You’d think that being someone with Bipolar, someone who knows depression, would mean we always know just what to do or say when someone is depressed or sad.
I get what another person is saying when they talk about their depression, but I don’t always know how to respond. We each need different things when we are consumed by the black hole. We all need someone who gets it, though. Someone that we know understands and will say
“This really blows and it sucks that you’re going through it. I hope you can get through this with a minimum of pain. How about if I hang around, we can talk, or not talk, we can be quiet or do something? I have to ask, because I’m afraid for you, can you promise not to hurt yourself or others? I just want you to know, even if you don’t feel it now, some day, even if it’s a year from now, or maybe tomorrow, you will feel some relief. I promise it on all that is holy. I know this because I’ve been here so many times myself.”
If they wanted feedback or strategies they would ask for it. I will tell them my experiences if they seem able to talk (Sometimes talking or listening is just too hard when depressed.). Discussing it is sometimes the very thing that leads us to a breakthrough but it has to be at the sad persons pace.
Sometimes not discussing it, but living with it, crawling into the dark place and just sitting there with the person is all we can do.
The biggest and most amazing kindness that allowed a break in my depression was just that very thing; someone who crawled to where I was lying in the dank oubliette emotionally and just sat with me.
At twenty-four with two babies, I was frozen. The depression immobilized me. I considered it my job, literally, to raise my kids. The terms “Do your work as unto the Lord, not mere men.” (Colossians 3:23) has always been my work ethic. So I got up every day when the kids woke up, got them fed and washed, got myself dressed decently and washed. I would then do everything right as a Mamma. Dishes would be washed, cloth diapers were made so white compliments were given by a neighbor standing by my clothes line. There would be play time, walks to the nearby park but come nap time, I deflated. I would lay down and stare until it was time for them to get up again, and I would do my job some more until bedtime. Then I would stare for hours into the dark. I loved these babies, being their Mamma, having to be there for them, it probably kept me alive during this time as well.
One weekend when my oldest, S.P., went to his father’s house and S. had been laid down for her nap, I deflated again. Opening the small love seats fold out bed, I lay there in my dress just staring out the living room screen door at the beautiful world and the sounds of the Jersey shore in summer. I was empty save for the depressions black water I was drowning in and the floating ribbons of sweet, dark molasses love for my children.
My friend was staying with me for the summer. She is a beautiful woman with a kind and lovely spirit. After weeks of watching me struggle, trying to talk on small occasions, I think she didn’t know what to do but felt my pain.
Seeing me laying on my side she stood for a minute just watching me. Then she crawled onto the sofa bed and laid behind me, wrapping her arms around my shoulder and under my head. The song started out softly, her talking to God and telling Him how sad I was and how I needed something. She sang for a good ten minutes just making the words up from her heart. This is when I finally cried.
They were made of internalized rage, a sense of impotence, self-hatred, abuse, fear and so many more feelings. She lay behind me and let me cry til I fell asleep.
When I woke up, she had the baby in one arm and soup on the table. Looking at me clearly, she said “Get up.” and because I trusted her, I did.
I ate and cried.
I showered and cried.
I went to meetings and cried.
I rocked my babies and cried.
I walked along the bay and cried.
I cried and cried.
I did nothing without crying but I didn’t die. I started to have some hope that eventually I wouldn’t feel so badly.
The point of this story is that sometimes crawling into the cave and laying behind the person singing to them is enough and all we can do to help. Just be there. Just sit on a rock nearby and be there.
If you trust me, may I sit with you in your cave?