Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness
Nancy Virden (c)2013
Imagine for a moment, you are in a pitch-black room. People you believe to be in the same room are speaking in your direction. However, you cannot understand what they mean; some of the language is foreign, and then there’s the gibberish.
“I love all this sunshine!”
“I’m going to dance!”
To you they say, “Isn’t this wonderful?”
You respond by mentioning the room’s darkness. “Do you understand where we are?” you ask incredulously.
You hear, “It’s bright, you are just refusing to see it.”
At the age of 27, I had spent several years searching for an answer as to why my vision was doubling. One doctor visit after another left me with educated guesses and downright dismissals. My next to last effort found me telling a ophthalmologist that the speed of peripheral vision loss had increased ten-fold in the past year. “It’s not getting worse, you are just now noticing it” he said.
Naturally, I did not return to that doctor and thankfully found one who suggested a CT Scan. It was determined a Giant aneurysm rested behind my left eye, and surgery was immediately scheduled. There is no longer any threat of an aneurysm bursting in my brain, and my vision has remained stable for over two decades. Nonetheless, the vision that was compromised remains impaired. Short of a re-creation miracle, I will never be able to focus as others can do.
Major Depression has been to me similar to the dark room scenario and my eyesight. While mental disorders and emotional breakdowns may appear on the outside to be poor attitudes, they are actually illnesses with potential for lasting effects. They are diseases with variable prognosis and solutions. As no one hopefully would accuse a blind man of refusing to see, it is decidedly unwise and unhelpful to insist a depressed person just get over it.
Gentle encouragements without judgement are the way to go when interacting with a depressed individual. “Would you like to go for a walk with me?” allows for a healthy choice and proves there is no rejection. “Get off your %&# and go for a walk already!” offers a no-win situation. If they walk or not, rejection from their support person piles hurt on top of hurt. Not kicking someone while they are down is an old unwritten rule most of us appreciate. No matter the good intentions, insisting a person just shake off their depression is inappropriate.
Compassionate love is welcoming and does not push its agenda. Short of hurting themselves or others, we can allow depressed loved ones the respect of choosing how to be this Christmas.
NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.