Detachment and compassion

I just read a book by Marian Keyes called “The Mystery of Mercy Close”. Funny, entertaining, good characters, satisfying ending. When I started reading, I didn’t know that the protagonist, Helen, suffered from depression and anxiety but I figured it out pretty fast. The author reveals it very slowly and I think the average reader might not pick up the clues quite so quickly, but to me it was obvious right away.

Helen’s thoughts felt eerily familiar.

At one point, late in the book after her condition has been revealed, she tells the reader about her therapist, Antonia, and it felt exactly, exactly, like the way I feel about my therapist, Jeff. Change the pronouns from “she” to “he” and it’s spot-on:

“She’d been nothing like I’d expected. She didn’t make me lie on a couch and ask me about my childhood, or my dreams. She didn’t bounce every question I asked her back at me by asking what I thought about it.

She was the one thing she wasn’t meant to be: she was my friend…. She was the one person I could be brutally honest with and she never judged me.

She’d say, “How are you, Helen?” and I’d answer, “I’ve been thinking of taking the bread knife and cutting out my stomach. If I could just cut out my guts, these feelings might go away.”

And she wouldn’t burst into tears. Or tell me I had to be strong. Or say that she’d be devastated if I died. Or ring one of my sisters and tell them I was a selfish, self-indulgent whinger.

I didn’t have to protect her from how horrific I felt. She’d seen it all before and she was unshakable….

She didn’t fix me. She didn’t provide reasons for why I wanted to die. But she pulled off the near-impossible job of offering me both detachment and compassion.

The detachment part — well, I was nothing to her, nobody. Twice a week I had an hour when I could slow down the terrible thoughts in my washing machine head and let my mouth say them and let my ears hear them and not have to worry about how it impacted on her.

But at the same time, I knew she cared about me … even though I was paying her … she was my true friend. She walked steadfastly alongside me through the rocky, smoke-black nightmare. She couldn’t keep me from tripping and stumbling, she couldn’t give me anything to stop the pain, but she encouraged me to keep going.

Not to put too fine a point on it, she’d kept me alive.”

I have actually said these words to people: “He kept me alive.”

Right now I’m in a better patch, which is good, although even better patches are scary because I never know when I’ll fall off the edge into a Bad Patch, but at least I know Jeff will be there if I do.

If you have depression (maybe you got here by googling “depression”), please find yourself an Antonia or a Jeff. Do whatever it takes. If your first therapist isn’t a good fit, keep looking until you find someone who feels right. And remember that no matter how bad you feel right now, you’ll feel better some day. You really will.

Category: Blog 3 comments »

3 Responses to “Detachment and compassion”

  1. Brian

    Been there. Honesty and courage. A good therapist (Jozeffa). It’s so worth it to find one’s path to happiness

  2. Kathy

    I am glad you found such a good one. I love you. Kim is reading that book, too.

  3. Delilah

    Kara, you don’t know me from Adam, but in your dark times please remember that your voice has been with me through many dark times. When my offspring and I were left alone, we discovered you in The Secret Garden. Your voice (yes, YOUR voice specifically, as I find your voice, tone, and inflection truest to the spirit of a work) has been with us through many dark AND many joyful nights and brought us comfort. You read to us when I was too tired or tearful to read to my wee one. Thank you.


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