An unaccustomed situation for me over the weekend. Instead of needing help for the machinations of my mind, I was in the role of helping someone else. It also gave me some perspective, too, on how bad, or otherwise, my life really is.
It’s a friend that I made all those months ago back in group therapy. Despite my own misgivings, and tendency to avoid communicating with anyone there if possible, I started to have convivial conversations with someone while we waited in reception before each session.
We kept in touch, too, to give each other a bit of support. This is where, sometimes, I see things in a less gloomy light than before. I’m missing my ex dreadfully, and has left my heart shredded. My friend? Well, their partner died. Ouch. And ouch again. That’s too painful to even contemplate.
Anyway, as far as I can tell, a domestic crisis blew up. Like a lot of people who suffer mental health problems, this particular person is introvert, and enjoys their own company more than in the company of others. Frankly, I’m amazed they actually confide in me.
It’s no surprise then, that when a domestic situation arises, my friend tries to keep it quiet, and get it sorted quietly between the people it directly concerns. Relations with extended family tend to be friendly but without living in each other’s pockets, everyone getting on with their own lives.
It all sounds fairly routine at this stage but then I received a call on Saturday night. My friend, sadly, was distraught. From what I can gather, their family was extremely put out that details of the domestic matter was not given to them. Which is surprising, given that you would have thought family would know each other’s personalities by heart.
From what I could gather, they were told in no uncertain terms, angrily and aggressively, that they were “bottom of the pile”, that the way they live “hasn’t worked”, and an insinuation that they weren’t hard-working. Now, all this from someone who knew their sibling was in therapy. The domestic issue, I would add, had nothing to do with any action or behaviour of my friend thenself.
Of course, a lot of the evening was spent placating and reassuring. I guess I’m lucky in a way. I have family so distant but if I need to, I can give them a call, and they speak to me as if I was round the corner and last chatted only half an hour ago. It was difficult to know what to say.
That’s the thing with life. We all mistakes on our own. There’s no simple template that we can all adhere to, just a rough guide, and what we’re not sure off we somehow muddle through. Badly, at times, obviously, but that’s life in itself.
It’s clear this family care about what’s going on. Maybe my friend is dealing with things badly but that’s their nature, to be quiet, to not make a fuss or waves, and try to deal with problems as surreptitiously as they can. An introvert lifestyle is always going to lend itself to that behaviour, and errors will undoubtedly be made because of it.
The family response, however, well, I was dealing with the fall-out from that. By putting things in such forceful terms, it was tantamount to bullying of someone with mental health problems. A phone call yesterday revealed that they spent the night having bad dreams, feeling punches being thrown at them by their own flesh and blood.
It was a humbling and unnerving experience, having someone on the line to me, talking about their darker and darker thoughts and wondering whether they might turn up at the local A & E to prevent themselves from doing anything. Thankfully it never came to that, but my goodness, I was shocked that it came to be like that in the first place.
So what to do? It’s difficult. When someone’s lived their life quietly and without fuss for nigh on 50 years, it’s terribly difficult for them to come out of themselves and talk freely with their family. That Jeremy Kyle moment on Saturday evening was all too evident of that.
Equally so, family has a duty of care to each other. We look out for each other, we care for each other, though don’t necessarily live in each other’s pockets. Again, mistakes are bound to be made adhering to this, which was evidently that somewhat panicked Saturday evening. They may have meant well, but they caused someone to feel awful, awful anguish at a time they needed understanding.
Still, what do I know? I’m just a passing observer helping someone out. We all know you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family. Blood, however, is thicker than water. So where does it leave us all? Mixed up, usually okay, sometimes great, sometimes angry, and sometimes in bits.
I hope, for their own mental health, my friend can pick up the pieces of their life soon. Like family, I will be there when I can.
But without the anger and judgment.