I was driving back from the store yesterday and I caught a snippet of an interview on NPR that intrigued me. I don’ know the show, the host or the guest (I was only in the car for like five minutes) but the topic was on coping with a cancer diagnosis. To be more specific, it was about how friends and family sometimes treat someone with a cancer diagnosis- that their instinct is to be there for the person and listen. That while this can be a critical part of caring for someone, the person may not be interested in talking about their diagnosis. They may be looking for a distraction. And so the guest suggested that sometimes talking is the best course of action- that the way you can be there for someone facing bad news or a difficult situation is to talk to them. And not necessarily about their diagnosis or how they’re feeling or if they’re in pain, but about almost anything else. To provide a distraction from all of the negativity.
I know that for me and my depression this is absolutely the case. Don’t get me wrong- I really appreciate the fact that I’m fortunate enough to have a circle of friends and family that I can go to when I need to talk. There are times when unloading to a willing listener relieves pent-up stress, can help explain why I feel the way I do, why I might not want to do something or go somewhere. I also see a therapist whose job it is in some way to be a paid listener. If I haven’t seen people in awhile they’ll ask how I’m doing and how I’m feeling, and I really really really do appreciate it. I have no shortage of listeners. But sometimes I need a talker.
Sometimes I need to hear a funny story or a joke, to hear about Star Wars or Game of Thrones. I want to hear what you think about Tyler Lydon and the upcoming Syracuse Orange basketball season. I may regret this, but sometimes I need to hear people talk about this election (yeesh…). Sometimes I need to hear my dad recount his last round of golf, shot by shot (this is a real thing he does if you let him). Because it’s a chance for me to think about something else, to not think about depression or anxiety. To maybe laugh about something, or get excited about something.
So I appreciate everyone who listens to me- but don’t be afraid to weigh in with something off topic, either.