I got a call from a friend late one evening. My friend was having one of those dark nights of the soul and was reaching out asking,”Will I ever be okay?”. I could hear in her voice the fear and in her tone the over-writing anger and self-hate that was making it very hard for the average person to connect with her. I know that place. When I am hurting, sad or feeling helpless, the last thing I want to do is let anyone know that. Instead I talk tough, push back on any encouragement that seems to be implying I’ve ever been in this place before and totally negate any positive or inspiration aspect of my tenacious will and willful life force. I did understand and everything in me wished I could just teleport myself to where she was and give her a big hug.
Instead, I suggested my favorite way to get through a dark night when it’s too late to visit a dog park (the best daytime way to deal with despair). I encouraged her to make a pot of tea and watch a Disney or light movie such as: Lilo & Stitch, Harry Potter (the first one) or Legally Blond. If I am really feeling sorry for myself, I ditch the tea and make a very big bowl of air popcorn with Bragg’s and Brewer’s yeast. I do think it is important to have a shelf of movies and chamomile tea on hand throughout the year.
We talked, and I knew I was still the only one on the phone, who had faith and confidence in her spirit and life force by the time we hung up. Still I knew I could not decide for her. She was going to have to find a path through the dark night. I wanted to call her the next day, but I thought it best to wait. Primarily, because I had spoken of my confidence and faith in her, and I did not want to sound wavering. It wasn’t until a few days out that I got and email from her saying she was feeling better.
Having been a mental health professional for many years, and a mental health client before that, I know the drill. Set up a contract, “I promise not to kill myself.” Personally, I never liked that concept. For me the best words I ever heard on the other end of the line when I wanted to kill myself were, “It is your choice. I even understand why you are thinking of quitting, but I personally hope you don’t make that choice.” The power of someone giving me the choice and believing in me to make the best choice, that was amazing. I really got that I could choose. Suddenly I had power. Before that moment, I had felt helpless and powerless.
It is hard to let someone choose. Whether it’s as life or death as suicide or watching someone choose to stay in a horrible job that they are slowly letting take the joy from them, it is hard to let them choose. Still I am a big believer in holding people as able. In my own life experience I did not really understand joy until I understood choice. The idea that it is never the hand you are dealt that gives you joy or any feeling for that matter. You get to decide how you respond to the circumstances of your life and you get to make that decision over and over. meaning you can make it differently. That is powerful.
The most loving and caring thing anyone has ever done for me is holding me as able. Believing in my ability to choose life even when I did not. Sure I still have my dark nights that’s why I always have tea and movies on standby as well as friend who remind me I am able. I can choose!