Sticks and stones may break my bones…
It is honestly a baffling manner trying to encourage and/or motivate someone out of depression. I don’t say that out of disrespect towards anyone who is struggling but it is the honest truth. Having dealt with depression in both past and present, my experiences have led me to understand this absolute fact:
There are no amount of words that you or I could ever say that would rescue someone out of their hopelessness.
It’s not going to happen.
I have often thought, wondered, and even been asked how one is to help someone who is so lost in their own sorrow. People simply want to know how they can best aid their loved one or friend escape from the clutches of their perceived “lostness”. Automatically, one is motivated to speak. An abundance of words would, to most people, be of great use in motivating the depressed to action. My question is this:
How do you, an outside source with no earthly idea the extent of their pain, motivate those who cannot motivate themselves with words?
Can I be honest in saying that it is highly likely that words were the catalyst to their current state? Certainly, actions speak far louder than words but language is what affirms the motivation behind the giver. Words add validity to what they are already thinking. I know that I was never in need of someone to come along and tell me that I shouldn’t feel the way that I do.
I already knew that.
I was never in need of someone to tell me that, as a Christian, I should be happier because God was in my life.
I already thought that.
I already knew the logical answers. I was fully aware of what I should’ve been feeling, thinking, and doing but my awareness never once shed light on how to find hope despite what I was feeling.
In these absolute moments of utter despair, two things must happen. Both parties are responsible and each carries an equal weight.
1.) The afflicted soul must come to grips with the reality that what they are feeling and/or experiencing is, nine times out of ten, irrational and that’s ok. In order to best move forward, we have to know where to start. I do not say this to undermine what the individual is experiencing. Please, don’t misunderstand me. I am, however, speaking to the parts of our brains that play tricks on ourselves and make us believe that the worst has already happened and will happen again.
2.) The one trying to help has to realize that they have no power in and of themselves to rescue the individual. Our common temptation and desire is to see our hurting loved one healed in an instant. While some circumstances may elicit these results, dealing with mental illnesses is a constant battle that requires grace and patience. Those suffering from circumstantial depression have better odds of being able to move on after a time. Those who have been clinically diagnosed with a mental illness are likely to suffer for a lifetime. Each situation must be handled differently but with the same amount of love.
Talk is cheap but a listening ear is richer than gold to those who are without hope.
My constant advice is this: Listen before you speak. Take the time to try to best understand the circumstance of the other individual. Why are they feeling the way that they do? Be extremely slow to give practical advice.
Notice that I said be extremely slow. I did not say, “Don’t ever give practical advice.” Sometimes we need to hear the truth and sometimes we simply need someone to listen. Confused on knowing which one to use? Ask your loved one. Even if they reply negatively, I can guarantee that you asking this simple question will begin breaking down their walls. Why? It shows that you care enough to try.
The best way for someone to begin the process of healing is to know why they feel the way that they do and understand what triggers these moments. They cannot do such a thing if no one gives them a chance to express it.
Be careful with your words. They have the power to heal but they also hold the power to destroy. Take time to ask the right questions and be willing to listen with the intent of understanding, rather than replying.
Do you think that I left something out? Comment down below and maybe it will jog my brain for another blog post. You’re not alone. You are loved. You are valuable.