Active Listening

I must have been around 8 years based on the pictures I remember seeing. We had arrived in the afternoon and I remember having to be woken up when we reached the dock. It might have been raining. I was drowsy or grumpy when I had to step into the little motor boat. The weather was fierce and I hid under blankets on the floor of the boat as it bumped against the choppy surface.  It felt like forever. The boat slowed and I emerged, looking out to face a giant rock on top of which a house sat.  The familiar scene of Georgian Bay. 

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After dinner I remember sitting on the couch. The couch separated the dining room and faced away from the table and towards the fireplace. I curled at the end of the couch. The adults may have still been eating. I had my back to them. There must have been a fire lit, but I don't remember it. 

I remember Leonard Cohen. It must have been "Take this Waltz" and I may have fallen asleep before I could hear more. I remember being drawn to the darkness of his voice. I didn't pay attention to the lyrics. I have the strongest memory of sitting on that couch alone,  listening to his voice harmonize with his backup singers. I was absorbed by his sound completely. I don't reminisce often. I'm not nostalgic, and I think that affects my ability to remember - but hearing his voice when I was on that couch is clear as water.

I remember walking down the rock and into the forest on the other side of the water.  I may have been exploring alone. I often sang as I wandered. Mom told me that I was misbehaving and was sent outside. She says I went under the porch and found a snake. I don't remember the snake, or much else from that trip.

When I listen to Take this Waltz, I imagine rough waters bashing against a hill made of one big wet rock with a house on top, where I sat alone among family and where the voice of Leonard Cohen made a permanent imprint on my brain. I am reminded that no matter how grumpy, I can always feel better with music. 

Bad Brain Club

It seems I am drawn to friends who struggle with mental health. We "get" each other and know what to say when the other is having a "bad brain day".  

But to all of you who don't understand, here are the things to do and not do: 

1. You can say something like, "It will pass" but that doesn't make it hurt any less, so maybe follow up that statement with "but I know that doesn't make you feel any better now. I'm sorry you're having a hard time. I love you" 

2. Don't expect me to know why I feel depressed/wonky/weird/anxious/like a piece of garbage. So do not ask "Why?" or "What's wrong?". Just say "How are you doing?" and then listen. 

3. Don't ask if there is anything you can do: I probably don't know what I need. Don't ask if I want to eat or have eating anything. Put food in my hands. Just bring over soup or chips and leave them by the door.  I might not want to talk to you, but I'll take delivery. I might take all day to open that door, but when I do, I will feel loved and taken care of.  

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4. Don't say "I'm here for you" and leave it at that. Be persistent. Actually be there. Call. Call again and leave a message when I don't pick up. Leave a note under the door. Text that you're outside and I can decide if I want company or not. 

5. Please be patient. I lash out. I am critical. I am negative. When I'm not feeling good, I pull everything down with me. Notice when I behave like that, and ask me how I'm doing. I'll probably be honest and say "I am depressed". It feels good to acknowledge it out loud. When I feel better later, I'll be thankful you let me stew without making me feel guilty about my poor behaviour. I am sorry for this bad behaviour.

6. Do NOT suggest ways I can make myself feel better. Trust me, people with depression know more than you about what they are "supposed to do" and what is "supposed to work". Assume your suggestions are ignorant and assume we will feel insulted if you offer a solution to our bad brains. 

 

Lately, I have been incredibly depressed. I have been drinking too much. I "faked it" on social media by posting old photos when really I barely ate a thing in the last three days. I drank all day. Last night, I wallowed in a bath for hours with a bottle of wine. I got hammered and blacked out. 

One person caught on. She was persistent. She said the right things. She said "I'm sorry" and "Are you talking to anyone else about this?" and "Have they been helpful?" . She kept the conversation going until I stopped and she didn't push further. She checked in on me the next morning too. 

I woke up this morning feeling like the darkness had lifted, but I was skeptical and tread lightly as if I was going to wake the beast. At lunch, working at the cafe, I got anxious and frustrated, but it was just normal "feels" and not the crushing hopelessness that would have destroyed me the day before. 

I feel ok now. I made a nice dinner (after I ate a bag of chips). I'm having a beer, but that's all I'll have. I'm caring for myself in the ways I can. 

Thank you to the few people who gave me those knowing sideways glances and hugged me extra tight this week. 

Also a side note: I tried yoga. I had baths. I turned down the lights. I turned on my Himalayan salt rock lamp. I slept a lot. I listened to calming music. I drew. I wrote. I used an essential oil diffuser.

Only time heals and only feeling like I'd be missed helps.