Certain comments bring it out the most in others although actions or refusal to speak up can too – that look.
The other day, my friend gave it to me when I mentioned not wanting to live into old age. The sorrow, frustration, confusion, and utter hopelessness made me stop thinking about death and start evaluating my response. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that thought aloud.
Later, I attempted to earnestly apologize. However, even I realized that was not enough. Something needed to change. The problem was not hurting someone else. The issue at hand was other people being wounded by my lack of self-care.
This look has most often been on the face of my family. Caregivers and support people of those with mental illnesses (especially ones that involve suicidal thoughts or attempts, self-harm, or lack of eating) probably have this facial expression the most often. That is because this is such a weighty issue. No one wants to see their loved one struggle through such misery.
When people do this, I realize a few things:
- Others do not think like I do. Wanting to die is not normal.
- They care about me and my well-being.
- This should motivate me to become healthy, not stay sick. They will love me just as much without my illness, and I will be better able to care for them.
- My illness affects more people than just myself.
- Everyone responds differently to pain. Many people are irritated, confused, or dismissive just because they are frightened and want me to be alright.
Have you ever experienced or given this look? How does it make you feel? What has it taught you?