When you sit with a stranger...
I had a very interesting experience today. I am not even sure how to actually describe it.
I had a change in schedule of my day and had an hour to kill. I did what I normally do and headed straight for a coffee shop. Unfortunately the closest one to where I needed to be was a Tim Hortons. I am currently 'whole 30-ing' so there is nothing there I can have other than black coffee, but whatever.
I get my coffee, sit down with my planner, phone, and journal, and chip away at stuff. To do lists, dreams, ideas, ect.
Beside me is a table with a grandma, mom and a baby. They are at a 4 person table. About 15 minutes after me getting there, they are packing up to leave and a woman by herself walks up to them and asks if she can sit there (at this time it's pretty busy in the restaurant). She sits down, and 5 minutes later the mom, baby, and grandma leave.
I am writing down notes for my meeting I have afterwards and the woman casually asks me if I am journalling. I answer 'well... yes, kind of. I am a journalling fan but right now I am just taking notes for a prenatal meeting because I am a doula.
As soon as I have made eye contact with her I know there is something deeper going on. She isn't just friendly chatting a stranger. She is reaching out. Slowing the questions get deeper....
"Do you see a lot of couples struggle after people have a baby"
"Do you help a lot of moms who have post partum depression?"
"I think my mental health has destroyed my marriage and my family"
This woman is struggling. SO fucking hard. She is now in tears. She has trouble making eye contact with me, you can tell its because she is so absolutely down on herself. She tells me about all the various areas of her life where she feels she is failing, basically all of them. My heart is BREAKING for this soul. I ask her if she has a good relationship with her mom, her friends, she assures me she does. I ask if they know she is struggling, she says they do. I question in my head if they actually know the extent.
She tells me about her marriage, how it was perfect before baby but her mental health issues have come between them. She is lost. She has no idea where to even begin to put her life back together. You can see it in her eyes in the brief moments she allows eye contact. She is a shell of a person she used to be. I talk to her as long as I can.
Just listening. Not offering much in the way of advice, but hearing her. Validating her feelings. As the time when I need to leave grows closer I ask for her phone. I put in my mom's website and name (she is a therapist, the best therapist.... www.wabisabitherapist.com)
I also write down my name and email address. I tell her I am so sorry that I have to head to this meeting but that if she ever feels like she needs someone, and has no one, she can email me.
It was haunting. She was in such a dark place. She needs help and I have no way of knowing if she is ok or not. I thank her for having the courage to open up to a complete stranger in a Tim Hortons. I hope I helped her in some way, even just by being a listening ear. I hope she gets what she needs and helps herself so she can be a better mommy to her sweet daughter.
Mental Illness is just that. An illness. There is STILL a stigma attached to it. People are embarrassed, ashamed, and feel like they need to handle it on their own.
I am always available. For a text, coffee, couch chats. Whatever you need. If you are struggling there IS someone out there who wants deeply to be there for you. To walk beside you and support you however you need that support.
Please reach out. Please ask people for what you need. And share your dark thoughts with them. Don't put it all on your shoulders. Someone else can help carry the burden with you, even if its for 30 minutes in a Tim Hortons.