Yesterday I was by a river, and I saw a small gosling trapped against a branch in the water, struggling to paddle away but unable to because the current was too strong. It was too weak, or too young, to make a noise to attract the attention of its parents, and though they eventually saw it , whereupon I left the scene, they apparently weren’t able to help. When I passed back that way later, the gosling was still there, no longer moving. It had given in to exhaustion.
Both parties in this story struck a chord with me. Work is particularly busy for my team at the moment, I’ve just done my longest training run before the looming spectre that is the London Marathon, and I’m still helping at two Rainbow units. The training is so intense I’ve had to sacrifice church on a Sunday morning, to fit in the longest runs with time to recover before work on Monday, and Zumba, because the risk of injury is too high and also I’m just too tired. Those are the two weekly activities I love the most, which bring me joy. And, let’s face it, I don’t even handle things that well when I do have more of the joyful activities and less of the difficult ones. So I feel like that gosling, paddling hard but getting nowhere, without much hope, only circumstance preventing me from being swept away entirely. Powerless.
And there are people in my life who are a bit like the parents. Not in that they’d leave me to die, but in that although they want to help they just don’t understand what sort of help I need. The solutions they offer are for a different problem than the one I have. Their best efforts, the best intentions, will not fix it. And now someone close to me is in hospital because their own mental health is very bad, and I feel like one of those well-intentioned people too. There’s nothing I can do – all the marathon training and fundraising in the world isn’t going to make this person I love a single bit better, and it’s breaking my heart. There is a support group on Facebook for all of the Mind marathon runners and it’s full of positivity and inspirational quotes and encouragement, but none of it is ringing true now. I feel like I was stupid to think I could make things better.
So I can’t fix other people, and I certainly can’t fix myself. I’m too busy feeling bitter and indulging in short term solutions like wine and chocolate to even be able to offer any kind of solidarity. I wanted to beat depression but it’s beating me, and worse, it’s beating people I love. It’s like trying to stop a tank with a stick. I don’t know what I was thinking.