When it comes to asking for help we forget how happy we would be to give that help to someone else, but struggle asking for or accepting it ourselves…
As a fulltime working single mom to 3 teenagers and depression sufferer I have over the years NOT been ok. At some points I have not even been able to get out of bed – not even for my children who are my world. I have not cared about eating, about getting showered or dressed. I have quite simply wanted to check out of the world. Anyone meeting me would never guess that I need to manage my depression every day.
Some days I do better than others and can go weeks without a “bad day”, but there are times when it feels like the world is on my shoulders and the hole I am in too deep to even try and climb out of. Depression does that you see – it takes the light out of your world, even if there is light there. For some reason you cannot see it, cannot see the hope, the possible, the achievable. And the more you think about things the bleaker they seem. It really is something very difficult to describe and even more so to understand unless you have experienced it yourself.
The other debilitating part of depression is you start to feel like a burden to those around you. You start to feel valueless and insignificant and unworthy. It makes it very hard to ask for and sometimes, accept, help. Sometimes I don’t feel worthy of the help, sometimes it feels as if it wouldn’t make a difference so why bother or “put someone out”. Funny that when it comes to asking for help we forget how happy we would be to give that help to someone else but struggle asking for or accepting it ourselves.
For many of us, women and men, we often feel like we need to be able to manage and cope ourselves. We see others doing it (or seem to!) so why can’t we? Social media, TV shows, movies, influencers for the most part show the shiny, sparkly, perfect side of life – I am not sure one can even call it reality anymore as for many of us it reflects very little of our own reality.
We have goals we would like to achieve, a “wish list” of where we would like to be by the age of 20, 30, 40 and so on. Have you heard that saying “man makes plans and God laughs”? I think the pandemic has shown that to be kind of true. None of us planned to be in lockdown, at the mercy of a pandemic, 12 months ago. We didn’t expect to be working from home, home schooling, avoiding those we love, missing birthdays and other events, getting to grips with virtual meetings, events and gatherings.
So how have me managed to get through the past 12 months? For me it has been difficult. The first almost global lockdown meant my children could not move over to join me in London. It meant my plans for a home fell through. It meant I wasn’t able to see my friends and family. It meant the change in my job wouldn’t materialize for a while. My plans, as for thousands of people around the world, meant nothing.
It came as quite a blow and I floundered and cried quite a lot. What could I do, how would I cope, when would it end? And slowly people seemed to rally around each other. Whatsapp groups were formed, people started messaging more often, spending time on the phone speaking to family, friends and colleagues. Offers were made to help those who were shielding and couldn’t get to the shops. Groups were set up where people volunteered to help those who needed it, and one by one people raised their hands and said “I need help” while others quietly went about helping.
I have kept up with doorstep deliveries and surprising my friends with little gifts – cupcakes for Valentines Day and Mother’s Day. A bunch of flowers or biscuits or bottle of wine when they are feeling blue. It is all about the little things and about listening to those who are talking and listening even more closely to those who are not. The silence is often the loudest if you just listen. It could very well be the cry for help someone is unable to verbalise, the hole someone is slowly slipping into, the worry and anguish that is becoming all-consuming and debilitating.
So, listen to the silence, remember the little things and keep going. There is always light at the end of the tunnel – sometimes you just need help seeing it.
Nici is the Office Manager & Wellbeing Officer in the Education Department of Gray’s Inn, and Committee Member of the Wellbeing at the Bar Working Group