Many of us appreciate that living with someone who is feeling low, fed up, anxious or out of control can be difficult. Not so many however are able to work out the best way to help those who are struggling. Our thinking and behaviour towards our friends and loved ones who are perhaps going through difficult times can become introverted instead of generous and all that matters is how we feel. In extreme cases the scenario develops into a power game as some find it is easier to protect themselves and their wants and needs rather than to think creatively in order to help and understand others. Once this pattern of behaviour is established it’s hard to break but one of the best ways to help yourself cope and bring back some equilibrium and peace is to be more considerate and patient towards those clearly suffering. It doesn’t take much and it is amazing just how uplifting being nice to someone can be when rewarded with a smile, a hug or a simple thank you. In all probability, you will also find that by making someone’s life easier to bear by providing kindness and understanding that your world becomes warmer and brighter too.
The sun and the wind-Aesop
The North Wind boasted of great strength. The Sun argued that there was great power in gentleness.”We shall have a contest,” said the Sun.Far below, a man traveled a winding road. He was wearing a warm winter coat.”As a test of strength,” said the Sun, “Let us see which of us can take the coat off of that man.”
“It will be quite simple for me to force him to remove his coat,” bragged the Wind.The Wind blew so hard, the birds clung to the trees. The world was filled with dust and leaves. But the harder the wind blew down the road, the tighter the shivering man clung to his coat.
Then, the Sun came out from behind a cloud. Sun warmed the air and the frosty ground. The man on the road unbuttoned his coat.The sun grew slowly brighter and brighter.Soon the man felt so hot, he took off his coat and sat down in a shady spot.
“How did you do that?” said the Wind.
“It was easy,” said the Sun, “I lit the day. Through gentleness I got my way.”
One in four people suffer from a mental illness at any time. So, to have a household with 2 out of 2 adults diagnosed with depression at the same time may seem a wee bit unlucky. Our house is not the hive of activity and entertainment it once was with visitors staying over most weekends and lively discussions into the early hours, but neither is it a den of doom and gloom. We like to look upon the enforced change on our previously hectic social life as a refocussing exercise. Instead of racing around all week like headless chickens catching up from the weekend before whilst at the same time planning ahead to the next one, we now have the time to be together, support each other and do what we want and have to do for the best of our health. In many ways we have become very selfish and now guard this extra time ferociously.
We understand that rest and relaxation is important. We also know that neither of us should sink into the habit of doing nothing. Lists therefore are a big part of our lives. There are lists everywhere. Lists in the kitchen, lists in the bedroom. Coat pockets are full of receipts…and lists. Long lists (never a good idea) and partially fulfilled lists. In fact, there are so many lists lying around that we probably need a “List of Lists”.
I often wonder whether it is easier for two people with depression to live together in (hopefully) mutual understanding and support as opposed to a couple where only one is diagnosed. Depression is a difficult illness to explain to those who are lucky enough to avoid it, and it affects people differently. If you have depression and recognse that your behaviour and attitudes have changed as a result this may be an easier concept to grasp than if you have had no experience of the illness. In our case, this definitely resonates. Only when my husband became depressed and suffered the unbearable symptoms of apathy, distress, loss of confidence and insomnia, did he truly appreciate how I often felt. It is a shame that this understanding could only come about because of his own experience of depression but I like to think that he is a much more sympathetic and emotionally aware person as a result.
With this mutual understanding come the crucial coping strategies of tolerance, patience, support, encouragement, positive thinking, and hope. All those qualities which I would like to think apply to all relationships where depression is a factor, but are difficult to put into practice. So, if someone you love is affected by depression, try to understand. Try to be patient and give them time. Depression can be cured. You may have to adapt your current lifestyle for a period but make the most of the changes. Think positively and remember that one day it may be you who needs help.