Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c) 2018 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries
One week after exiting the hospital for a major depressive episode, anxiety grew to irrational caution. It was 2005, and I waited outside a familiar door in my church, afraid of familiar people. Finally, loneliness trumped fear.
As one woman walked by to enter the foreboding room, I whispered. At first, she did not hear.
“Marge.” I said her name a second time.
“Nancy? What did you say?” She came closer.
“If I come in there, may I sit in the back? I don’t think I can face everyone…” A mouse-like voice returned.
The tone of her voice grew my confidence. “Nancy, just come and be with us. You can sit wherever you like.”
Such acceptance and love.
My behavior was abnormal in general, and maybe especially for me, as typically friendliness and smiles portray my greetings. Marge may have thought it best to leave me alone. By speaking out my needs, her graciousness could calm some of my fears.
The other option was to sit in the hall.
Telling people our precise needs is the most effective way of reaching out. It is difficult to answer when family and friends ask, “What can I do for you?” We might feel it is selfish to ask for much, or too risky. Would-be-supports are sometimes afraid. They often do not know how to help or are concerned they might worsen a situation..
Keeping a list nearby with ideas such as , “I need non-critical acceptance” and “I need someone to sit with me.” gives them solid information. Both you and they will feel relief.
Demanding is different from informing others of our needs. Demand shows up in our tone of voice, expectations, and negative reactions when disappointed.
About therapists involved in my care, I added to my journal: “Truth is, it is God who will get me through life victoriously, not happily all the time.. People he has brought to help in the happiness department will sometimes let me down. This does not mean I should write them off.”
What then do the best supports look like? They exercise boundaries, and believe for us through better and not-so great circumstances. (This does not mean they approve of all we do!) They trust God’s process, and do not try to control the situation.
They are safe, do not abuse or take advantage in any way, and try to meet us where we are. They listen to what we say instead of assuming, proactively trying to grasp our meanings by asking good questions. They know if understanding and the ability to relate is elusive, they can continue to be supportive.
The best supports are human, and never perfect at any of the above.
We can choose to help them help us.
Today’s Helpful Word
Kind words are like honey— sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.