The other day I inquired about a watch that I wanted to buy from a woman who was selling it online. I sent her a message and told her to give me a call if the watch was still available. I was shocked when I immediately received a phone call from a strange number. I thought it was a telemarketer since I had literally just sent the message. But it was the woman to whom the watch belonged. I started to ask a few questions about it and how to go about the transaction, but before I could even get a word in, she started going on and on about how it was her husband’s and how he was a stunt man for western movies, and so on. I thought “oh great, I call for a watch and I get a life story”. But once she started talking I didn’t interrupt. I didn’t say a word, actually. She just kept talking on and on about her husband and his occupation and how she was getting rid of his belongings. I learned that he had died recently and she had little to no family anywhere nearby. To make matters worse, her late husband was unable to be covered by life insurance because of his condition before he passed.
As the conversation went on, I understood why she was so willing to tell a perfect stranger all of these things. She probably had not had anyone to talk to in a while. Maybe she talks to people all the time. I don’t know. I conversed with her and told her about our life in the country and we exchanged an interest for the ranch life and horses, etc. The watch was off the table. We were no longer discussing it, and she asked if we would ever like to come to her house and see all of her husbands memorabilia and go through his collection and so on. From what I gathered, she was a very lonely woman who simply wanted some company and longed for conversation. She was alone at this point and had been for a while, not to mention all of the hardships she had to face by herself. it was an interesting phone call, to say the least.
When we hung up, at least 30 minutes later, I started thinking about how long winded our conversation was. She seemed like a nice person with a happy spirit, but I have no idea what she was harboring, internally. I was happy to listen to her tell me about her late husband for 30 minutes because maybe she needed the conversation, someone to just talk to.
Have you ever had that happen to you? Someone out of thin air comes pouring out their heart to you and your first reaction is that they are weird or creepy, so you back off or find an excuse to stop talking to them? I know I have, but never will again.
Too many people in this world take their own lives every single day for reason none other than feeling as if they have no one, nothing. I have known people who have personally took their own life. People who I never would have thought would do such a thing, but you never know what anyone is going through unless you listen. It’s tough, because sometimes the people who scream the loudest on the inside are the people who seemingly have nothing to say on the exterior.
I use to despise anyone and everyone who ever talked about suicide or committed suicide. I did not feel sorry for them and I would hear no part of it. I was convinced that it was a selfish thing to do, to leave people behind that you love because you “just can’t go on”. How ignorant I was. How incredibly ignorant of a thing to think. For those of you who have read my series under “Testimonials”, you will know that I was threatened with suicide weekly. I was involved in an abusive relationship where I was abused in more ways than one, and cheated on more often than not. If I wanted to leave, I could do so, but not without him threatening to kill himself. He would leave a suicide note, inevitable blaming me for his shortcomings and I would be the bad guy. So, the thought of suicide disgusted me because it was always used as a threat of vengeance.
After I finally got out of that relationship, I thought I was fine. I thought I was in the free and clear. It wasn’t until months later that I would begin having nightmares (that still haunt me on a weekly basis), and I would start feeling an overwhelming sensation of depression. I was absolutely out of place. My roommates at the time were peppy party girls, and I was too, but only on the outside. At the end of the day, nothing made me happy. No party, no person, nothing. I kept wanting to talk to people about how I was feeling, how weird it was that I was so sad all of the time without knowing why, but I was told that my depression “wasn’t a good look”, and that it would all blow over.
After a few sessions with a therapist I had been seeing for a while, she concluded that my depression was likely a form of Post Traumatic Stress brought on by having been through what I had been through in my past relationship. I didn’t think that sounded right, I thought PTSD was only for soldiers returning from war. What I didn’t know then is that I had been through a war of my own, but I would have never been able to identify the origin of my depression on my own.
Time went on. I moved and went to OSU, I made friends right away. I thought, once again, that I was in the free and clear. I would eventually learn that depression is not something that just leaves you. It is a rouge wave, in my case. I can be out with my friends, chatting and having a great time one minute, and the next, I am angry or sad and ready to go home without any idea or reasoning behind such an onset of emotion. It doesn’t make sense to people who have never experienced it, and it often triggers anxiety attacks, if you are unfortunate enough to have both.
Doctors can prescribe you all sorts of fun things to numb you, but what happens when you run out of your vice? You’re struck by reality and forced to deal with the inevitable. I have been prescribed and offered everything from Zoloft to Xanax to pot. I don’t want or need any of it. What I need/needed are people who surround me to understand what I am going through. If I can just say “hey, I’m not feeling this atmosphere. I think I’m going to call it a night and go home”, that would be a hell of a lot easier than trying to explain that I am having terrible thoughts and my heart rate is rising so I need to get the hell out of here before I come unglued, only to be told that I am being a party pooper and I’m killing the vibe.
It just isn’t what people think it is. Not everyone who is depressed is curled up in a corner all day crying. Not even by a long shot. Most people who are depressed or suffer from anxiety are social, working, fully functioning people with hobbies and friends. The hard part is talking to people about depression. Again, those who do not suffer often times will not understand the severity of the emotions, so if you have a friend who is depressed, they are likely not going to sit down with you and be like “hey man. I’m, like, way depressed today”. They may drop hints and start to open up about something they are feeling, but if you shut them down with “it’s all in your head”, or “you’ll get over it eventually”, then they will cease to open up to you ever again. You’ve closed that gateway that could have helped them feel better, had you just listened.
Here are a few things to understand about people who are depressed:
1.) They aren’t readily identifiable
2.) They’re not always on medication
3.) Many prefer to not be on medication
4.) Depression is often heavily correlated with anxiety
5.) Not everyone who is depressed has suicidal thoughts
6.) Depression can cause major mood swings
7.) Depression can cause people to assume that they do not fit in or are unlikable
8.) Most people who have depression don’t show it or talk about it, initiate the conversation if you’re suspicious
9.) According to recent studies, someone commits suicide every 15 minutes
10.) Some people who suffer from depression are not aware that they suffer from it, which can be an absolutely dangerous case
I had a meltdown of my own a few days ago. I won’t go into detail, but I almost ran away. Yes, I am a grown adult with a husband, dogs, a full-time job, a house, and I almost ran away without packing a thing. I was having strange thoughts, and I felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone about them, not my mom, not my husband, not a friend, no one. What’s more, I don’t know what I’d say if I did talk. But I saw the conversation going a little something like this:
Me: “I’m depressed.”
Other: “Why, what’s wrong?”
Me: “I don’t know, actually. I’m just sad and I can’t figure out why.”
Other: “Well if you don’t know, then how can you be depressed?”
Those conversations are pointless and don’t offer any desirable end result, so I avoid them at all costs by keeping my hands busy and staying to myself. Clint caught on to my mood, and after probing me several times and me reassuring him several times that nothing was wrong, I caved. To make a long story short, I cried for hours to my husband about things that I thought might be making me unhappy. Most of it had to do with pressure. Lucky for me, he’s a wonderful listener and offered all the sound advice and support he had in his heart to give. He just listened more than he talked. And even though I probably talked in circles and made no sense at times, he still just listened to what I had to say, and as the day progressed, I felt better.
Fast forward to the phone conversation with the watch lady: before I rolled my eyes and cursed myself for answering the phone, I reminded myself of my own breakdown, and remembered how much I valued a listener. My listener just so happen to be Clint that day, because he was there. But I would have talked to anyone who would have listened and not shunned me for shedding a few tears. Being vulnerable isn’t sexy, but it has a way of keeping me honest. On that particular day, I was her listener. I, for what ever reason, just so happened to be the person on the other end of her phone, listening to her tell me about things that were absolutely none of my business, and I was happy to do it. I think she actually forgot that the reason I called in the first place was to buy her watch, but I don’t care. The watch has a small price tag and I will eventually find another. Having someone to talk to, having a listener, is hard to come by. Moreover, it could be the reason someone’s day turns around, or the reason they spare their own life.
So next time you get seated on an airplane next to the guy who just won’t shut up, or you can’t escape Chatty Kathy at the bar, just take a minute to really listen to them. Don’t brush them off. They might be depressed and need someone to just chat with, or they might just really be a talkative person with no filter. There difference is that there is no way to tell. Maybe it is a minor inconvenience or temporary uncomfortable situation for you, but to them it could mean the world to have even five minutes of someone else’s time and attention.
Something to think about.