Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness
(c)2014 Nancy Virden
Emotional pain is misery. Notice the word I chose was not miserable. That is because emotional pain moves beyond adjectives. It is misery, discomfort, anguish, and heaviness of heart. In fact, I stumble over describing the greatest emotional pain – despair – because it seems no words fit.
How can I, or anyone, define those days of absolute hopelessness leading to a moment so empty of light that darkness of death seems preferable? If you have not been there, you cannot know.
Today’s message is to those who do get it. If you understand suicidal despair, you are precious to me. This is emotional pain we share. It is true that I am not there anymore, but all it takes to bring back crystal clear remembrance of those feelings is a thought or two.
There are times when I share my story that afterward I feel it again. I cry in sorrow over the blackest emptiness I’ve ever known. The difference between now and then is these tears lead to gratitude and awe at the wonder of recovery and healing. I am speechless; there are literally no more words.
You can move on too.
You question how I could know your struggle. Perhaps we have never met. Definitely, no one else is in your brain. My experiences are not your experiences, and circumstances bringing you to the point of despair are likely not the same as what has triggered my major depression.
This is what I do know:
- I have been there.
- There was zero light, zero hope, zero reasons to believe anything would change.
- I believed totally that all persons who had ever cared about me, no longer did.
- No doubts contradicted my certainty that anyone who might care about me in the future would eventually leave.
- Aware of what gifts I have to offer the world, nothing of good coming from my life seemed worth all the pain.
- There had been too many losses, and many more were to come.
- I blamed others for not loving me, but inwardly feared I was unlovable – therefore love would remain elusive.
- I believed I had been screaming for help and no one heard me; therein was the proof no one cared.
- I felt there was no other choice than suicide.
Here is something else I know:
I was wrong.
In the nearly four years since, experiences have challenged old perceptions. It is as if I had been looking through mud-splashed windows and suddenly found a clean one. Visibility has improved.
What I’m discovering on the other side of the glass is not continuation of same-old; it is not even same-old dressed up in bright lights. Instead, it is a life previously hidden from me. Simply put, I did not know this possibility for joy existed.
A therapist once said to me, “I know what this feels like and want you to have it!” It has been worth waiting for the beauty.
Once impossible darkness is now weak in its attempts to overtake me. Gladness grows powerful over disappointment. Time and effort poured into learning to believe in possibilites, strengthened my mind. Listening to and following directions pointing me to change, gave courage to willingness. As a promise of hope began to appear through the shadows, my desire and energy to grasp it blossomed. Finally peering beyond the emotional haze amazes me. I stare in wonder at the incredible-yet-real.
Past hurts no longer weigh me down because they were not brought along for the ride. I can move easily, lighter, adventurously. Some losses I feared have happened; there are people I wish would stay who have left. Reality is, life has pain in it.
However, it is as if I am wearing a rubber suit – hurt throws itself at me and bounces off; it is not hanging around to destroy me any more. Despondency is met with my refusal to dwell in it. Joy has found me, or I found joy. Who cares which? I smile a lot, laugh more easily, and feel as if I am finally free.
This was not supposed to happen, remember?
Maybe you do not believe it could happen for you. Perhaps you see your future as uniquely hopeless and meaningless. I cannot change your mind.
All I can do is shout as loudly as possible, “There is more!!!! Wait for the joy! I know what this feels like and want you to have it!”
The meaning of that last sentence was certain to forever escape me. Never did I imagine I would be able to say it.
Well, I just did.
NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with 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 is yours.
*picture from qualitystockphotos