Monday, October 22, 2012

I Know How You Feel

Really? You know how I feel? How do you know how I feel? You have no idea what I'm thinking deep inside, what I've experienced.

What prompted these questions have been a series of incidents that happened to friends. And most of their friends didn't know what to say, so they fell back on these tired old tropes.

Depression surrounds too many of my friends right now. I had a week-long funk where I was so not productive. Finally, I dragged myself out of it through meditation, sage smudging and other activities many readers will shy away from. Too woo-hoo for them. So be it.

One of my friends has been in a deep depression for weeks. No work. Little money. Too many children in the house. I can't help him, but I can listen. I didn't say I knew what he was going through. I've been out of work twice in my life. For that, I've been lucky. He's been out of work for over a year. He keeps looking for employment in his industry, one that is not coming back. I've tried mentoring him into looking outside his comfort zone. Unfortunately, he's not comfortable looking outside his comfort zone. He sits and waits. I don't know what he's going through, but it's a downward trajectory. One that may not end happily.

Another friend, a woman, has been in such a deep depression that she hasn't left her house alone for three years. Her husband drives her wherever she needs to go, but to venture to the post box in the co-op where she lives--no way on God's green earth. She doesn't cook, read, bathe. Most of the day she lies in bed staring at the ceiling, waiting for something. Meds don't work. She's tried them all. You can tell her she needs to try one more, but she won't listen. I don't offer advice. She doesn't want it.

When all hell broke lose immediately following the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, friends with an inclination to depression plunged. This time I know how they feel. It's that cosmic angst thing. Some of us feel cosmic pain. We are the lucky ones. Some only feel their own pain. They are the unlucky ones. With cosmic pain, we can seek understanding of the situation. We can say, "this too will pass," because it almost always does. What I can't say is that I understand how everyone feels. You can't tell me you know what I'm thinking. I share with you only what I want you to know.

Please don't insult your friends by pretending to understand unless you have undergone exactly the same loss and suffered the same grief. You can help by asking a question and keeping silent while your friend talks. The last thing he wants to hear is a story about your great Aunt Sophie who had something similar. When someone or a country is suffering, it's all about the person or the country. It's not about you. Just once, listen before you speak. You might hear something whispered that is important.

6 comments:

Cat said...

I recommend reading "Talking to Depression" by Claudia J. Straus. She says the same thing, essentially. Thanks, Betsy - very nice post.

Morgan Mandel said...

True, no one knows exactly what another person is feeling, but we can try to understand in some small way and feel compassion.

Morgan Mandel
http://www.morganmandel.com

Shaunda said...

Well said, Betsy. Thank you!

Monti said...

Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

Monti
Mary Montague Sikes

Brenda Marroy said...

I so agree with you, Betsy. I used to say that a lot when I was younger. Now I usually say, "I can't imagine how that must feel."
This is very thought provoking and I hope a lot of people read it and get the message. I'm going to share it.

Anonymous said...

I've struggled with severe anxiety and depression since my teenage years. It's been a silent struggle because I'm too ashamed or perhaps too proud to admit to others I have a problem. And from my own personal observations, mental health is often misunderstood and goes ignored. By reading your post today, I was able to see how some people (like that poor woman who can't leave her house) have it by far worse than I.

I think I'll be able to march through this day (instead of just stumbling around blindly - waiting) because of your post.

Thank you for your understanding, Betsy. I wish others could show the understanding and compassion you have.

Sincerely,
A Non-stranger