I’ve suffered depression off and on for over 30 years, since I was a teenager. The last couple of decades my depression has been linked to chronic, physical pain, but it started years before physical suffering was a part of my daily life.
I remember being around 16 or so (if you have read my earlier blogs, you’ll know in all my childhood stories I’m 4, 8, 12 or 16, so we’re going with 16 on this one), and talking to an older lady at church. She noticed I was looking forlorn that day and asked me what was wrong.
“Eh, just depressed, I guess,” I responded.
She literally laughed out loud, and said, “Oh, honey, you’ve got the world by the tail and you don’t even know it. You can’t be depressed, you haven’t lived long enough!” Needless to say I walked out of church feeling worse than when I arrived.
My son, Trey, is 17 years old, and is a great kid, but like most, he gets down sometimes. He gets tired and stressed, yet when he mentions it to some adults, they laugh at him, like they did at me. They say, “How can you be tired when you’re just a kid? I WISH I had your energy! I WISH I had your life!”
Trey says, “MAN, dad, why is it some older people think I have an endless supply of energy and laughter, just because I’m a teenager? Why is it OK for them to get down in the dumps but not me? Am I not allowed to be stressed or tired?”
I recall feeling the same way when I was his age. I began struggling with back pain when I was in high school, and the worsening pain even prevented me from playing football my junior and senior years. Not being able to play my favorite sport added to my depression, yet when I mentioned it to a couple of older people, they scoffed.
“You’re just a boy; you haven’t even begun to live. You don’t know what pain is.”
I wanted to say, “Well, guess what, jack? I’m not interested in your opinion. I AM tired, I AM depressed, and I AM in pain. Is it against the rules for me to feel these things, just because I haven’t seen as many Christmases as you?”
That’s when I started replying, “I’m fine,” to the question, “How ya doin’, Rob?”
Just because someone isn’t as old as you, or hasn’t, in your opinion, suffered as much, doesn’t mean the pain and misery isn’t real to them. This is why, when either of my kids (my daughter is 28 years old, and has a LITTLE more right to struggle, according to the know-it-all’s) are downcast, my wife and I take it seriously. We’ll put our arms around their shoulders, ask them what’s wrong and wait for a reply.
We don’t try and fill in the blanks. We let them speak.
You probably have someone in your life who has reached out to you, but you, knowingly or unknowingly, blew them off. Perhaps it’s time to sit down, put your arm around their shoulder and ask if everything is OK. Don’t give them the song-and-dance about you being older and more experienced in gloom, despair and agony.
Just ask them how they’re doing, with all sincerity, and then listen to them when they begin to speak. Don’t weigh your pain against theirs. They haven’t lived as long as you, and have less experience in carrying the weight of their suffering.
In helping others release long pent-up darkness negativity, you might find the load you carry feels a bit lighter than it did yesterday.
By the way, for the aforementioned young people, “gloom, despair and agony” is a “Hee Haw” reference.