Ever since I was diagnosed with depression in March 2001 and started on my ride across the cobblestones of my mind, I have found my greatest source of acceptance, empathy and understanding from fellow members of support groups, as well as online forums, run by such organisations as the leading U.K. charity, Depression Alliance.
From time to time people – none of them cyclists – will lecture me about the perils of the road (for them) caused by cyclists oblivious to their surroundings. While their tongues are waving merrily in the breeze of their own making, I am biting mine. The other striking thing about these people (indulge me, why not lump a whole lot of people together just because….oh never mind)……the other striking thing is they don’t profess to suffer any kind of mental anguish themselves.
Last week I was bemoaning glib attitudes towards people, like myself, with mental health problems.
Problems, like a nasty rash, a sore shoulder or what to wear to work on Monday when the washing machine went on the blink over the weekend. That is what I find the people I refer to above think of as ‘mental health problems’. That, and it’s contagious. Even the world-renowned Dr……o.k., o.k. why be petty? Even the world-renowned Dr Dolittle* wonders if peer – led groups like the ones I have mentioned can actually cause us to relapse. Maybe if they were facilitated by a psychiatrist on the other hand…….
Those glib attitudes I was fulminating against haven’t just gone away in the last week as readers in Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Canada, Denmark, England Finland, Germany and elsewhere…..sat quaking in their boots as they read my rant.
The sort of quackery that I was complaining about in last week’s edition is all the more pernicious because it sounds like such good sense. The kind of thing I should be saying as I dole out the wisdom of my experiences in the crazy lane of life like so much Lithium.
In my role as a Peer Supporter working with people with much the same daily – o.k. hourly – challenges as me what works is……
Tune in next week to find out!
Only kidding. What works is silence. Not the kind of silence that we meet a good deal of the time when other folks get wind of why we’re ‘having an early night’, or declare, with some justification, that ‘I am the rightful heir to the Scottish throne’. But the kind of silence there is freewheeling down a country lane with only the shy swish of the tyres on the road to accompany you.
It’s the kind of silence that makes most people in my position (and me some of the time) feel full of advice and guidance, brimming with the answers. But this kind of silence allows for space, the kind of space that the car drivers I was referring to earlier wish we would leave so that they could accelerate past us just to meet us soon enough at the traffic lights. It’s the kind of space that leaves room for both of us. Listening, this smooth swish of silence, establishes a rapport (noun) relation; connection, especially harmonious or sympathetic relation. See under: acceptance, empathy, understanding, and most of all love.
Next time you think you have something useful to say, don’t say it.
* Not his real name
from The Ring and the Book
…All the seventeen years,
Not once did a suspicion visit me
How very different a lot is mine
From any other woman’s in the world.
The reason must be, ’twas step by step
It got to grow so terrible and strange:
These strange woes stole on tiptoe, as it were,
Into my neighbourhood and privacy,
Sat down where I sat, laid them where I lay;
And I was found familiarized with fear,
When friends broke in, held up a torch and cried
‘Why, you Pompilia, in the cavern thus,
‘How came that arm of yours about a wolf?
‘And soft the length, – lies in and out your feet
‘And laps you round the knee, – a snake it is!’
And so on.
Robert Browning (1812 – 1889)