behind the sadness in my eyes is a person looking for someone to trust and someone to care about me even though I don’t care about myself. I’m not looking for someone to understand me, because no one will ever understand; I’m looking for someone to accept that I have changed and be patient while I try to make sense of what my life has become.”

“People think I’m doing nothing to help myself but I see a psychologist, a psychiatrist and I take medication daily. Just because you don’t see these things doesn’t mean they aren’t happening.”

“Give me a smile when you see me and say hi as you walk past. Don’t pretend I’m not there. Ignoring me makes me feel worse and it reminds me that I’m not acceptable in your world. I’m no different to you other than the fact that a trauma I will never understand was inflicted on me. I love and I feel pain, pleasure, happiness, sadness – all the usual emotions – just like you do but because I have borderline personality and PTSD, I feel these emotions in a different way.”

“Please look at me and see past the out-of-ordinary behaviour because underneath the shell is a human being. People behave badly because they feel badly. If you make people feel good, you are contributing to the healing we so desperately seek. People may not remember what you said or did to them but they will always remember the way you made them feel. Make sure people remember you for the right reasons.”

You can help support Karan and many others like her by making a donation to The Wayside Chapel.

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One Response

  1. Karen is such an inspiration to so many of us. I have known Karen for 45 years (I was one of her school teachers in primary school) and whilst her life has never been easy, she has always had a big heart and a passion that burns within her for whatever project she has happening at the time. To watch the changes she went through as a person when her life fell apart and to know the struggles she has managed to get past with integrity and with that famous sense of humor still in tact, it makes me feel proud to know her. Her Grandmother Jean would be so proud of the woman Karen has become. As her teacher, I am proud of the humanity that she has never lost and continues to exhibit even though she has suffered atrocities over the years that would put most of us in an early grave.

    I ran into Karen by surprise today at Potts Point and we had a chance to talk for a while. Whilst I was disappointed to hear that she is having some troubles right now, I was glad to see that beautiful happy smile was still on her face. I asked her if she needed anything, financial or otherwise, and in true selfless Karen style she asked me to just remember her friend who is struggling in my prayers. I handed her $20 anyway and I noticed that as she walked past a man who was obviously homeless, she sat down to join him on the footpath and handed him the $20, had a cigarette with him and as she went on her way, the man’s eyes followed her and he was smiling. They broke the mould when they made Karen, there’s not many quite like her in this world. I don’t think that Karen realises how highly people think of her and how much of a positive impact she has been making on lives since she was a little child.

    As a little kid Karen had always had something about her that was both enigmatic and wonderous. Today I saw glimpses of the same vulnerable child but in a more worldly adult way as she put on that brave face and assured me, more for my benefit than hers, that she was doing okay. It was a pleasure spending time catching up. Karen is nothing less than special, she is one of a kind and a fine example to the rest of us.

    Karen spoke very highly of The Wayside Chapel and attributed most of her recent successes to this organisation. I will be sending a financial contribution towards the great work that you do for people like Karen. Thank you for sharing her journey and for highlighting this remarkable woman who leaves such a memorable impression on every person she meets. As her teacher, I am as proud as punch of the woman she has become.

    Mrs Jacobson
    January 11, 2023

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