This post was written by Samantha Mishne, LISW-S, ICDC-S, CCED’s associate director of DBT programming. She shares her hopes for kindness, both for ourselves and others, as it relates to eating disorder treatment. Her opinions are her own.
On Friday, Dec. 14th, I was going about my day running around getting ready for the holidays. While in the car, I turned on NPR to hear the news. I was shocked and immediately tearful after hearing about the awful events that were unfolding at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Connecticut. (Perhaps my strong reaction was because I was a disaster volunteer called out to provide grief counseling following our community school shooting.) There were so many unanswered questions as the news was breaking. I used the skill of pushing away, after all I have two small children both enrolled in grade school, and that day I was going to speak at my child’s school about what I do for a living and the problems I face at work.
I watched the news Saturday and was once again filled with sadness and an overwhelming feeling of loss as they released the names and ages of the victims. I knew at that moment the sadness would not dissipate just by hugging my children. Instead, I decided I would try and complete one act of random kindness for the 26 victims of the Newtown, CT, tragedy.
The next morning when I went to purchase my usual cup of coffee, I paid the clerk for three additional and asked that he give them to whoever he wanted. The following day, I placed 10 lottery tickets on random cars. I am continuing to try and identify truly random acts of kindness, for which I will get nothing in return, not even a thank you. It is harder than you think, and that’s how it relates to what I do professionally. I try and push for behavioral change daily and validate where people are in this moment and the small changes that I do observe. Sometimes because of the nature of the eating disorders we treat, I often forget to validate or observe the small progress our patients make, and instead I focus on the bigger picture.
I am sharing my wish to commit 26 random acts of kindness because I want accountability. I have gotten off to a great start, but as the media stops its coverage and the names fade will I forget the impact this has had on me? Maybe you do not want to take on such a project, but perhaps you can engage in kindness in other ways? By being kind to yourself, by asking for help when needed, by letting others help you?
A tragedy has occurred, one that we will not be able to make sense of, kind of like being diagnosed with an eating disorder. You can ask why or you can ask what you can do about it. I would love to go to the District of Columbia and lobby for mental health coverage and gun control, but I have two small children that need me. So for now, I am just trying to increase my kindness toward others in my community. Today, I will call the gas company and try and pay someone’s gas bill that is about to shut off. I am not naïve enough to believe that this will end such tragedies, but maybe it will increase kindness in the world starting with how we treat ourselves.