When Your Friend Is Depressed

~ Sayable blog

This past year I discovered the writings of Parker Palmer, an octogenarian Quaker who has an impressive line-up of little books behind him. I say “little” not because they are the work of simpleton, but because they are the work of someone who, in the Quaker tradition, knows sometimes it is better to be silent than to speak. A better word for them may be brief.

The other night, after we blew out the Advent candles and let the fire burn down to its coals, Nate lay in bed with his poetry journal (in which he scribes and scribbles and crosses out and copies whatever poem he is working on) and I lay in bed rereading this selection from Let Your Life Speak. I read it weeks ago but it was still on my mind and today I thought I’d share it with you.

“It is odd that some of my most vivid memories of depression involve the people who came to look in on me, since in the middle of the experience I was barely able to notice who was or was not there. Depression is the ultimate state of disconnection—it deprives one of the relatedness that is the lifeline of every living being.

I do not like to speak ungratefully of my visitors. They all meant well, and they were among the few who did not avoid me altogether. But despite their good intentions, most of them acted like Job’s comforters—the friends who came to Job in his misery and offered “sympathy” that led him deeper into his despair.

Some visitors, in an effort to cheer me up, would say, “It’s a beautiful day. Why don’t you go out and soak up some sunshine and look at the flowers? Surely that’ll make you feel better?”

But that advice only made me more depressed. Intellectually, I knew that the day was beautiful, but I was unable to experience that beauty through my senses, to feel it in my body. Depression is the ultimate state of disconnection, not just between people but between one’s mind and one’s feelings. To be reminded of that disconnection only deepened my despair.

Read more: http://www.sayable.net/blog/2019/12/24/when-your-friend-is-depressed

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