To celebrate national Mental Health Week, we’ve got a new card to welcome – The ‘I’m real good at listening’ card!
As you are all aware, I’m a big advocate for the skill of listening and I’ve banged on and on about it before. But as a person who has experienced mental illness in the past, the thing I really like about listening is that it is the opposite to ‘fixing’.
When I am in an episode of depression or anxiety or denial about the demise of mental state, it’s really important that my loved ones don’t try and fix things. When I’m feeling depressed I don’t want to be ‘fixed’. If I knew how to fix myself, I would have already tried. The reality is that I can’t even comprehend that daily functioning is possible, let alone a complete ‘fix’. But if someone comes along using this frame of reference or sprouting solutions, things will most probably get worse. If someone tries to fix me, I can rarely hear them, or understand them. This must be very frustrating for my loved one, which probably only makes things worse. Oh, what a conundrum.
Listening deeply to a loved one’s suffering or experience with a mental illness can be really difficult. It can cause us to feel uncomfortable. It might stir up feelings in ourselves that we’re not all that happy with. We might feel awkward and worry about saying or doing the right thing or afraid we might make something worse. And often to overcome some of these issues we try and jump in with solutions. But sometimes things can’t be solved. Mental illness is rarely something that is easily fixed. Often the best thing for someone though is the opportunity to be heard.
And even though you might be ready to listen, your loved one might not be ready to talk. At length. And that’s okay too. If they know that there’s someone ready to listen - when they’re ready to talk - that’s a gift in itself. The gift of knowing that when things are shit, there’s still people there waiting for you.
You can check out the card here.