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Saturday 20 September 2014

Kindness and understanding go hand in hand

Published 04/02/2014 | 05:42

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'Religious Life Review' appears once every two months. It is a periodical primarily geared for people who are interested in the varying aspects of religious life. It is published by Dominican Publications.

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The January February issue includes an article written by 'Pat Heavvy'. The editor tells the reader that the name is a pseudonym as the author wishes to remain anonymous. The title of the article is 'A Bipolar Religious'.

The article has certainly stopped me in my tracks and every time I meet anyone who is in any way at all interested in religious life I suggest they read it. But now I'm going further. This is a brilliant article and should be read by anyone who is interested in people.

Ok, it's main theme or purpose is an attempt at explaining how a person who suffers bipolar illness copes living as a member of a religious congregation. But the article does far more than that. It also gives some great insights into the current state of life within religious communities. Maybe most of all it gives the reader information into bipolar illness and what life can be like for someone who suffers from the mental disability.

It offers the reader wise words on what life might be like for someone who is deemed to be 'different'. It is also a great manual in learning more about people who might seem to act in an offensive or hurtful way.

I remember being in the company of a group of people when without a word of warning one of them rounded on me and in most insulting tones told me I was talking far too loudly and needed to keep my voice down. At first I was greatly annoyed and upset and was on the verge of telling him how I felt. And to add to my own personal confusion I know I have a loud voice. Fortunately I said nothing and let the matter go.

Last week I was recommending the article to a friend of mine, so we got talking about the subject and while we were talking my friend, who is a knowledgeable person, told me that people who suffer certain forms of mental illness can have a great aversion to noise and regularly are inordinately upset with the slightest of sounds.

Had I known that the day the man got annoyed with me I would have been far more understanding. I knew the man was fragile and suffered but never quite knew what the problem was. I think kindness is always linked to understanding.

The author talks about how medications in the psychiatric area can lead to weight increase, elevated cholesterol and blood sugar levels and how sometimes GPs can link these to lifestyle issues and then suggest a bit of self-control could manage all these things.

'But you know it is like being told to walk five miles a day when you are depressed, and even walking as far as the bathroom is an issue.' That sentence really stands out. It's dawning on me how important it is to treat one another with great care and kindness. Always attempting to understand the other person and never ever dismissing them.

Only last week an Irish bishop said to me that above all else we priests need to be kind. The author shows great bravery in writing the article and certainly it is a source of inspiration.

Last week first-time author and mental health nurse, Nathan Filer, was named the winner of the Costa Book Award for 2013. His book 'The Shock of the Fall' is about a schizophrenic young man dealing with guilt. The prize is open to citizens of the UK and Ireland.

'Religious Life Review' is available in Veritas Bookshop, Lower Abbey Street, Dublin 1, and at Dominican Publications, 42 Parnell Square, Dublin 1, telephone, 01 – 872 1611, Website is www.dominicanpublications.com

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