I heard these words on Monday:
“I understand your dread of another ‘down’. Among the more perfectly useless and insensitive things to say in this world is to tell someone not to worry about something which, although deeply unpleasant, is regular and inevitable, so I won’t say that.”
From Friday lunchtime to Monday afternoon, I was in the grip of a migraine that left me lethargic and hostile, even when the pain had been temporarily driven back, grumbling and threatening, to its lair. The painkillers stop the ice-pick driving through my left eye, but they do nothing for the numbness down the side of my face, the heavy exhaustion, inability to think and the hate I feel for the world.
Inevitably, I was worried, terrified even, that this was the beginning of another depression.
I am lucky enough to have a wonderful man in my life. I was given a gentle head stroke and the words above.
“I so much wish I had the magical power to ease the worry from your mind,” he said. “I feel so immensely helpless. None of us is in the least able to carry another’s burden.”
His words, however, did indeed help. They were words of acceptance and love.
Empathy is not necessarily having a full understanding of another’s condition, but the ability to walk alongside them; to offer a helping hand where the road is rough, an encouraging word when needed and, for the rest, silence.
Some people find silence impossible and are full of good advice. “Sit down and rest,” “Give that load to someone else,” “Cheer up: it could be worse;” even, “Your load is self-inflected and largely imaginary.”
Who needs friends like that?
None of it helps in the least. Quiet company does.
I have a few good friends and loved ones who do understand. These people know, when I am shut in that dungeon again, to just sit beside me, holding the candle of hope, helping me believe the door will be opened again, and I will walk in the sunshine once more.
These friends do not try to cheer me up; they do not offer advice; they do not try to “fix” me. They offer what Himself calls “quiet comradeship,” and I am grateful beyond expression.
This morning, the migraine had retreated, and my energy levels have returned. The depression is not, after all, scheduled for this week.
I shall remember, however, those loving words, and treasure them.
I hope you too, have good friends like that and are, in your turn, a good friend.