“So, what brings you here today?” my new therapist asked me.
“Well, I’ve had depression for about five years, and I guess I just haven’t been feeling that great recently.”
“In what way?”
“I don’t know. Tired, less motivated, I guess …”
I was just giving lines from a textbook, a typical symptom list for depression. That’s not to say I was lying—those were all things I was feeling. But I didn’t know how to articulate just how lost and broken I also felt.
This wasn’t my first time at a therapy session, although it had been over a year since I had been to one. I had figured I was getting better and I didn’t “need” it anymore. But after encouragement from some people who cared about me, I agreed to go back.
I felt dumb because this therapy thing should’ve been way easier than it was. I’d done it before—but I had nothing to say. All I knew was I was hurting. That was the only way my brain could make sense of it.
I couldn’t give much more of myself that session; sometimes we just don’t have the words we want.
Like when I couldn’t explain to a set of parents why they’d lost their son to suicide. When I didn’t have the words that could take away the pain of a friend who was self-injuring. When I couldn’t assure another friend he would never see the inside of a psychiatric hospital again. I don’t have that kind of knowledge.
But I told them I loved them, I was there for them, and I wanted to help in any way I could. It always felt like that wasn’t enough, but it was all I had at the time.
And now that I look back, maybe that was OK.
As a writer, I’ve seen how incredibly powerful words can be. They can hurt as well as heal. But sometimes the words we want won’t come—the words that make everything better and put our lives back to normal. Maybe those don’t always exist.
Sometimes, all you can say is:
I need help.
I just don’t know.
And sometimes, all you need to hear is:
I love you.
I’m here for you.
How can I help you?
Not every question needs a novel-length response; not every question can even be answered. Sometimes, the phrases above are all you have—and being present is worth more than words can say.
– Emily, Spring 2013 intern