Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Don't be Afraid

When I was sick, angry and depressed, I felt lonely.

I wasn’t alone because I didn’t talk about it, though that didn’t help; I was alone because nobody close to me was going through the same thing.

My mother-in-law was sick in a much different way. There is no hemming and hawing about how real cancer is, or how deadly. It’s not something you fuck around with.

Fibromyalgia on the other hand...

People act funny when they know you’re sick. For the most part, they’re worried to say the wrong thing. Sometimes saying nothing is the wrong thing.

We live in a social world that’s hard to navigate under normal circumstances, and when you throw anger and depression and illness into the mix, it can seem impossible. We have our own experiences with depression and anger that colour our feelings and shape our actions. And we have either had encounters with sickness or not.

My grandma died of lung cancer a year after my mom-in-law died. As hard as it was to be back in a hospital room, it was harder to be in the waiting room. And in the future, though I’m not religious, it will be hard to be in a hospital chapel. Much harder to listen to last rites.

There was nothing easy about watching my grandma die, but my relationship with hospital rooms had already been negotiated, so there was one less thing to worry about.

Before I was sick, I suspected how lonely it would be, and now that I know, I’m less concerned with saying the wrong thing when someone I love is sick or angry or depressed.

If you’re afraid to reach out to your depressed daughter, or to your angry neighbour, don’t be. Even the tiniest gesture will give that person a moment of refuge from a world of loneliness. If you’re not sure what to say, start with ‘Hey’. If you normally say ‘Hey’ and nothing else, add a question like ‘How are you?’, and if you normally talk to them every day, but don’t discuss emotions, say something like, ‘Hey, you seem sad today.’ Later, you might add, ‘Is everything okay?’.

One day when she isn’t depressed, she may reach back.


  1. Nice thoughts. I've battled with depression for much of my younger years. And depressed people turn inward, shutting out others. Someone to ask how you are, who tries to pick apart the knot you've tied of yourself, is invaluable. That defines a really good friend for me.

    But I've never felt afraid of talkign to someone about their illnesses. Perhaps because I am a chronic oversharer, lol.

    Have a merry Christmas, and I hope the fibro is under control.

  2. Hey Writtenwyrdd, I hope you had a good Christmas. It's good that you've never been afraid to talk to people about their sickness. I think sick people need more people like you in their lives!