Saying So to Some Means Nothing; Others it Leaves Nothing to be Said.

After a series of candid posts from my good pal Gary at his site klahanie, I thought that I would dedicate this particular posting to him. It seems to me that Gary is having a particularly difficult time at the moment, due to a number of trying circumstances. As if this were not enough, those of you who read Gary's blog will know that he also lives with a debilitating illness. I say "lives with" because Gary always says that himself. He does not like to say that he "suffers" from depression, as he is, despite this condition, always trying to find the positives in his situation. By doing this I'm sure he offers inspiration and solace to the many who read his blog.
So, Gary, this one's for you, my hairy, hippy friend. And, as dismantling the stigma around mental ill health is a large part of what both our blogs are about, I thought I would give some consideration to what it is like for those who do not live with a mental illness, but perhaps know someone who does.
Caring for someone who has, or has had, experience of mental ill health is difficult at the best of times. To maintain support for someone who may act in ways, or say things, which seem out of character for them can be a hard and trying experience. I know from my own history of mental illness how difficult it must have been for my parents to go through seeing their son behave in ways which appeared alien to them. I can only continue to thank them for understanding that I was very ill, and that it was my illness which caused such torment.
Some, however, are not so lucky. Many who suffer with mental illness often become estranged from family and friends. This, of course, can be due to the lack of knowledge and misunderstandings which surround mental ill health, but perhaps those of us who have actually been through such conditions ourselves should acknowledge that, at times, it is just as difficult for the carer, be it friend or family member. While we go through a roller coaster of emotions, the fact that they care for us means that they inevitably do the same. Some even end up with symptoms of mental illness themselves, due to the downright stress of it all.
On a different, but related, note, I think it can also be difficult to know what exactly to say to someone who may be experiencing the symptoms of mental illness. Particularly in terms of depression, symptoms may be misread for simple laziness or self-pity, and what people say when they feel this is the case can be damaging and hurtful. It also seems to be the case, and going on my own experience, that we do not want to be patronised or cajoled either. So, I think that those who are concerned about others' wellbeing have to choose their words carefully. The last thing, I feel, one should say to someone in the throes of depression is "pull yourself together", or "well, we all get depressed sometimes". Such comments show a misunderstanding of the illness and can only compound an already fragile situation.
Now, having been well myself for a significant period of time, I often find myself in the situation of trying to find the right words for others who may be experiencing difficulties. It is hard, sometimes, to offer solace to someone who is trapped by their own negative feelings. This is why I feel Gary is exceptional, as not only does he articulate his own plight, but by doing so he also offers hope to so many more, and I know he has created a wealth of good feeling through his blog and throughout "the great blogging community", as he calls it. And, the many kind comments he gets reflect that there is, perhaps, a growing understanding of mental health issues. Also, no doubt, this is due to the fact that Gary, in a transparent way, shows that there is a genuine, sensitive, caring and funny human being lying behind the illness.
So, if you know someone or care for someone who has such difficulties, it is understandable just how hard this can be. In the end, perhaps all we want to hear is some words of genuine understanding. Not to be patronised or offered unwanted sympathy, but just to be recognised as a person who happens to have an illness. In the words of Philip Larkin, then, (used somewhat out of context, I'm afraid), saying so to some means nothing; others it leaves nothing to be said.         


bazza said…
David, this was a very kind act of you to highlight your friend's situation. I am sure that your support is vital to him. Gary is very positive for 99% of the time. I think Larkin's poem that you quoted is actually very pessimistic (but you did say it was out of context).
Having seen a mental breakdown from a very close distance I can verify your words especially about the stress and helplessness.
Click here for Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’
klahanie said…
Dear David,
Your act of altruism resonates with the kind, caring and indeed, most importantly, the empathetic gentleman you truly are.
Through your profound and inspirational observations here, it is my hope that more will read and understand, become aware, of just what it can be like to been in the throes of mental health concerns.
We have both been trying to enlighten, via our blogs, that the unfair stigma surrounding mental health issues needs to be eradicated. We have a ways to go, but through our writings, we can show that mental health issues are only a small part of who we are.
May your ongoing recovery continue to give hope to those who suffer. May they seek out positive resources and understand that they are not alone.
Thank you for this wonderful posting and thank you for saying such kind and caring things about me. And, my friend, to increase awareness of what you do, I'm going to promote you on a couple of social network sites. You have an important message and it's a message more should be made aware of.
With respect and admiration, your way, Gary
David, what a wonderful post and a wonderful way to show Gary your support. I adore Gary...

He is entering a new phase in his life as his son is making some big changes in his life.

Gary has been helping me with a writing project by sending me photographs and information about Leek. (Thanks Gary!)
David said…
Dear bazza,
Yes, I do hope that Gary likes this post (from his comment he appears to!) and we are, of course, a support for each other. And, thank you for noticing that I did say that Larkin's poem was quoted out of context, because it is indeed rather pessimistic. With lines like "Hours giving evidence/ Or birth, advance/ On death equally slowly" how could it not be!
Also, I'm sorry to hear that you had to see someone go through a breakdown. Of course, I only know of things from the perspective of going through it myself, but as I say in my post, it must be distressing for everyone involved.
Very Best Wishes to you, bazza,
David said…
Dear Gary,
Phew! I'm glad that you appreciated this little posting, dedicated to your good self. I just thought you seemed to be having a tough time of it of late, and I hoped that this may bring just a little light relief.
No doubt we will both continue to try to dismantle the stigma surrounding mental illness, and personally I think we're both doing a damn fine job so far!
Very Best Wishes to you, my hirsute friend,
David said…
Dear Sharon,
I think everyone who meets Gary eventually comes to "adore" him, and it seems just like him to be offering his support to you too. I know he has made many friends in the blogging community, and knowing him in "3-D", I can decidedly say that he would live up to all your expectations.
He also appears to get many female admirers (sorry, followers) on his blog, which kind of makes me a little envious!
Thanks for stopping by, and please feel free to visit or comment again.
Very Best Wishes,
Dixie said…
Hi David.
As i was looking over your sight for an interesting read, I found I'd missed this one. Wow, and it's so very nice!
It's comforting to find friends with the ability, the experience to empathise. I have so few, yet within the framework of blogging I am blessed to be understood.
I equally appreciate you and Gary. Neither of you is short on talent and genuineness. I do hope this post brings the most positive feedback and assistance.
Friend to you, both, Dixie

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