10 October 2018

Laugh and the world laughs with you

Cry and you cry alone.  Unless the cumulative effect of various external factors leaves you sobbing like a loon to The Notebook while you're flying on a plane FULL of people between London and Sydney.  In which case, your crying is so excessive they don't believe it's just The Notebook making you cry, give you cups to hold over your ears with some kind of oil or essence inside to alleviate pressure AND page any passengers who are doctors to check you over.

But enough about 2004.  And yes, The Notebook is a tear jerker.  In case you haven't yet watched it.

It's World Mental Health Day today and I've been thinking a bit about communicating with people who are living with depression and anxiety, reaching out to people you think are affected, and all the other things initiatives like RUOK encourage you to do.

Here's the thing - depression is not subtle.  It's an insidious beast who strips away any dredge of self worth, self esteem or sense of value you have. When you ask somebody who isn't okay - Are you okay - mostly they're going to say they are fine.
Source: Unknown - Please let me know if you do

Want to know why? Because they don't believe that anybody really wants to know because they are worthless.

When you are depressed - you frequently don't have the language to express how you feel. And that's even if you're a highly articulate individual.  There are no words that express the feelings. There are words that come close. There are words that convey elements. There are songs. There are pictures, but rarely anything which can explain the darkness.

That is because everybody's experience is absolutely unique to them and finding common ground with other depressed people can be hard enough, let alone finding the language to connect with somebody with no lived experience.

What people can do though is persist. Don't just ask 'how are you doing' or 'are you okay'. Say 'Dude - I know you've got a lot on but I'm worried about you because you don't seem yourself - can I do some listening?'.  And then say it again a slightly different way tomorrow. And then again.

And if you know you don't demonstrate love the same way as somebody else - acknowledge it. Say 'Hey there, I don't know what's the best way for me to show I love you so for the moment - it's going to be a call and some memes, but if you need something else from me, we'll work it out together'.

Basically - don't assume somebody knows you are there or understands your intentions. Be present. Be present even when they don't make you feel welcome. Be present in a way that shows them that you are looking out for them and that you care.

If somebody cancels on you AGAIN, ring them and ask if you can come and veg with them in front of the TV instead of going out for drinks. Don't just dismiss them. Don't say stupid things like 'snap out of it', or 'get off the couch' or 'eat better' or 'drink less' or 'exercise more' or 'in my day we just got on with it'.  It's an illness, not a pity party.

And be super mindful of people whose lived experience is different from yours but may be subject to some fairly intense external pressures.  Sure we've got marriage equality, but it's been a fairly brutal few years and with politicians still trying to implement homophobic and queerphobic legislation into the mainstream, the negativity is still alive and well for people in the LGBTQI community. Be an active ally. Be vocal about bigotry so that even the people you don't know are gay, know that you are on their side.

Call people that have just had babies. Not just the person who gave birth, but their partner. New babies are cute but they are not easy. It can be isolating.  Keep in touch. GO AND VISIT. Don't ask them to call if they need something - turn up and do something.

Keep in touch with friends and family that move to new cities for work or study or just a change. They say change is as good as a holiday but we've all had holidays that totally suck arse. Let them know that they might be away but they are still part of your circle.

Find things to laugh about - share good stories in your socials as well as disdain for the cricket team. Tell people about a show that made you laugh. Or a book that cheered you up. Or terrible unicorn jokes. Tell them about small things that you have done which have provided a solid dose of slapstick to the person that saw you fall on your face or mistake a stranger for a friend from behind.

Basically, do what the great JC (and all of them) commanded of his followers - "Don't be a dick"*

*This is not a direct biblical quote. But to quote Denis Denuto "It's the vibe of the thing"

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