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It is so easy to think I know. I know what’s best. I know what they should do. I know. I know. I know. Often this comes with a side order of If only. If only they would, if only this could. If only they would try harder. If only. If only. If only.
 
What’s hard is admitting that just maybe I don’t know. I don’t really know how someone feels, or how to fix it, or even help them. All I can be is a friend. A supporter. All I can do is try harder every day to actually understand. Not understand from where I stand, but from where THEY stand. Time to walk in their shoes. And try as we might, we can’t do that well unless we actually are walking in their shoes.
 
Sometimes we can’t . We can’t suddenly experience cancer, or depression but we can work to understand more deeply. We can work to hold true empathy and compassion, even if we don’t get it.
 
UnderstandUs is a volunteer group in Regina, Saskatchewan Canada founded by Jeremy Demeray and Thomas Le.  They are ending the stigma of mental illness in a process to move us to mental health and support those in need. They are telling people’s stories so we can get as close to walking in their shoes as we possibly can. They are naming the elephant in the room.  
Victoria Sutherland’s piece Naming The Elephant In The Room is beautifully written and hits at the heart of what it feels like to be in a depressive episode that becomes so hopeless you will do anything to end the pain. She writes in a way that allowed me to feel like I am walking in her shoes.  I got it a little bit more. An excerpt from her article,
However, after 20 odd years of repressing a mental illness, it doesn’t take a lot before something seemingly small or insignificant can trigger an all time low. (I wish it was as simple as boy breaking my heart – that can be dealt with by listening to Tegan and Sara while eating a tub of cookie dough ice cream and screaming “liar” at everyone in Love Actually). Looking back, I’m not even certain I wanted to kill myself, I just knew that I never wanted to feel the way I did at that moment ever again. I was tired of feeling the kind of debilitating sadness that consumed my life and took joy out of everything I loved. I was tired of feeling alone even when surrounded by a room full of people who love me. I was tired of letting someone else’s actions and words have complete power over my emotions. Most of all, I was tired of extreme highs followed by periods of excessive lows. I felt like a grenade with the pin pulled out just waiting to go off. I could be having the best day of my life but if someone said or did something that upset me, I down-spiralled. Fast.
A couple of days after everything hit its dramatic climax, I started feeling guilty. Seeing the effect all of this had on my family and friends and even my dogs made me feel terrible. I felt selfish and needy and like I was a huge inconvenience to everyone in my life. My mom took time off work and moved in with me, my sister became my 24 hour sounding board and all of my other loved ones were taking time out of every day to check in, see how I was doing and just trying to be there. It was overwhelming and while I felt appreciative, I also questioned why I was worth consuming everyone’s thoughts and lives. And if that guilt wasn’t enough, I started to feel guilty when I wasn’t miserable.
When we start to “get it” we can become part of the solution, part of the support network.  We can make a difference, a positive difference.  We can save lives, we can give hope, we can make a difference. We can help people become whole again. Because they are. They are whole.
While difficult to read on one hand, Victoria’s words gave me hope.  Hope because I understand better.  Hope because Victoria is proof that change can happen, that you can find ways, constructive, healthy ways to deal with depression, to learn to live again. To actually want to live again. That is an incredibly beautiful thing.  It’s a true rise like air moment.
To everyone out there who has, is or will face a time in their life where it is so painful and hopeless they see no way out, I want to thank you for still being here.  For that, I am eternally grateful. Because I’m beginning to realize just how big a commitment that is to make.

Life Vest Inside is a wonderful organization that empowers people and changes the world through kindness.  Being an ambassador with LVI has truly had one of the biggest most positive impacts on my life. If you need some support, a little kindness and want to be inspired every single day, surrounded by people who care and exude kindness, check them out.

Also check out Project Hope Exchange where you can give and get hope in 30 seconds. Now you know you’re curious.

©2016 J.Fries/Rise Like Air

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