I recently took a call from a woman who basically said that everything about life is just way too hard and she didn’t want to bother with it anymore. Ostensibly, this would sound like a suicide call.
But the manner of her speech and word choices made it clear to me that this was an individual with what I call “depressive practice” personality. She moans and groans and tears her own life down for the attention and sympathy that comes from the drama.
I listened to her to make sure that I was on the right track (the most quiet I have been on a call in years!) and then dropped the bomb.
“You’re a spoiled brat.”
She laughed and asked me why I’d said that — certainly not the behavior of a truly depressed person. More the behavior of someone who’s been “caught.”
I explained that, according to her point of view, if something is difficult, then it’s not worth experiencing. A person with cerebral palsy walking awkwardly down the street is experiencing great difficulty. Does that mean that his or her life isn’t worthwhile?
I gave her other examples of difficulties in life and how people still found joy. Much of life is difficult — more difficult for some than for others. But still, like an exhausted parent looking down at her new baby who looks back and smiles, the difficult part is only part of the story.
At the end of the call, the woman seemed to “get it.”
I’ve since received so much mail on this call, and here are two significant and moving ones:
“I heard the caller who thought life was hard and didn't want to live,” a listener wrote. “You called her a spoiled brat and you were right on. I have multiple sclerosis. Each day I thank God for giving me this precious gift called life. Is each day easy? Of course not. But I thank God for giving me life."
In another letter, a listener told me, “I’m writing to commend you about the way you handled the caller who was frustrated with her daily coping skills. She seemed somewhat naïve and selfish. She was complaining about the doom and gloom of her life and the way the world is — in her opinion. Your sentiments were absolutely correct. What a spoiled brat!
“I do have cerebral palsy and every inch of my traveled road in life has been difficult, but nonetheless, I love living,” the writer continued. “I love stopping to smell the roses. Everything I am able to do is slower, yet I function.”
One listener was shocked at my approach and wrote the following:
“Yesterday, you had a caller who said her boyfriend wasn't happy with her attitude about life. She said she felt as if she took one step forward and 10 steps back.
“I was thrilled with your advice to her. I was shocked that you would call her ‘spoiled,’ but realized it after you compared her life to those that truly struggle with life. This was very important for me to hear. Sometimes we do get caught up in our own struggles and neglect to think about those that truly have it hard.
“I hope that others listened and really heard what you had to say. We should be thankful for the little things, as well as all of our blessings that we, most likely, take for granted every day."
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