(Mis)understanding the melancholy
Wednesday was a peculiar day in the diabetes-blogosphere. Usually a day for few words and many pictures (hence, the “Wordless Wednesday” theme), it seemed I read post after post about PWD’s dealing with depression and overall mental health challenges. After reading Allison’s post on D’Mine, I was inspired to write this.
I’m pretty sure I don’t have any depression-related issues myself. Although I questioned it a bit on Friday after a couple of rough weeks, I’m pretty sure it’s just the run-of-the-mill doldrums. Honestly, I wouldn’t be able to explain how I would know if my discouragement was something more serious. How does a person know if they are depressed? I can only imagine it’s like how you know when you’ve fallen madly head-over-heels in love with someone: it’s hard to describe those feelings, but if it happens, you’ll definitely know.
When I read these blog entries, like the one I mentioned earlier – as well as this one and this one – and then I read the comments that follow, it exemplifies for me just how important it is to respect and care for one’s mental health as well as physical health. I see the how burdensome and emotionally draining this can be, and even as a mere observer, it tears me up inside to read about such great people going through such difficulty.
Discussing one’s own emotional state, not only with a therapist, but on the Internet where the world can read it, is an incredibly brave thing to do. It is a glaring indication of strength written amid paragraphs of melancholy. It compels me to say something in response, something encouraging, but I’m not always strong enough to do that.
I mean, I realize that living with diabetes is tough, but what can I really say? To say that I understand what the author is going through is like telling my wife that I understand how hard it is to go through the later months of pregnancy (no, she’s not pregnant again). Sure, I recognize it’s not easy, and I see the effects, but do I really understand? Can I really relate to how it feels? No, I cannot.
Sometimes I think I should offer advice, but then I think I shouldn’t. Sometimes I wonder if I should try to relate, but I don’t want to come across stupid, like as that guy who knows someone who knows someone who’s lost a body part to diabetes (even though he means well by saying it). Sometimes I want to be compassionate, but not in a cynical Bill Clinton-esque “I feel your pain” kind of way.
Maybe the best way to respond is with the four simple-yet-powerful words made famous by James Taylor: You’ve Got a Friend.
It’s hard for me. Hard to know what to say. Hard to express how I’m feeling without sounding disingenuous, without sounding patronizing. In some of the stories I’ve read, I’ve learned about the feeling of guilt – feeling guilty for living with diabetes while others die from it. Trust me, sometimes I feel guilty for not having the same mental health anxieties that so many others deal with.
When I extend a helping hand, please don’t be upset if I don’t know just what to do with it. I’m not a trained professional, I’m just trying to do what seems right and what feels right. Trying to do unto others as I’d have them do unto me, if the tables were turned.
And so, rather than let it go unsaid, I feel that now is a good time to tell you, my friends with diabetes, that I do care about you and about the emotional toll it inflicts. If I’ve ever hurt you by saying the wrong thing – or by not saying anything at all – I apologize. Even in the writing of this post, I’ve tried to be mindful of my audience, trying not to single anybody out or appear to forget who might be reading this. I hope I’ve done well in that. All I ever want is to be sincere, honest, and caring.
Yes, it’s hard for me to know how to say the right thing, but that difficulty is trivial compared to the tribulations you deal with and blog about. Even though I can’t fully relate to what you go through, I see what it’s doing to you and I want offer support. When I used the words “brave” and “strength” in the fourth paragraph, I meant it. Stay strong, and be well. I’m here for you.