Yesterday I had a very personal conversation with someone very close to me about his depression. In the middle of our conversation he asked, ‘If I didn’t tell you that I had depression, would you know?’
I thought about it. No.
‘Many depressed people can go around laughing and smiling… and the next thing you know, they’ve killed themselves. Lu Wee, it’s not easy to detect people who don’t have much life in them left, you know?’
I thought about this. It’s pretty true.
In my darkest days I did not tell anyone except my sister about the deep pain I felt. I didn’t like revealing too much to other people, mainly because I was irritated by their mostly meaningless advice of, ‘cheer up’, ‘look on the bright side’… (duh, I knew that already).
In our culture, it’s not okay to be not okay. It’s not okay to not always be smiling and cheerful, and positive…
(@$#@$, I even had friends apologising to me for not being okay.)
When people talk to us about their problems, we instinctively want to help feel better. It’s like their being not okay is a problem that needs to be solved immediately.
The truth is that we can’t always help the other person feel better. Some problems take time to solve. We can’t make time go faster.
So what can we do?
The only thing we can do (sometimes)… is just sit and listen, without thinking about how to solve the problem.
I know, it’s pretty counterintuitive. But sometimes that is the best we can do. Companionship during times of hardship can often times be worth more than advice.
Of course, there will come a time when honest talk is necessary, but often time people listen to advice only from people that they know loves and cares about them. So in that way, attentive listening and companionship always comes before advice.
So, if ever you don’t feel okay, and if that day is today, I want you to know that it’s okay.
It’s really okay.
There is much more pain hidden underneath a facade of joy than we can imagine. So be kind.