“The road to hell is paved with good intentions”
This won’t be a long post. I haven’t the energy or mind set to ramble on. But this is something I would like to talk about.
In recent months I have meditating on the man I have been. Thinking back on how I have handled certain relationships and the words I’ve chosen. But it wasn’t until it happened to me that I could truly realise the effect it can have. How blind I was.
About two months back I was in one of the worst places I had been in a long time. I felt as thought I was a breath away from rock bottom.
Being in such a difficult spot I felt that I had to call someone. So I rang a friend of mine hoping to feel better after a talk. I tell him how I was feeling shit and everything seemed pointless. I told him how I was emotional and lethargic. But his reply only seemed to make things worse. He told me “Everything will be alright in the end”. This was the last thing that I needed to hear. At that point in time ‘Alright’ seemed a long fucking way off. It only served to make me realise that my friend, whilst only trying to help, simply had no idea what I was going through. At this point I suddenly knew how I had made others feel by doing this. The guilt was almost unbearable.
Looking back on myself I have come to realise just how often I would do this. How often I would throw some words of encouragement carelessly towards somebody without knowing their utter futility. Like sticking a band-aid on a severed limb.
When somebody confides in you their suffering and feelings seldom are they looking for words of encouragement. They’re simply looking for somebody to just listen or to acknowledge their suffering. To even muster the strength to talk to someone can be exhausting and overwhelming when in such a fragile state.
By telling them to “Cheer up and look on the bright side” or that “Things will be better tomorrow” can only serve to make them feel more alone than they already are. It can remind them that few actually understand how they feel. It wasn’t until I suffered from depression myself that I realised this.
A very close friend of mine would often talk to me of what she was experiencing. Of how she was having difficulties in day-to-day life. I was a fool and would most times just tell her to “remember how strong she is” or would try to fix things. Try to suggest ways to help her feel better. At the time I was only trying to help in the only way I knew how. But I never thought to just stop and think about what she needed at that moment. I didn’t consider what she may have needed from me and am now realising how my words and untimely optimism may hurt her.
I do not for one second think that we should not be supportive. Everybody needs support. It’s the way in which we support people that makes the difference. Remind them that your their for them whilst acknowledging how they feel. This is something that I still need to work on.
Instead of telling somebody “It’s not as bad as you think” try telling them “I can see how this is difficult for you, we can get through this together”
Or replace “We all have problems” with “I’ve been there before, I know how hard it is” or even “I can see you’re upset about it. Would you like to talk?”
Even asking something as simple as “How are you feeling today? Is there anything I can do/Would you like some space?” can remind the other person that you know they’re feeling depressed and at the same time are caring for them.
Often the best thing for someone in a fragile state is to know that they’re not invisible.