Thank you to everyone who responded to my last post on dealing with depression. It’s been nearly a month and while I don’t feel as awful as I did, I still have some bad days, interspersed with fair to middlin’ days. I continue to journal about all the feelings and honor my flow when it comes to socializing and interacting with the world.
After I wrote that last post, I noticed something that I think deserves mention. When those of us who struggle with depression are honest about how we are feeling, sometimes those who are “normal” (and by that I mean people who have never been formally diagnosed with depression) present the depressed person with what I’m going to call escape routes. Those may take the form of a trip somewhere, a meal out, a weekend adventure.
Sometimes no mention is made of the depressed person’s struggles. Sometimes it is. And while I’m sure their motives are coming from a genuinely compassionate place, and they may not know what else to do or say, I want to let them know what is the most helpful thing they can do: hold the space.
Holding the space for someone who is going through a difficult time in their life – whether it’s because they are grieving a loss, chronically depressed, physically ill, caring for someone who is ill, or a host of other reasons – can be the kindest, most compassionate thing you can do. It doesn’t require elaborate displays, big promises, witty words or clever memes. It doesn’t ask either party to do anything outside of their personal comfort zone. It just asks you to be present.
Holding the space looks like any or all of these things, at least to me:
- a Like, heart or smile emoticon on a Facebook post or in a tweet
- a virtual hug
- a hug in person
- a note in the mail that says “I am thinking of you”
- a private message (email or social media) that says “I am thinking of you”
I know that asking people to do what may look like nothing of substance may fly in the face of what society deems helpful. I think most folks (myself included) want to contribute tangible items or experiences, because it’s measurable.
But here’s the thing: it’s the little moments of grace and goodness, the one-sentence messages of love and support that grow bigger and brighter in the heart of the person who receives AND in the heart of the person who gave. It’s the heart emojis that show we are willing to spread love in a world full of fear, anger and hate. It’s the intangible work of holding the space that, in time, presents tangible results – ones that foster hope, faith and love in the world and shine a light into the darkest of places, no matter where those dark places may be.