On the subject of caring.

27 Jun 2016

Whilst trying to assist a colleague through a rough patch recently, a wailing, despairing type of rough patch, you know the one, I was struck by how helpless I felt, even having been there so many times myself.

It didn't help that I could only respond by phone having received a far-too-bright text with "help me" written clearly between the lines. I had to listen to this lovely person wailing their heart out on the other end of the line, when I wanted to just hug them, listen and hand out the tissues."

And I realised, even as a fellow passenger of the good old roller-coaster that is bi-polar and its siblings, that mere blandishments over the phone seemed so glaringly insufficient.

The colleague was in a place of safety, hiding upstairs, family downstairs, an understanding one at that, but he didn't feel he could impose, as "There's nothing really wrong with me".

I tried to tempt him out remotely, using the following analogies, on the basis that people want to be allowed to try to help, and they can't try to help if you shut yourself away.

Thus, if you find someone lying in the road, you don't attempt heart surgery, but you care, within the limits of your expertise – from getting assistance, keeping them warm, safe and comforted. You are there for them.

A sick child: comfort, warmth, a tentative diagnosis to assess need for intervention, and reassurance go a long way. You are there for them.

A friend suffering a bereavement of someone very dear to them – hopefully most of us haven't had this experience – just listening helps a lot. You are there for them.

A howling, grief-ridden pal, partner or relative arriving in your midst, you don't immediately start psychotherapy, you sling an arm around them and dole out the tissues. You are there for them.

So my message is, I think, that we must allow people to try to help, as I find just being with people, and being allowed to be there but not there, is good therapy.


A Moodscope member.

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