On Friday and Sunday, I responded to two emails from Josh, someone who's never commented on my blog before, but asked for advice about depression. Not only did I spend a lot of time writing him a list of recommendations, but many of you did as well.
I have no idea whether Josh will pursue the suggestions we recommended, but I've thought a lot about people who ask for advice. During the eighteen months I've written this blog, I've gone out of my way to respond to people who ask for advice. My reason is that when I was so sorely in need of advice during my sickest moments, there were few people who responded.
I contacted doctors who had written books on depression and lived in Los Angeles and they never returned my calls. I wrote the president of an Orthomolecular organization who lived in San Francisco, and he never returned my email.
During a period in which I was so sick I didn't see how I could survive--and my doctor was not at all responsive--I emailed a few friends and acquaintances who had contacts within the psychiatric community, asking if they could recommend anyone who might help me, and they ignored me. One time I contacted a woman who'd written a book on yoga and depression, and she said she didn't know anyone in Los Angeles, but I could come to her very expensive workshop in another city.
Ultimately, I was stunned by these people's callousness, because throughout my life I have helped friends and relatives as well as total strangers. If I know people who are sick, I volunteer to do whatever I can for them. I have recommended doctors to people I barely know. I have offered to research my friends' illnesses. I have driven people to doctor's appointments and visited others at the hospital.
For the last eight years of my mother's life, my husband and I had her over for dinner every Sunday, and when I was depressed and couldn't entertain her, I drove over to her house and served her dinner. I visited my mom at least three days a week and was always willing to come over when she called.
The only people I don't help are those who "cry wolf" over and over, and people who won't do the least bit to help themselves. But I've never refused to offer advice and encouragement to strangers as well as loved ones.
What they do with my advice or my willingness to help is another matter. I often wonder about people who ask for advice, and then don't respond at all. Not even a thank you. And I'm surprised by people who seek advice and yet ignore it because it means they'll have to stop denying they have a problem and start dealing with it.
But despite all that, I will still offer to help...because so few have been there for me when I needed them.