Last night I attended the once a month support group that DH and I have been going to for three or so years. It is a group that focuses on resources and other helps for the families of the seriously mentally ill.
There were several people there that were attending for the first time or that had been away for awhile and now needed or wanted to talk about changes in their lives. One, the parent of a teen, prefaced the story with the words; I don’t feel like I belong here with all of you. You have such serious problems. My teen is under control. Everything is great except school performance. There was a light about this parent who nodded and empathized and even put a consoling hand on the arm of the person on her left. I’m a Christian, she explained, and I have been praying and asking where the joy is. The joy of life is gone and I want to have it back.
The remainder of Annon's time was taken up with a discussion of the teen’s problems in school. I expect Annon went away dissatisfied and will not come back because no one had any ideas about where the joy had gone or if it would or could come back.
This morning I realized this parent was seeking a safe place to talk about personal feelings. I regretted that I had not seen it earlier. I regretted that I had not said that being a Christian she must understand that joy comes from losing one's self in the service of others. I regretted that I hadn’t said that as a Christian she must understand that sorrow is the opposite of joy without it is impossible feel joy and so they always occur together. I regretted that I didn’t say the way to find joy is stop thinking about the things that drive it away. The way to find joy is to do more things that make one feel joyful and less of what brings sorrow.
I regretted that I didn’t say that after one has done those things and still can find no joy it is probably time to go to a professional for therapy and possibly medication because there is a real disorder called dysphoria which is treatable. But, I didn’t say any of those things. I just felt a sense of dissatisfaction and agitation as I looked across the table and realized Annon didn’t seem as upbeat as at the beginning; because there was no magic lifting of the sadness that might have lightened just a little as those perceived to be living with more difficult problems described their trials.