No One Asked You to Fix It (and if they did they didn't really mean it)
I'm "in a weird place" right now.
I use quotations because I am taking care to not conflate "I am depressed and anxious," with "Something in me feels depressed or anxious."
I trust that who I am is not necessarily how I feel. How I feel comes up to be seen, acknowledged, and felt, so that I can come back to remembering who I am.
Who I am is an infinite spring of wellbeing and light. And that could never be weird, out of place, or lacking in any way.
That said, how I feel these days is pretty much a constant shit show. I'm choosing to navigate it all with as much compassion and patience as I can, along with a mindfully researched selection of herbs and supplements for inflammation, and adrenal and nervous system support. I'm seeing or have seen naturopaths, my medical doctor, and specialist, with plans for more holistic treatments as well. I practice on average thirty to forty-five minutes of a variety of yoga asana, kriya, and pranayama daily. I eat a healthy, clean diet. I've set down the exercise habits and previous loves that I know will only amp the feelings I am experiencing. I've recently increased my meditation time to one hour in the morning and one half hour in the evening.
I filled a prescription for pharmaceuticals that I haven't quite fully committed to taking yet. But I acknowledge that while I am strong and I trust the process of nature, sometimes the medical model is required.
Despite my knowing that there is nothing to be ashamed of, opening up about where I am is not easy. It feels intimidating and I experience moments of feeling ashamed for taking so long to feel more "myself" again. Anyone who has experienced a mood disorder or health issue knows how isolating the disorder itself can feel like, and how speaking about it can feel that much more isolating. I don't care what the social media posts say, the stigma exists.
Despite struggling right now, here is what I know: I don't need your advice (unless asked). I also don't need you to fix me.
Your job isn't to save anyone who is suffering, whatever that suffering is. Not even your kids. (Caveat, if they need actual medical attention. Your responsibility is obviously to advocate for, and to the best of your ability look over the wellbeing of your child. Same goes with someone who isn't your child. Common sense).
I get that it's hard to watch someone else going through their dark night, whatever it may be. I know that we want to be able to take away the fear or pain of those we love. But we can't. And if it were possible to, we'd only be robbing them of the opportunity to grow and realize their strength. Besides, we can't get real love for being the superhero of someone else's life-- but that's perhaps another blog entirely.
What we want, beneath the veneer of protecting our loved ones from ever feeling pain, is really for them to know or remember who they are. An infinite spring of wellbeing and light.
How does one learn or remember they're an infinite spring of wellbeing and light? They experience it by contrast of what they aren't. They walk through the pain, the sorrow, the fear, the dark, and they come out the other side. They acknowledge that only they can walk through the fire, no one can do it for them. They sit with their feelings so that, eventually, as the feelings dissipate, they are left with what is left. What was always there underneath, and what can never be taken from them.
Sitting with the feelings without running, suppressing, numbing, or projecting takes time. Feelings answer to nobody, they take their own sweet process regardless of what everyone else would prefer. And damn it if that isn't sometimes the most excruciating aspect of feeling what there is to feel, or watching a loved one feel what there is to feel.
If we're not meant to take the pain away, what is one to do?
What do you do when a loved one says, "I'm scared," "I'm feeling really low," "I'm so hurt I could cry forever"?
You say, "I'm so sorry you are feeling this way." You name the feeling, you reiterate what they said so they feel heard and acknowledged. We all just want to be heard and acknowledged.
You say, "You are so strong, just as you are. You don't have to put anything on, you don't have to pretend, you don't have to hide anything. You were made to get through this, I believe in you. And I am here with you. I can't take this fear/pain/grief away, but I can hold your hand. I can walk through this with you, I can be in this space with you. You are not alone."
And then you do just that. You hold the space, and you trust, and you listen, and you mean every damn word you say. You trust their strength, because you know the spring of infinite wellbeing and light is right there, even if no one can see it. You know it, but you also know that they need to experience it for themselves.
You don't pity. You don't feed the fear. You don't tell them it's for a reason, or take their experience from them by trying to compare it to anything you think you know (generally speaking, some exceptions may apply).
You don't patronize with well-meaning, "Nothing lasts forevers." We all know nothing lasts forever. Remember that part about feelings answering to no one and that being excruciating? "Nothing lasts forever" in this instance is the equivalent to watching a pot boil. It's like when you're sleep-deprived, hormonal, and forget who you are in the postpartum period, and your two year old is being a she-devil, you're covered in vomit, your nipples are cracked, you haven't brushed your hair in a week, and a well-meaning relative smiles a little too widely and says, "Oh cherish these days. They grow up so fast. Nothing lasts forever." Really, it's like that.
When you're asked for advice, you gently and carefully consider offering it. And by "offering," I mean you offer your insight with compassion, followed by asking your loved one what they feel deeply within.
Mostly though- and always- you simply hold the space. Which isn't actually simple at all. In my opinion, it's where most of us in the dark night feel so alone. Many well-meaning people are willing to throw out platitudes of "comfort," or cluck softly. It's easy to jump to comparisons and assume that the person struggling will feel heard because you've "seen this before." (Side note: if you've literally walked the road, and the wounded comes to you specifically for that reason, that's different). Posting a Facebook status copied, pasted, and shared during Mental Health Awareness Week is mere lip service if you can't sit with someone in pain without either running the other way, ignoring, or going into fix-it mode.
Lastly, as someone who is highly sensitive to others' emotions, I get how overwhelming holding space can be. I get that empathy can make it painful when you feel so deeply, it may as well be your emotions. If you're of the highly sensitive folk that I speak of here, know when you need to fill up your own cup. Being a support person can be draining and painful, and no one wants you to go down with that ship. That said, also know that your deep empathy can be so totally and utterly comforting. It can be a bridge that connects two souls as the fires of grief, pain, and fear are faced. Two hearts linked together are far stronger than one alone. Interconnection.
I know I don't have to have the answers. Neither do you. "Weird" place or place of comfort, the magic happens in holding space for the feelings and that infinite spring of wellbeing and light.