As someone who has lived with anxiety and depression on and off for many years, there is one thing that has always remained. It doesn’t cost a penny, it can’t be bought or sold, but it is one of the most valuable things to me.
A listening ear. It is that listening ear that has got me through some of the toughest times in my life. But this is a particular kind of listening ear. One that comes without judgement.
You see, one of the hardest things for us folk who struggle with anxiety and depression is the fear of judgement. We are pretty hard on ourselves at the best of times. So, to open ourselves up to others, let them in and tell them our struggles, can be one of the scariest things in the world.
If you are like me, you like to keep these ‘dark secrets’ and weird and wonderful ways, carefully hidden. You work hard at the pretense that everything is fine and lock away as much as possible from those around you. But sometimes, like a kettle that is about to boil, the pressure is just too much. And it is at those boiling points that you kind of just, well, burst. The trick is making sure you share how you feel with someone so you don’t actually get to that bursting point!
Opening yourself up to someone is hard
However, in my experience, there are certain people that you tell who seem to make things so much worse. Opening yourself up to someone is hard. I don’t tend to start my conversations with ‘Hi, I’m Ciara, I get stupidly anxious over nothing at all and sometimes just want to hide away’. As you can imagine, I’m sure my conversations would probably end there.
Speaking to someone and having them judge and criticise you is like someone telling you you are useless, that you are not a particularly good person and that there is something seriously wrong. Do you not think that we ponder these things ourselves? That we berate ourselves most days for struggling to function in what society deems as a ‘normal’ way?
Enter my non-judgemental ear. Someone who has been there for the past 10 years of this weird-and-wonderful-brain-of-mine. Someone who at times struggled desperately to understand, but who listened all the same. That someone I am proud to call my best friend. Over the years she has pushed me onto trains when I have wanted to run screaming, taken me to gigs when I have wanted to hide in the corner, and sat and cried with me when I simply couldn’t leave my house.
She is someone who is always at the end of the phone
She is someone who is always at the end of the phone. Who, even if she has nothing to say, will simply listen. Sometimes I don’t want her to say anything, and she knows those moments too. And sometimes she will simply say, ‘I’m sorry, dude. I wish there was something I could do to make it better.’ As a strong Christian, I know she has always prayed for me, encouraged me and done all she could to be there for me, even in those moments where the answers seem so clear to her. But to me they seem like climbing Everest.
I don’t know what the next ten years will look like, but I know one thing, my non-judgemental ear will be there, providing me with the support that I will never take for granted.
All you need to do is be there. Without judgement.
If you know someone who is struggling with their mental health just remember this. You don’t need to have wise words, you don’t need to have all the answers and you don’t even need to have experienced it yourself. All you need to do is be there. Without judgement. Sometimes with a cup of tea, and more importantly with a hug.
Never underestimate the power of a non-judgemental ear and a hug. I reckon with these two things in your grasp you could really help change the world!