Because You Don't Know

Because you don’t know if your acquaintance has struggled with depression for years…  if she has already read every self-help book and heard every darned cliché about happiness and feels like there must be something wrong with her that she can’t get it right… if he struggles to even get out of bed to go for “a nice long hike”… if she is wondering if life is worth living…if he fights depression like quick sand and keeps falling deeper…

Please don’t say, “Just choose happiness”.  Please don’t say, “Just ignore your negative thoughts”.  Please don’t say “Just go out in the sun”.  Please don’t say, “You’re life seems great, what do you have to be sad about?”

Please Do Say…

·      Is there anything I can do to support?

·      Let me know if you want me to pick you up on my way out for a hike.

·      Sometimes all we can do is get through the next hour, or the next day. 

·      Happiness is a complicated thing.

 

Because you don’t know if your friend is paralyzed by anxiety and panic attacks on a regular basis… if he uses drugs and alcohol just to manage a birthday party… if she beats herself up every time for her “irrational fears”…if he stays awake all night, unable to turn off his brain… if she has tried everything possible to find some sense of inner peace…

Please don’t say, “You’re being irrational”.  Please don’t say, “There’s nothing to worry about, everyone at the party is super nice”.  Please don’t say, “Just take a deep breath”.  Please don’t say, “You’re just overreacting”.

Please Do Say…

·      Would you prefer to spend one-on-one time instead of going to a party with me?

·      Sometimes our fears aren’t rational, but that doesn’t mean they don’t feel real.

·      I can’t imagine how hard it is to feel so paralyzed by fear.  Let me know what I can do when it happens.

 

Because you don’t know if your co-worker suffers from an eating disorder… if the only way she knows to control her emotional world is to eat everything she sees… if he only feels safe when he significantly restricts his diet… if she exercises to the extreme so that she can keep disappearing… if he just purged his lunch due to deep shame over the meal he just had…

Please don’t say, “Wow, I can’t believe you can eat that much!”.  Please don’t say, “Wow, you’re so skinny, I wish I could be that thin!”.  Please don’t say, “I have a diet I tried that worked great—you should try it!”.  Please don’t say, “Wow, you’ve lost so much weight—good job!”.

Please Do Say…

·      I’m a good listener if you ever want to talk about anything.

·      Sometimes life feels really out of control for us all. 

 

Because you don’t know if the parent you see at the grocery store is struggling with Post-Partum Depression…  if he wants to run away from his life every day when he wakes up… if she has considered suicide just to escape the intensity of parenting… if he hasn’t slept a full night in years… if she spent hours today holding a colicky screaming infant…

Please don’t say, “It doesn’t get easier, just different”.  Please don’t say, “Isn’t parenting the best gift in the world?”.  Please don’t say, “Appreciate every moment, it goes by too fast”.  Please don’t say, “Just wait until they’re _________ (toddlers, adolescents, teenagers, etc.), that’s when it really gets hard”.

Please Do Say…

·      The parenting experience is different for everyone. 

·      There were times I wanted desperately to escape.

·      Let me know if you ever want me to share with you about my experience as a parent.

 

Because you don’t know if the couple next door is struggling with infertility… if they’ve spent thousands of dollars on fertility treatments to no avail… if they cry every month when she gets her period… if seeing a picture of a friend’s new baby causes deep belly sobs as they find a way to be happy for them… if they’ve looked into adoption only to find it’s too expensive and they are unprepared to parent a traumatized child through foster care…

Please don’t ask “So when are you two going to have kids?”.  Please don’t say, “You’re running out of time!”.  Please don’t say, “You’re lucky, kids are so hard.”  Please don’t say, “Maybe it’s just not the right time”.  Please don’t say, “It’ll happen when you stop focusing so much on it.” Please don’t say, “I wish I had the time and flexibility to do that, but I have kids.”

Please Do Say…

·      How’s your cat/dog doing?

·      I saw you working on your garden and it looks great!

·      I’d love to see your wedding pictures sometime.

·      That sounds like an amazing vacation, did you like Belize?

 

Because you don’t know if your new friend has a trauma history… if they believe they are only lovable if they provide sex to others… If physical touch sometimes causes a panic attack… if they dress like that to avoid attention… if the walls they put up are the only things protecting them…

Please don’t say, “I’m a hugger, everyone gets a hug”.  Please don’t say, “You’d look so pretty if you dressed up once in a while”.  Please don’t say, “You should relax more”.  Please don’t say, “Men can’t be raped/abused by women”. Please don’t say, “You should never shut family out of your life—do what you can to rebuild those relationships”.

Please Do Say…

·      I’m a hugger, but I know some folks aren’t, so just let me know.

·      We all do what we feel is best to protect ourselves.  Just know that if you ever want to talk, I’m here.

·      Family is complicated.  None of us know what it’s really like to be a part of a family that we weren’t a part of. 

·      You know yourself better than anyone.