To the stranger struggling with mental health problems,

Do you hope to be invisible or do you honestly believe no one really sees you? Maybe you believe no one cares or understands, but you aren’t invisible to me. In fact, I feel a bond with you.

I saw the way you avoided eye contact and how your movements required effort. I heard the lack of life in your voice and when I caught your eye I saw . . . 

I saw the dark. I’m not talking about your beautiful eye color or dark makeup. I mean the dark of the eyes—the lack of life and sparklea look I know too well.

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This same despair filled my loved one’s eyes once. I learned to detect it because I cared. I had to know when the bad days came, even when the smile cleverly covered it up. It scared me then and looking at you sends alarm bells off now.

The look tells me that life is hard right now whether it’s circumstances, chemical imbalances, or both. It means you are losing the battle for hopehope that things can change or that you can beat this monster.

It’s a hard year for so many. The partition of plexiglass between us cuts into our verbal exchange. I am sure you see a lot fewer smiles, and I’m not referring to the masks. I’m sure you see more frustration and fear and often bear the brunt of it. Less chatting, less laughter, less connection, and that’s just at work. I don’t know the rest of your story.

The look says you need help and support. Do you have it? Do you have a doctor and a counselor to talk to? What about family or friends who understand or want to?

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The people around you who haven’t walked this path may only see your eyes as tired or needing a day off. Maybe they don’t see what I see, but it’s not their fault. They must learn that even though a smile hides much pain, eyes don’t hide it nearly as well. They must be familiar with the dark eyes to know what lies underneath. Your friends and family won’t understand if they haven’t learned to search it out like someone’s life depends on it.

If they don’t know, they can’t support. Just because you need to educate them doesn’t mean they don’t love you or want to help. You are in foreign territory to them and teaching them the language and culture of depression may be frustrating, but you must.

I learned for my loved one and yours must learn, too.

You aren’t alone. The moment I saw the darkness in your eyes, I bonded with you. You might not know it or feel it, but I do. I carried you in my thoughts all day.

I prayed for you. I begged God to spare you and heal you. I cried for you—yes, I shed tears just thinking of the path you are traveling. I will continue to pray but also remind myself that God loves you and cares about your circumstances more than any human possibly could.

Our bond has weird restrictions. We don’t know each other except for the small talk we make when I come to your work. I know bits and pieces you’ve shared over the past few months and you know scraps of my life, but professional boundaries remain so I can’t ask for personal information or drop a meal off at your house.

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I can, however, keep coming in and offering a friendly face and all my attention when I ask how you are doing. I can let you know I care.

I can pray.

Dear Father, You know this girl and her struggles. You know the cry of her heart or the silence if she is unable to cry out anymore. You love her and I ask You to intervene in her lifewhether by miraculous healing or by the slow process of support, medication, and counseling. I pray she will not lose her will to keep going, to get up each day and fight this battle. May she turn to You for renewed strength. I ask You to keep this one in the palm of Your mighty hand and to whisper Your love in ways she has never experienced.

We may be strangers, but I am bearing this burden with you.

Love,

A caring stranger who sees past your smile

Tanya Teichroeb

Tanya is a wife to a wonderful man and mother to three precious children in northern British Columbia. Tanya is learning to look for the good in the hardships and the beauty in sharing her experiences. In her spare time Tanya enjoys coffee, reading, gardening, and silence. You can follow her at https://www.facebook.com/TeensandCoffeeBeansbyTanyaTeichroeb/