Anxiety and depression: speak to someone who understands
There is a story about Ghandi which goes like this…..
A woman approached him with her overweight son, asking Ghandi to speak to him and tell him to stop eating sugar.
Ghandi said come back and see me in a few weeks.
She goes back a few weeks later and he tells the boy to stop eating sugar. She asks why he wouldn’t say it when she first went to see him.
“I was still eating sugar when you first came to see me” was his response.
This was a man who did not preach. He spoke only of what he knew.
For a number of years now this has been my own approach when looking for help or advice – speak to someone who understands.
I can speak to you of improving your mental and emotional health because I have experienced extreme anxiety, depression and emotional breakdowns. I fully recovered.
I can speak to you of managing change as I specialised in change in my HR career and I have made massive personal changes in my life over a sustained period.
Most of this experience comes not from successes. It comes from the mistakes, the failures, the flaws, the imperfections.
Through practice, you improve.
At a recent workshop I was delivering a lady attended who had been given a diagnosis of bipolar. A talented lady who struggles to stay balanced. Two years previous, having ran out of options she attended a psychiatrist appointment. Feeling like no-one understood her, she listened to the psychiatrist list traits of someone with bipolar. She breathed a sigh of relief – finally someone understood her.
She started to mix with other people who had also been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, attending support groups. A feeling of connection developed.
It worked for a while. Then she realised maybe the psychiatrist hadn’t really understood her.
You see the psychiatrist was not like Ghandi, he did not have the same intent. He was not speaking from experience. This was not a man who had found and used his own voice.
This psychiatrist was speaking of dogma (read: What someone with anxiety and depression would love to tell you – myth 1), a false story with a limiting outlook which leaves clients, years later, no further forward.
She tells me at the time she was given the label, it didn’t feel right. This lady knew there were events happening in her life that caused her to spiral out of control. However at that time, she felt there was no alternative.
When speaking to me, she was still afraid to let the label go. The connections she made through the bipolar support groups were currently sustaining her.
Yet, if she stays around people who are stuck, she will also continue to stay stuck.
Her voice was speaking to her, nudging her forward ………
A story that resonates deeply with me and has since I read it, is one shared by Jeff Brown. It is based on a conversation he had with famous spiritual teacher Ram Dass.
Jeff Brown (Author) was struggling with a friend of his who had addiction problems. He had helped him out many times when he was broke and homeless. Once again this friend found himself in the same position.
Ram Dass said to him the best way to help anyone is to keep going. He said the only way to truly help someone is to become the best version of yourself and be an inspiration for change.
Years later, Jeff Brown’s friend (who fully recovered) said to him at that time, there was nothing he could have said or done that would have helped. He had to reach his bottom. He had to make his own decision to change.
My thoughts on this are to question intent. Had the lady who attended my workshop been wise, she would have listened to her inner voice and questioned the psychiatrists intent. She would listen to her voice as to the intent of those peer supporters at the bipolar support group.
You see sometimes people upset us, they don’t step into to fix our mess. Yet, actually they are doing the best for us, showing true leadership, have the best intent.
There are few people in this life who truly want you to succeed in life. Not because they don’t love you. Because their own limitations, their own fear and their own ability to step up in their life.
This is why it is often our closest relationships which cause the most resistance as we grow.
Like I spoke of in the article Mental health: fear is the most important factor … in the words of Koelle Simpson, we are often doing anything but helping when we step in and “help”.
The psychiatrist did everything he was trained to do, he diagnosed and medicated this lady. Whilst she may have been grateful at the time, a couple of years later, she realised she was no further forward.
My own experience has been to only invest my time and energy speaking to people who truly understand. Those have been in the trenches, who have war wounds and scars.
This approach is one I recommend.
Most of all don’t give into the temptation to seek momentary connection, validation, really use your voice, listen. Find someone to connect with who truly gets you, who truly sees you, and who can help you find lasting and meaningful connection.