Psychological Distress: How One Conversation Can Change Someone's Life
All around us are people who are living in emotional distress, barely holding on yet we don't recognize it.
One time I noticed someone who was losing their grip on life. Despite them being a stranger, one call helped to change the trajectory of their life.
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Often I write about my struggles with anxiety and depression because I was able to overcome both and I want my experience to give someone hope that they can do the same. When you're in that state of mind, "hope" is the most valuable resource because of its scarcity.
About a year ago, I published a Tweet about one of my previous experiences with anxiety and as I was scrolling through the comments, one of them stuck out to me. It was from someone who was indicating that they were currently stuck in this anxiety-ridden downward spiral.
When I read their message, I knew I needed to reach out to them to see if there was any way I could possibly help them. You never know how a stranger might react to you contacting them about something so personal but he was very receptive to having a conversation with me.
However, his situation was worse than I could have imagined. Even though he had a wife and children, he was isolated from the world. He disconnected his cell phone, was on leave of absence from work, and was stuck in life.
Months prior, he was strongly contemplating taking his life but thankfully didn't. When I understood the severity of his situation, I asked him if we could somehow talk over the Internet since his phone was disconnected, which he obliged.
When I finally heard his voice, I could hear how lost he was and while he wanted to stop traveling down the path of perpetual anxiety and depression, he didn't know how to move forward.
I understood where he was coming from because I'd been there. I was in a similar situation of being on stress leave from work and developing agoraphobia from constant isolation. However, because I was in this hole, I understood what it takes to get out of it.
I asked him what his daily routines were, even down to the simplest tasks, and instructed him to build upon this. He needed to start from scratch with building his confidence and by setting up the world around him with small tasks, he can interpret them as small wins.
Those small tasks give you the confidence to conquer bigger ones and it will form a habit that will eventually return him back to his old self. We talked for about 40 minutes and over that time, I could hear something in his voice that wasn't there initially: hope.
I've talked to depressive people before and getting them to have even a small amount of optimism is a huge step, yet before we ended our conversation, I heard optimistic language come from his mouth. He was starting to believe & that was enough of a spark to light his life on fire.
On Twitter, I kept our conversation pinned so I wouldn't forget about him and I would periodically send him a message to see how he is doing. With every time I talked to him, he was making strides to return to his old healthy self.
A few weeks ago, I contacted him to see where life was taking him and his update made me incredibly proud of him. He's now back to work in a different department and feeling fulfilled once again. His life is progressing and he is no longer stuck as a man, father & husband.
But what he told me next still brings tears to my eyes: he told me that our conversation meant a lot to him and was a powerful "nudge" to get him in the right direction. While his journey was rocky, he managed to keep faith that he would reach his destination.
I'm not writing this to make me seem like someone special because I'm not and that's the point. Anyone can do what I did and we all have the power to reach out to people who've lost their footing in life. They've lost their purpose and belief in themselves to overcome obstacles.
Some are just moments away from ending it all because they don't think anyone would care if they were gone and maybe a phone call could be what prevents them from making that unfortunate decision.
When you're dealing with mental health issues, it's not unusual for you to believe you're alone in this struggle, which is why I write about my problems publicly: I want others who are going through the trenches to know they aren't alone.
Maybe there is someone you know that you haven't heard from in a while or has become more distant in recent years. Is it possible these are the people who are in distress that you could lend a helping hand to?
You never know if that one conversation can change someone's life.