Who’s listening?

It’s no fun being trapped in a pit. You were walking along in the forest and you just kind of… slid. And now you’re on your own in the darkness, looking up at the moon through a circle of dirt.

You didn’t ask to get in. You can’t see any means of getting out. Nobody knows you’re in the pit. You will have to go on bearing it alone.

But then (oh, miracle!) somebody walks by. They lean over the edge of the pit. “Hey!” they call down, “Hey, are you OK? You don’t look OK.”

Suddenly you’re embarrassed to have fallen into a pit – what sort of a ridiculous person would do that? – so you shout back, “Yeah, I’m OK! Thanks for asking!” and the person goes on their way.

You have that exchange a number of times but a sense of resentment grows. Why do these people get to walk about the forest without falling in a pit? Why are you ashamed of being in one? You didn’t dig the pit yourself.

One day a jogger in a charity vest stops by. “Hey!” they shout. “Are you all right? Because if you’re not, it’s OK to talk about it, you know!”

You hear this message a lot over the next few days. A man with a dog tells you to “reach out”. You assume he means verbally, because if your arms were long enough to haul yourself out of there you’d certainly have done so by now. A kid on a scooter tells you to find someone to talk to. A group of women inform you that they have supported each other through some dark times and that you could be supported too if only you shared your problems with somebody else.

So you make a monumental effort to transcend the shame and the fear and the apathy and the anxiety, and next time someone passes you yell up to them that you don’t think you are all right, that this pit is an awful place to be and you could use a little support. The person backs away from the edge. “Wow,” he says. “Wow that’s terrible. But I don’t think I’m the best person to talk to. I mean, I don’t know anything about this stuff.”

You keep on asking for help.

You are advised that you could make the darkness less awful if you lit a couple of candles, which might be good if you had any. You are advised that notwithstanding the length of your arms you could probably could climb out if you really tried. You are advised that you should be grateful because some people’s pits are worse than yours. Some of them have wooden spikes.

Wait, other people are in pits? Oh yeah, sure! About one in four of them. All over the forest. Are they all talking about it? Some of them aren’t, not yet, but we’ll keep on encouraging them.

The charity jogger swings by. “Don’t give up!” they urge. “It’s good to get it off your chest! Keep talking.”

One day something amazing happens. A well-dressed woman at the top of the pit actually seems to listen. “This is terrible,” she says. “I’m so, so sorry. I’ve been trained in listening to people who have fallen into pits and I’m going to get you some help.” Help! Someone will come with the right equipment and haul you up out of your hole. For the first time in ages you have a little hope.

The first person in the Rescue Team doesn’t look much look very hands-on; he’s in a suit, no hi vis in sight. It’s his job to do an assessment of your predicament, so he asks you a lot of questions about where you were going and what you were doing when you slid, and whether you have ever fallen into a pit before, and whether there is any family history of falling into pits.

It seems like he is really listening.

At the end of the conversation he explains that although he can see that you are in a pit, your pit is not so very deep compared to other people’s and that money for Pit Rescue is very tight. He will recommend that you should be given a very short ladder, but unfortunately the waiting list for even the shortest ladder is about three months. Three months! They want you to stay in a pit for three more months?

Unbelievably, a prince and a princess show up. She’s beautifully dressed and they’re both smiling. They lean down over the lip of the pit and remind you that when you talk about pits, conversations about pits in general get just a little bit easier for everyone. You think to yourself that maybe if everyone just didn’t live in palaces there might be more resources to go around for Pit Rescue, but obviously you don’t say anything.

Things take a turn for the worse. As winter approaches, the pit begins to fill, slowly but surely, with water. Now you starting yelling out at anyone and everyone that you think you are going to drown, demanding help. People walk away, looking embarrassed, because you seem hysterical, maybe even a little aggressive. But you’re supposed to keep on talking, right?

The Rescue Assessor turns up again. “OK,” he says, “so it looks like things have taken a turn for the worse. I’m going to make sure that a Rescue Support Worker brings a snorkel. It won’t stop the water going over over your nose and mouth, but it might just keep you breathing. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.”

Now you’re not yelling, but screaming. As the water brushes your bottom lip you start telling anyone and everyone that things are becoming unmanageable, that you fear that you will die in the pit, because that’s what you’re suppose to do, isn’t it, keep talking? The Rescue Support Worker makes a face. “I don’t think the risk is all that imminent.”

Just as you have to use the snorkel, the Rescue Assessor makes a site visit. “Oh, all right,” he says. “If you really, really can’t manage, even with equipment, we’ll divert some resources to haul you out of the pit. What you’ll need after that is a warm bed and dry clothes at a Rescue Centre.”

This sounds like heaven. You haven’t been warm in what, weeks, months?

“Only,” he goes on, “we don’t have one at our disposal. A lot of them got shut down – budgetary constraints, you know. The closest set of dry clothes we can find for you is in the next kingdom.”

You don’t want to travel to the next kingdom. You want to stay in your own forest with nice dry clothes. You don’t want to far from home, you just don’t want to be in a pit. You tell them that although you appreciate that this is a form of help, it is not the kind you wanted.

“Well, I’m not sure you have a choice. We think the risk is too great now. You say you don’t want to be in a pit, but how do we know you’re not going to fling yourself down the next one as soon as our backs are turned? We’re going to put you in the carriage anyway. We don’t have the time or money to watch everyone in the forest, you know.”

Your throat hurts where you have talked and yelled and screamed for help. But only the trees are listening.


Picture credit: target via Flickr








About purplepersuasion

40 something service user, activist, writer and mother living with bipolar disorder. Proud winner of the Mark Hanson Prize for Digital Media at the Mind Media Awards #VMGMindAwards
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