Apathy Needs Healing, Not A Spanking

A woman pulled into my driveway.  She abandoned the car under a spruce tree, opened the driver’s door and tried to walk.  She zigzagged to my wood shed and steadied herself by its corner.  By the time I got to her, she was convulsing with tears.   Stunned, I folded my arms securely around her and silently held her until she could talk.

Turns out, her itinerary pointed her in the opposite direction from her desire.  Depression gripped her confidence and shredded even her maybes.  She grasped her last speck of resolve, made a U-turn and followed a line of dotted concentration to my place.

My mother’s chronic depression had taught me to wait.  When she was free from its effects, Mom explained that the dark mask of dread had nothing to do with my siblings or me.   Apparently impossible to define, I carry her attempted description of depression as a mind having two dozen little legs all squabbling and running in different directions.  Peace, order and rationality abandoned her each time the war raged.

My friend finally said, “I cannot make a decision.  Am I crazy?”

“Nope”, I said, “It’s a chemical imbalance in the brain.  Trouble is, when in the grip of depression, that fact is forgotten.”

“I am disgusted with myself!  I didn’t make a decision because I CAN’T make a decision.  I don’t know how I feel about anything.”

“You did made a decision!  You decided not to head out on a road trip.  That’s sanity!  Let’s have some tea.”

“I can’t figure out my feelings.  I am full of apathy!” she said.  “I don’t give a damn about anything…even though everything pisses me off!”

Ironically, I had been thinking about apathy.  It’s often mentioned with a subtle tone of disappointment or condescension.  I dislike the tone because I feel spanked.  Apathy needs to be healed, not disciplined.

Here I was sipping tea with a friend who was claiming apathy, but needed  compassion and support.  She needed reminding that she is well-loved and perfectly capable of returning to her usual strong persona.  If real, her apathy was being fueled by a condition beyond her control at this time.

God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

We brought up examples of her giving.   She said, “Sometimes my feelings are so strong  that the situation feels too big.  I become paralyzed. I don’t know where to begin.  So I give up.”

I said, “People seem to love criticizing Oprah.  But I really admire her approach to activism.  She helps people deal with huge and horrible situations by giving everyone an opportunity to share a nickel.   She gives all of us a chance to make a difference – a big difference with a small effort.”

Suddenly my friend stood up, grabbed her bag and said, “I know exactly what I have to do.” 

She went home and spoke her truth with her partner.  There’s been no depression since.  Nor any apathy.

It’s magic having tea with Oprah.

47 thoughts on “Apathy Needs Healing, Not A Spanking

  1. Apathy is one of the many touch sides to depression, which only has tough sides. Thank you being there for your friend. The world is better for folk like you.

    May all sentient beings find peace.


    • It’s a joy to have time to advocate for different situations. When my life meant being on the run, I felt neglectful. It’s good to be able to shut out the rest of the world and act. Jamie, I’m mindful of you – hope all is going well.

    • It’s a two way street for this friend and me. When I land on her doorstep, I can’t blame anything except that I am becoming an outspoken, be-damned-if-that’s-not-a-miscarriage-of-justice kind of women. She lets me rant my way into a course of action. Usually that’s what most of us need – a chance to safely lay ourselves down so we can have a good look!

  2. Your timing is impeccable, Amy. I think there are moment like this in every life, even if the chemical imbalance isn’t part of the mix. To me this is a perfect illustration of the gift of a listening friend.

  3. What a wonderful, compassionate post, Amy. Please invite me to tea with Oprah next time 😀 That pic is lovely and it must be one of the best quotes ever.

    • You and your whole household are welcome, Naoms – anytime! I’m not sure how we can keep Dave challenged…things are pretty tame here. Hang-gliding? I haven’t seen photos of him in the air yet except maybe a chair lift?

  4. What if seekers need only ask, How well do I love?”

    The first duty of love is to listen.

    I love how you handled this and even more I love that SHE took action.

    I don’t mind being there for someone, listening, giving them a shoulder to cry on, etc. But when they start using ME as a crutch instead of doing the hard work for themselves . . . I stop being there for them.

    We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same. ~ Carlos Castaneda

    • When someone we love is hurting, it’s easy to listen. When they are able to come to a plan of action, that’s a bonus!

      Some of my acquaintances say, when they are in the throes of depression, that they are proud of themselves for simply getting out of bed. It’s a ruthless condition – one I am so grateful I didn’t inherit.

  5. you are a truly amazing human being. Depression sucks the soul right out of you and leaves you in a maze with no exit. The arms of a friend who will hold you, who will pour you tea, who will listen and who reminds you of the person you are is a blessing beyond compare.
    walk in beauty.

  6. I am so glad that you were there for your friend, what a blessing that is, to have a friend that you can go to in any circumstance.

  7. I believe the true gift here was when you pointed out and said “You did make a decision.” Apathy , like indifference, is something we all need at some point in our life. It guides us to that pause, gives us breathing room. To be truly indifferent does not mean “everything pisses me off”, thus the remark you made about your Mother feeling pulled many different directions at once. I feel like magsx2 hit it on the nose when she said, “she ended up at your place for a reason”. That tea, that time, that simple kindness gave pause so her soul could come through and speak to her distraught self and make the next decision. This almost has the marks of a full blown panic attack brought about by “fear” of making the wrong decision at a time when she was already suffering from a chemical imbalance. Was the teapot already on? That would blow my mind! 🙂

  8. Quite wonderful.

    We resist what is, compare ourselves with what we think should be, and we become miserable. When the heart is clear and peaceful, any decision that needs to be made is made. So wise of you to respond this way to your friend.

    • So true, Ruth. The fear of being who we are and speaking our truth keeps us from the richness available in life. When courage overcomes fear, its amazing to find the people we want in our lives have even more respect for us.

  9. Hi Amy .. interesting – depression is thankfully something I don’t suffer from – apathy sometimes .. but not for long. I think my mother had some form of apathetic depression latterly in her life .. but she wouldn’t let go .. and even now that strength comes through … I go with the flow. Because of her life through the years (a tough one) she had had to cope and therefore she was still going to .. but perhaps if she’d asked or relaxed a little and seen life from another side – things would have been different in those last years before her strokes. At least she’s seen her daughter in another light .. it’s good to have the period to understand some of these things …

    I have a friend who suffered dreadful post-natal depression with both children .. she does take pills and is absolutely fine if she’s on those .. but it was frightening – and a(n interesting)learning experience for me. I was too far away to do much .. but at least I was there for them as a family when I could be ..

    Cheers Hilary

    • Those who experience depression have so much to teach the rest of us. I hope to do my best to make certain their experience is not in vain! Our pure, unadulterated acceptance is a major step towards their dealing with all they are feeling or not feeling.

  10. Amy..I am so glad to know someone like you….although one might say that the connection is only virtual. But it isn’t , really. Reading this , reading the comments, I feel I am sitting sipping tea with a group of friends and I share the warmth. Thank you for bringing us together 🙂

    • Hello, my friend, Nadira. Hope you celebrated India’s Independence with exuberance. I agree with you. The community we built is more than words on the screen. Along with these messages, our energies connect and we are never the same again. This is surely the fundamentals of building peace around our globe. When I look at Nadira in India, I better know Amy in Canada.

  11. Oh, could I have used a friend like you in those dark days … your friend had the good fortune to reach out before it was too late. And you were there, listening. Marvelous story, souldipper.

    • That’s the key, Granny, it happens to strong, intelligent, resourceful women as well. We don’t believe it could happen to us. We call it by other names and think we can ride it out. Or change it. So we stay in the relationship too long – thinking we can do something about it. After all, we look after everything else in our lives!

      It became my dirty little secret because, to the world, I was with a very charming man. I saw the inevitable progression which just made me feel more lost. I am so very grateful to those women, all strangers, who were becoming Hospice Facilitators – just like me – who helped me break through my denial.

  12. Yup–more than one cuppa tea got shared here. (although, I’m not real fond of tea…..I AM fond of the company, tyvm!)

    And I adore the round pot.
    And the prayer–which I have in various places throughout the house.

    ‘……accepting hardship as the pathway to peace….’ There’s a line I respect and acknowledge as a part of my today, and yesterday. Although I’m still a bit wishy-washy on that ‘accepting’ part. (go figure…..)

    It was a good cuppa tea. And I like what folks shared in kind–the recognition that a decision was made, that there’s something in her that she didn’t ask for but that she can do something with. That’s always been the key in my life….I didn’t ask for circumstances, but that didn’t mean I had to be limited because of them. They didn’t have to ‘define’ me. Thank goodness for the folks that helped me ‘get that’.

    And thank goodness for you availing yourself to help HER get that.

    Geeze….I’ve missed ‘here’……. *sigh*
    I gotta QUIT letting stuff ‘claim’ me that’s not ‘claim-worthy’…..

    • Good to hear from you, Mel – you’ve been on my mind and in my prayers. I’ve been peeking in on your photos, etc. I’m so glad you have a little Bug grandkiddy to lay out some comfort and purpose for you. Thank you for your comments and for hanging in there with the tea. You can ask for a coffee, ya know! 😀

  13. such a great story of friendship and love.

    loved these phrases:
    “Apathy needs to be healed, not disciplined.”
    “She went home and spoke her truth with her partner. There’s been no depression since. Nor any apathy.”

    • Thank goodness you were able to find a way to deal with S.A.D., Toke. It catches many off-guard – even those who’ve grown up in Canada. My sister bought a special light that seems to help her.

  14. What a great story — your friend is so lucky to have you in her life. Apathy is a tough customer — at times it can feel like you’re just being self-indulgent, when the reality is you just can’t seem to cope. Thanks for being there for us, Amy.

  15. You truly acted as a samaritan Amy. Depression and mental illness are terribly misunderstood. Now, I just wonder if you truly had a visitor or if it was simply an angel in your path to help you with your own journey?

  16. I was diagonesed with depression 3 years ago. something really strange happened to me, my son and my husband were like strangers, i was looking at them and even though I regonized them I felt like having know idea who they were. i used to love my son deeply, taking care of him and beeing there for him constantly until one point when all my feeelings just disappeared. i can’t remeber how it was to feel love for him, to miss him, to even think of taking care of me. at some point I could even remeber giving birth to him. all this is too much for me, because I just don’t understand what it is. present days: my condition is the same, struggling to be there for them, i can’t feel anything, no love, no emotions, no interest…will I ever change?

    • Diana, I hope you can be patient with yourself and make certain you receive and accept help from your doctor. This same friend – in this post – lets her loved ones know that she’s in that pit of despair by saying to us: “My medicine chest is empty right now. I need to take care of myself right now in order to replenish and restock my supply.”

      We know what she means. We make sure she knows we love her as always and will be here when she can join the world again.

      Love never lets us go. It holds us forever, Diana. Even though you cannot feel it, it is there for you to give and take. Do what you need to do to heal yourself – then you will be able to feel being a mother and wife again. Time is your friend right now.

      In a gesture of Therapeutic Touch, I visualize you in a blanket of golden light. It’s “sent” to you for healing. It heals, comforts and lets you relax. Imagine it around you whenever you need it. Snuggle in. Feel it’s light and healing power penetrating every cell in your body. Visualize this whenever you need it.

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