June 27, 2013

JohnDepression, my black dog, for me started early. I vividly remember breaking down, I must have been about 12, during a Saturday night family dinner due to the most intense feeling of futility and frustration with my life. God, the pain was excruciating at that age - still is but now I guess I'm used to it.

My parents had no idea how to respond

My parents, as lovely as they are, had no idea how to respond. My father’s approach, when not brutally teasing and making fun of me, was the usual: ‘There’s people worse off than you’, ‘get a hobby’, ‘what’s your problem?’ and so on. My mother would offer the great cure-all: tea and biscuits and my brother, well...who knows what he ever thought about anything!

Eventually, at the ripe old age of 18, I took an overdose and ended up in hospital. I spent one night and was then released. The devastation of being back ‘out there’ was too much to bare and so I took another overdose. This time I awoke on a table in front of an open cabinet of scalpels! Say no more! My father’s response? ‘What are you trying to do to us?’.

This time, I ended up in a psychiatric ward for about a week. So, surrounded by doctors and nurses you would think it was now time to talk. No, apparently it wasn’t. Again I was left to my own devices and after the week I was simply asked if I wanted to go home.

There were so many opportunities for someone to sit down and just talk to me

Looking back, there were so many opportunities for someone to sit down and just talk, converse, and communicate with me. It’s amazing to think that no one person (including family) asked why a young man would want to die. That stuck with me my whole life and my conclusion at the time seemed simple: no one cares, no one knows about me and no one wants to know about me.

The simplicity is mind blowing: you don't need to fix someone, you don't need to heal someone, you just need to sit with them and talk. The most powerful tool we have is empathy and when that is lacking then the results are devastating; especially when it involves family.

Later in life, this all spilled out in various ways; including frightening off friends when I could no longer hold my story in. By now I had also been involved in a cult and the effects of that were devastating. But again, when trying to integrate back into the world no one ounce of empathy was shown and no one wanted to talk.

Communication and empathy are the greatest healers

I am still suffering but now, at least, I no longer care what people think; plus I can write better poetry from the experience! As I tell my story, there are those who fall away from me for whatever reason (usually fear) and there are those who stand by me (usually because they too have suffered in some way).

Even if it means drawing, painting or writing there are safe ways to express the pain if no one will talk with you, but at the end of the day communication and empathy are the greatest healers.

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