I walked from the tube station following the map I'd been sent. If this map was accurate I should be at the centre within the next 15 minutes. It had been a difficult journey. Not just the day itself, but the circumstances which had brought me to this place. It had filled me with trepidation. Not fear as this wasn't that type of journey. I had already learned a great deal about myself and about handling some of life's challenges. How to manage in circumstances that could maybe overwhelm many.
Looking back to those early days, and it now seemed such a long time ago, I realised how far I had travelled on my journey. It had been less than a year since the 'operation' and that long period of depression before that. The professional mind working without real focus, diverted by the inner turmoil. I hadn't realised what it was until I'd come through it. And all without any pills or alcohol. I hadn't been cut in the stereotactic radiosurgery. No invasive surgery. Nothing like that. Nobody poking around inside my soul. Delving into the depths of my core. My very being. It has always been difficult to adequately describe this, but I have so far survived it all and all of it involving coming to terms with the situation. It had never been a reluctance to talk about it, but it had been the remarkable lack of information. When the searching had started, the information was there. Not a huge amount though good quality if you knew where to look. It had helped. An enquiring mind had wanted more information. My mind needed this information like a cancer feeding itself. The irony was staggering. The mind itself searching out information about that which threatened it.
The map was accurate and I reached the building I'd set out to find. Several people had arrived before me and the atmosphere was subdued. Throughout the day there were talks by professional people. Those with medical knowledge who could talk about the science. But they did not have the more important knowledge of how to live with such a personal issue. I was one of those who has such knowledge and later in the day I was able to share this knowledge and in this process help both myself and others. By explaining to parents who had lost young children. It helped. By listening I was able to help even more. But it helped me enormously to listen. To hear real stories. I have met with this before in different circumstances. Listening to others' experiences. How they have dealt with problems. To be in that tunnel of despair. To see the light approaching from the end of the tunnel. To feel unsteady underfoot, but to know that there is an end. Now to be outside that tunnel looking in. Helping those coming towards me. Showing the way. Guiding far enough so that they can take over their own future. To take control of their own destiny. It is so rewarding. It just is.
When people realise that you have a real understanding of an issue, it becomes easier to talk. I think a reluctance to talk can be based on hopelessness. That nobody can understand the problem. Someone does understand as nobody is really alone in this world. Of all the billions of individuals in this world of ours there are many in similar circumstances, though perhaps none identical. The real difficulty is finding people who do understand and I believe this is why groups of people who talk over their concerns can benefit so much. It is not to get a sympathetic ear, but an ear that leads to knowledge and real understanding.
This meeting took place some years ago now and I have never forgotten that day. I do not know what has become of these people, but we all went our separate ways, parting with our shared stories. Everybody has a story to tell. Whether you tell your story or listen to someone else tell theirs. It does not matter. It is the telling and listening that helps so much.
People cannot and must not be forced to talk about those issues that are personal and cause hugely emotional states. That is for the person to decide for him or herself when and even if they can do this. It is my experience that just talking and listening can have great benefit. This is all part of coming to terms with the problem. It then ceases to be a problem. Problems can only exist if they are not dealt with. An issue does not need to be resolved to begin to fade. The sharp edges of the pain are less sharp. It can have a snowball effect: as the process gains momentum then the problem starts to lessen. Talking and listening does involve dealing with the issue. Facing it. Confronting it.
The talking and listening can only begin when you're ready. Don't leave it too long.
© Louis Brothnias (2005)