You probably won’t understand that thinking, but there you go; you don’t understand. Even if you did understand, I couldn’t understand why you would, and I would struggle to believe you.
So you see, we have a real problem if you genuinely want me to or have an expectation that I share. And please don’t pressure me. Force makes me freeze, and I may never open up to you, if there was a chance I could, or, ever again.
You might think you’re able to help – if only I did share. As it is, in my present state, I cannot see how you could help, and even if I could see, and you were able to help, I would struggle to allow you to help me.
It feels impossible from in here. But, why am I seeking understanding when I don’t for one moment expect you to understand. If I think it’s absurd, how could I expect you to think otherwise? Yet, to help, you would need to convince me that you actually do understand. Good luck with that!
I cannot tell you what’s going on because I’m so unsure where or how to start. I could just start, but then I would also find myself getting it wrong, and almost anything you’d say could be wrong. Even those who do help also say many unhelpful things. It’s great that they continue to try, though, but at best it’s wearying, and at worst it’s insulting. The good thing for them is they can’t tell how much some things they say hurt. But, that doesn’t help me.
I also cannot tell you where I’m at because I doubt I have the energy. Breathing is the challenge of the minute right now. Breathing and simply holding my lamentable life together. See, it sounds like a full-blown pity party at happy hour. You don’t understand it! Well, how do you expect me to understand? I’d swap this for anything. And I know damn well there are so many who have it much worse than I; all that does is make me feel more guilty and ashamed, and deeper down the sinkhole I go.
Even if I did share it would be brief and I couldn’t give you my whole heart on the matter because I don’t know where to find it. My identity and being seem to have become a mystery, and every effort to finding myself on something true seems elusive.
So, please understand that you cannot understand, and accept where that leaves us… and suddenly you might begin to help.
The Person Struggling with Anxiety and Depression.
Being invited into the heart of a person struggling with mental illness is its own miracle. That heart is a sensitive place where listeners are welcome, but cannot ever feel at home.
Understand that you can’t understand, and suddenly, right there, understanding begins to emerge.
The guilt experienced by those with mental illness is part of the problem. Understand that guilt is a valid emotion, albeit unhealthy, based on the best of intentions to relate in love; to own one’s incapacity. Understand that the mind games they endure are unrelenting and exhausting.
Let this not be a discouragement to give up listening and reaching out. It serves as the opposite. Listeners, helpers, and supporters and be more tenacious in their care than ever.
Don’t give up if someone says, ‘you can’t possibly understand’. You can’t, but that in itself is a helpful place to start.
Steve Wickham holds Degrees in Science, Divinity, and Counselling