I recall a time not so long ago that felt like the end of the world, or at least, it made me feel that I wanted the world to end - so deep into the spiral of depression that the best I hoped for was an end to it that would leave those I cared for deeply, safe and secure, without me.
This morning I was watching the video linked below, and it brought back those feelings. But it also reminded me what it was, and still is, that others did, that helped me climb back out of that deep hole. It was empathy from people who cared to enough to take the risk of offering connection. They let me know that when I was ready, they were there for me - no ready solutions, no platitudes - but simply a hand held out that told me "you aren't alone".
I will never be done with the journey. If there is an upside to coming out the other side of depression, it is what I learned, and who I've become, by letting others know who I really am, and trusting that I would find some who would connect.
It is a huge risk to make yourself vulnerable with the truth. Some might have and did hate me for being who I am. But there were others who had survived; others who would take the risk of saying "I am here to listen and care", and in that way pass along their strength. They might not even have understood the details, but they cared, and would not judge.
If there is an upside, it will be my own willingness to be that person who takes the risk and holds out my hand to others and say, I am here. I've been there. I will stay with you.
Dr. Brené Brown narrates the following RSA Short, with animation by Katy Davis and subtitles in a variety of languages, thanks to Amara. Click on the cc for captions.
A wonderful post, with much to think about. But what does one do if one meets a situation in which empathy does not seem to be possible? Is there an alternative other than glib sympathy? How do I match up with these characters, trying to operate in this hurting world?ReplyDelete
The first doctor who gained my trust and then helped provide access to the resources that made all the difference had no knowledge at all of my situation. She could have said that this was beyond her and refer me to a psychiatrist, but instead listened carefully, and asked me to come back after she had learned something of my situation from the internet and whatever resources she could find.Delete
In the situation you describe, I would try to be a friend by listening to them, or just sitting quietly with them. A sign of a true friendship should be the ability to sit together in companionable silence when necessary.
In other words, do whatever you can to foster connection.
I share Tom’s view on a splendid post about an important subject. I agree with your comments that listening (or just being there) creates the better opportunities to understand and or share the feelings of others, to possibly offer really good practical help.
But if nothing else there must be some rub off in appreciation in the realisation that someone really cares enough to listen carefully and make the connection as you aptly put it.
Of course, for various highly addictive or severs cognitive problems, one might only be able to glean an appreciation of what’s gone horribly wrong. And there is always the added risk of even taking on immoral decisions, based purely on emotive factors.
I'm not sure that offering help can be anything more than saying "what can I do to help you?" Sometimes what the person says they want is not what they need, and sometimes you cannot in good conscience provide what they think they need.Delete
Trying to be very careful here because I have no expertise; this is only how I feel about being a friend to someone who is deep into addiction.
I believe there are times when a real friend has to say "no, I won't stand by and be part of this because what you are doing is destroying yourself."
The absolute hardest thing any friend, or relative of a person with an addiction must do is to withdraw their support for the addict, forcing them to deal with the problem themselves. Unless you have been into those sort of depths of desperation, where you will rob from or even injure your own parents to get the money you need to feed your addiction, you cannot know about it.
A friend should never expect you to do something you feel is immoral. That is why I have not tried to push myself upon some who have shunned me for what they see as religious reasons. I love them enough to let them go, in hopes that at some point there may be an awakening and renewal, but ultimately respecting that it is they who must deal with this problem, and I cannot force healing upon them.
All the very best to you Lindsay