The following account is based on a true story. The name of the person has been changed to protect the identity. Bear in mind that this read can change your mind towards your perception of mental health, and the potential clues and signs that might lead to it. Here we go…
I remember like it was yesterday. My family were rushing to the scene, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I just kept staring from behind the door, until I saw my sister emerge through the corner of my eye. For some reason, I looked away instantly, but my ears stayed pressed. My program director had begun speaking to them. I knew it was only a matter of time before they knew what I had done. I didn’t mean to do it. It just came out, despite my best efforts to hold back. Then, I heard the words being said: “Karan was caught trying to get in front of a car.” At that instant, the little bit that I held on to shattered like a cosmic explosion. I felt truly ready to go. But my ear continued to pick up sounds, and I could hear my dad and my sister mumble about how much they had always done for me. They wouldn’t say it outright, but I knew what they were thinking: Not only was I ungrateful, but that I’d also tried to take “the coward’s way out.” Words cannot describe how terrible I felt at that moment. Suddenly, I didn’t just want death. I also wanted a brutally painful death. One thing that had come to mind was slowly putting a glass shard through my throat, as I sputtered a sea of blood, and strained out my last breaths.
Next thing I knew, I was in a room with them. My sister, and my father, and my brother-in-law, although he was sort of a third fiddle. The doctor wore a pristine white coat, like the only pure life form in the room. I couldn’t even look at my family. I just wanted to go out with the worst bang I could think of. What could I even say?. Finally, the doctor spoke. He said to my father, “Mr. Franc. What would you like to say to your son?” After another painful silence, I heard my loving father’s voice breaking through: I will translate what he said in Bengali into English, for the purpose of this post. “Karan , I don’t know why you felt the need to do this. We have always given you everything. I paid for your education, I bought you everything you asked, I did everything for you.” I could feel a shiver running through my body, but I controlled it. It would be rude of me to flex even the smallest muscle, after what I’d done. The doctor spoke again. This time, he said to me, “Karan, would you like to respond to that?” The emotions inside me stoked and fizzled in rapid succession. All at once, I felt both subdued and anxious, but I sat completely still, almost catatonic. Then the doctor asked my family to leave the room, and then he said to me: “Karan, do you think you were always given everything?” “No,” I said, like a brittle snowflake. Then, I cleared my throat, and resounded in a more manly voice, “No.”
“Okay, what didn’t he give you?” I just had to say, one last time, to anyone who could hear. “He never listened.”
“I see. What do you mean he never listened?”
“Whenever I told him that everything was falling apart for me, he’d say I was being moody and negative for no reason. I’d get mad that he couldn’t just listen to what I was saying. Sensing my anger, he’d get pissed himself and leave.” The doctor didn’t say anything. So I continued,
“He’d come back after a while, looking like a puppy and say so innocently and sweetly that he was doing his best and that he was trying to be patient with me. I mean he was doing a lot – cooking for me, trying not to yell at me I suppose, trying to help me with my college work, all that. But “patient” would be listening to me squeal day after day because I’m so friggin crushed, and trying to shore up my confidence. That’s patience. Ignoring the only real conversation to be had and coming back again and again to look like a puppy and be sweet is NOT patience. He was NOT doing his best. He never even bothered to LISTEN TO A WORD I WAS SAYING. He was only doing what he wanted to do for me, not what I needed him to do for me. He doesn’t even know what being there for someone means! It’s not being sweet to them after dismissing their concerns, it’s not friggin shooting down their concerns in the first place!” At this point, I had broken into tears.
Next, the doctor asked me, “Why is all up to him to make you feel better? I mean he needs to feel good too, doesn’t he?” My blood rushed through my skin, and I screamed “Karan, I’m sorry things are tough!” How hard is that? That’s all he friggin needed to say! If I didn’t wanna respond, then he could just give me a hug and walk away. How hard is it to do this? The nerve of that man saying he was being ‘patient’ with me. He never even friggin listened, forget doing that long enough to call it ‘patience’!!!” “He’s the one who has his shit together. I’m the one losing everything here!” By now, I had started to get violent… “Everything!! Still, he can’t fuck his pride long enough to simply say I’m sorry, you’re having a hard time! Instead of Oh what about how bad I’m feeling even though a million other things in my life are going right for me!!!”
That’s when I heard the door open, and my dad stepped in. Apparently I was screaming so loud that he’d heard everything. The doctor sat pretty like Cleopatra, posing before all the drama he was enjoying for free. My dad knelt before me and took my hand. I didn’t know what to think or feel. He wiped my tears and said, “Karan, I’m sorry I never listened. I thought I was being there for you. I guess I just didn’t know what it really meant to be there for someone. I never meant to shoot you down and then come back and be sweet later. I promise I will listen to you, and I promise I will truly be patient with you this time.” And that’s how everyone, myself included, learned what it means to really be there for someone.
TL;DR: When you wanna be there for someone, don’t do only what you want to do for them. Listen to them. Find out what they really need, and try to give them that or at the very least don’t make them feel terrible for being “negative” for not having that need. If you can’t give them anything, then just say “I’m sorry things are so tough for you now. I really am.” and just give them a hug. It’s really not that hard. You could save someone’s life, someone’s day, someone’s week and even muster up confidence in them when they’ve lost every single ounce of it.