“What should I do?” my friend, Mia, said. Her younger sister is not answering calls from her family nor responding to text messages nor emails. “Does she still see her psychiatrist?” I asked. “Yes. And she seems to manage to go to her office everyday,” Mia said. Mia’s sister has been suffering depression on and off for a while and occasionally locks herself in.
“She can go to work. That’s a good news. What is the issue?” I said. “She doesn’t respond to anybody. My big sister has also been trying to contact her. Our niece will be visiting her from Australia with her baby. I’m going there to see them and we want to have family get together. Our parents are getting older, you know,” she said. “Why she doesn’t want to see her family. Isn’t it selfish of her?”
It hits me. She doesn’t understand. Mia has never been clinically depressed.
So I explained. I am Mia’s “How to deal with your family member’s depression” coach.
“Family gathering is one of the worst things when you are depressed,” I said. “Doesn’t she feel guilty not to come out to spend time with her aging parents? I would. That’s why I’m going. I would love to see my niece’s babies, too. They are coming all the way from Australia,” she said. She is flying westward across the Pacific Ocean to Japan to see them, while her niece is flying eastward across. She seems to be half concerned and half annoyed by the depressive sister.
“Do you know the story of a flayed hare?” I asked. It is a folk tale everybody knows. A trickster hare befooled sharks and was stripped of its fur. In pain he asked a group of passerby for help. They told the hare to bathe in saltwater and dry in wind. The hare did as told and ended up in excruciating pain. Then a kind man found the hare in agony and told him to bathe in freshwater and then roll in the pollen of cottontail. Eventually the hare’s fur grew back again.
“Your sister is a flayed hare now. When you don’t have skin, everything hurts. Being with your family is the worst. It’s just like bathing in salt water. Phone calls are like wind blowing on the flayed hare. It gives her excruciating pain,” I explained. “Then, what should we do?” Mia asked. “Wait until her fur grows back. Don’t call. Just check in. Texting and e-mailing are gentler. Don’t expect her responding. Just make sure she is alive and o.k. Let her know you care, and let her heal in her soft bed of cottontail pollen.”
I’m not sure if Mia understand what I mean. If you have never be a flayed hare, you don’t understand how it feels.
The hare in the story was actually a god and the kind man was rewarded.