May 21, 2013

CiaraAs 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!

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"kettle is about to boil"

I understand about the kettle but how on EARTH do you stop the kettle boiling? I have been diagnosed with severe depression around 3 months ago and cannot take anti depressants due to my epilepsy medication the kettle theory I can relate to however I feel like my brain is the Earth and every memory, thought , problem , noise is at the core and will either implode or explode how do you channel it .

Listening ear

Hi Ciara, I could not agree more, that listening ear has been there for me, my dad. I have struggled with stress anxiety and depression due to work, but when I tried to speak to them about it, their response has been 'you can not cope with your job' I have been off sick since 20 march. All I wanted was their support when I return to work, I am fighting with being strong and keeping out of the emotion of it all, and my feelings of uselessness. I feel like the real me is hiding frightened to fall down into the black hole, I was hoping to get back to work a couple of weeks ago but feel the organisation just don't want to know completely unsympathetic. Vicky

Ciara this made me cry

Ciara this made me cry reading it, you got things so spot on and wish people around me would understand that xx

WIth thanks.

What a beautiful and succinct piece of writing - everything you say is so, so true; all that we need is a listening ear but I am fully aware of how difficult that can be for many to give, with judgement or feeling like they need to 'cure' your problem. Youy'll be fine - you have a great future ahead of you. Who the hell said what normal is anyway lol!!!? Best wishes xx

mental illness

I find this blog interesting. I do find 'the norm' a struggle at times. I'm in a job where I have been there since august last year, we make brake pads for cars and I have had many different roles within the place. when learning I don't pick things up straight away, as most people are very much like that. but if I don't pick something up within like the first instance I will batter myself and think I cant believe I was so stupid. I do this a lot to be honest. I will mull over things and over think and take a lot of time to do something that we all do on a daily basis, for example, going to a shop for some milk. I will be thinking in the back of my mind which route or will I have enough money and will I buy anything else, such a simple task as to buying milk. going to the town centre is a big thing as again I over think things like routes and how will I feel walking all this way. I do tend to beat myself a lot and I don't know why, I think I'm useless at my job sometimes, and to be honest I cant be as I'm still there. I don't suffer from paranoia or anything like that. things like hobbies, meeting people, etc is a task as I always think how will I feel. I don't know what to do and who I can contact or make the first step. Is there other routes rather than going to a doctor where I will then probably question my mental health. I want to feel alive again and not over think any more. I want to go for new jobs and feel confident, to be able to plan and see family or friends who live miles away. To go back into my hobbies and make new hobbies. I want to stop thinking everything is a task!

Any progress

Hi Friend. I think I have the same problem as you do. I tend to overthink a lot and easily judge myself. Did you find any solutions? Love to hear them.

Judgemental People

Ciara you have just hit the nail on the head, everything you have said relates to exactly how I'm feeling at the moment. I have suffered from Anxiety & Depression for over 15 years, and I still struggle with the fact that people can be so judgemental, but to them they have done nothing wrong. I lost a friendship recently, when I was trying to explain how I was feeling to a friend, she mentioned how she too was having a 'tough time' but she could handle it without taking medication, and how you just have to get on with things. She then did the worst sin, when I said my nan was taking me out to lunch, she said 'is that to cheer you up?'. Because I shut people out and want to hide away, she couldn't handle this, and in the end I said to her 'I don't think I can be the friend you want me to be'. When people ask you if your ok, you say Yes thanks, or I'm fine, but inside your saying, I feel terrible, I'm scared, I want to run away, I want to hide, Who is gonna understand that? Big hugs to you and your friend, she sounds like an angel x

A great blog that I and I'm

A great blog that I and I'm sure most people with anxiety and depression can relate too. I too have such a friend and I know how lucky I am to have her, she also has mental health issues so I am there for her too.

I completely agree. A

I completely agree. A non-judgmental ear is of the highest value. Excellent post and I can very much relate to it. Thank you Ciara.

Hard to find

I can totally relate to this but a person with a non-judgemental ear and a hug can be so hard to find.

Listening ear and more importantly a hug

I so agree with your blog. I am a Christian and struggle with the fact I have depression and anxiety. But like you I have a very good friend with both the listening ear and the hug and it makes all the difference x

Thanks for this, great piece.

Thanks for this, great piece. I too am lucky enough to have a good 'listening ear' or two. It still hurts me so much when I open up to somebody and hear 'well, we all have bad times you just need to get over it.' Or 'I understand you have problems but sometimes it feels like you aren't trying.' I am trying, so hard every single day. Some days it takes all my energy and motivation just to get our of bed, never mind gather up the strength and courage I need to leave the house, go to work and get on with things. Yet very few people seem to understand that. It so often feels like what they are saying is 'I think you aren't ill just lazy' or 'I think you want to be ill because otherwise you'd just get better.' It crushes me every single time, particularly when it comes from those close to me. I'm sure they don't mean it that way but it's hard not to hear it that way. Particularly when I've spent so many years beating myself up for not being better or trying harder, even when I am completely exhausted with trying.

Hi , I just wanted to know do

Hi , I just wanted to know do u struggle with yr anxiety and church ? I've had panic disorder since age ov 11yrs old ... I dnt have a person I can talk to & tend to keep things in , I've come across the whole " get over it, grow up, u mus be putting it on , pray more etc and much more.. .. I just wondered are yr church supportive / understanding ?

Thank You

I shared a link to this post in a blog post of my own that I've just published. Your words ring so true with my own experiences and with the perspective that I was trying to share. Thank you for sharing!

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