” Who Do You Talk To?”

I’m gonna say this right from the beginning.  Depression is an uncomfortable subject for most people.  If  not forced to speak about it we’d all probably avoid any conversation concerning it and any other mental health issues.  Why am I writing about it today?  Well, in the last two weeks I’ve had friends mention depression on social media sites.  I’ve had family members reveal that they themselves have battled depression in the past.  Recent news stories have included some well known celebrities dealing with personal issues.  In many of these instances it appears that those dealing with depression were reluctant to discuss it with anyone, including those closest to them.  Over the course of my life I’ve been fortunate enough to have people trust in my words.  From an early age I’ve found myself in the position of being the “voice of reason”.  Countless conversations, too many situations to recall, but I’m thankful for them.  Talking family and friends through tough times aided me in dealing with my personal challenges.

Which leads us to these questions: Who do you talk to when you are emotionally challenged?  Whom do you trust when you need emotional support? Do you recognize when you are not feeling “yourself”?  Are you reluctant to accept the fact that maybe sometimes you need a little emotional support?  I understand.  I am no doctor nor do I play one on TV, but I’ve had people confide in me when they were mentally drained and needed an ear.  Let me share a couple of stories with you. 

When I was in the eighth grade I had a close friend struggling with behavior in school.  She argued and fought constantly, frequently at odds with teachers and administrators.  Almost every day.  It did not help that she was bullied for being in remedial classes.  She didn’t talk to many, but she and I would talk between classes and after school while walking to the bus.  After one particularly tough day for her I decided to console her, but did not know what to say.  So finally, I just asked, “What the hell is wrong with you girl.”  She cried and just said she did not know.  After some time she got comfortable and started to talk.  What she described could be considered depression, but obviously neither one of us eighth graders knew what that was or what to do about it.  She was having trouble sleeping.  She was always tired and fatigued.  She could not concentrate.  She was unhappy and had no motivation.  She was uncomfortable around people.  And had no one to talk to.  We remained friends and kept in contact until I transferred to a different high school.  I saw her some years later and she revealed the source of her frustration back in Junior High School.  She was in a much better emotional space and thanked me for just “listening”. 

In 2007 I went to San Antonio, Texas for some company training.  There were four instructors hosting the classes.  On my second day there, one particular instructor and I struck up a conversation about motorcycles.  I’m an enthusiast and he had a pretty impressive collection.  He and I started hanging out during lunch talking about bikes and shared interests.  He told me he was ready to buy a new bike and invited me to go to the motorcycle shop with him.  So one day after class we headed down to the local shop.  As we were driving the instructor started talking about his personal life.  He had three daughters and was divorced.  He had a new fiance that he himself described as his “next trophy wife”.  He was doing “alright” financially, coming from a successful family and having great career, and every “toy” a man would want.  But, somehow, some way, as he spoke, I looked at him and could “see” unhappiness behind his smile.  The more he talked I realized that he still loved his wife.  He never said it directly, but everything he said implied that he could not believe that she would leave him.  He had EVERYTHING that they would ever need.  At one point I almost said to him, “Just tell her that you still love her.”  I could not bring myself to say it being that I had not known him that long.  I noticed that being in class was the happiest time for him.  Outside of the classroom he wasn’t the same.  The training lasted two weeks.  On the last day the trainer and I exchanged numbers and promised to keep in touch.  He told me to take care of my family and wished me luck with the company.  I did likewise.  Three months after returning home our branch received the news that this trainer, considered one of the best in his field, committed suicide.  Every now and then I wonder if any words unsaid could have helped him.  I wonder if he had anyone to talk to.

Never underestimate the power of listening.  And sometimes, when you’re listening, you must pay attention to what is NOT said.  And, for those who need someone to talk to, please find a trusted friend, family member or professional confidant to express how you feel.  It is ok.  You’re not alone in being in this place.  Your path to better days ahead is easier when you have someone to travel with.

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