Looking for Answers

Oftentimes, we reach out to those around us in search of answers to the issues on our minds –or at least some comforting words to get us through the night. Though everyone seems to have a take on what’s best for you, no one has complete access to the full scope of the situation.

Take depression, for example; so many people will press you to try their simple cure, a cocktail of supplements, an intense exercise regimen, daily religious devotion, positive thinking, and so on. In a fast-paced world full of people at the ready to sell you an answer to every problem you’ve ever had, no wonder we believe that sure-fire answers exist. We reach out because we want answers, period. And we will do whatever it takes to find them.

As a crisis counselor for Crisis Text Line, I’ve worked with over 750 people so far, and I know the sheer desperation and frustration of those looking for answers to their problems. I’ve talked to people who’ve been constantly in and out of psychiatric facilities, people who have been in therapy for years on end, people who’ve faced profound loss to which there’s no replacement, people who’ve tried everything and have seemed to reach the end of the line. They turn to our service after all of that and when they don’t know what else to do. They ask me what to do. Nothing would bring me more joy in the entire world than to end their immense amount of pain. All I can do, however, is to offer a listening ear and possible routes to feel even a little better.

Unlike most physical ailments, for which doctors tend to have clear-cut treatments, the burden of the trial-and-error process for mental illnesses tends to fall on our own shoulders. Turning back to our example of depression, finding antidepressants and therapists that work best takes a lot of guesstimation, and the work we do on our own self can require a leap of faith. And even then, relapse is still a possibility that can hit us at any point. There are no guarantees, and there are no foolproof answers that will necessarily solve all our problems.

While that last sentence must have sounded obvious, I fall into that trap of thinking all the time. I click on articles that promise to increase my brain power 1000% (proven by science!), I ask friends to tell me what to do to get from point A to point B in a relationship, I read books that promise to cure my depression in a month–in other words, the evidence is fairly damning. I still expect there to be some missing piece of information lurking around the corner.The truth is that we simply have to keep trying our best with what we have, but still be open to the possibilities.

In addition to the assistance of mental health care professionals, some people will find it helpful to try a combination of diet and exercise changes, regular meditation, journaling, listening to music, seeing friends more often, engaging in more enjoyable activities, learning new emotional regulation skills, etc. However, who we are and what we deal with is infinitely complex. No one can completely understand your situation beyond their limited viewpoint, so their ‘answers,’ in turn, will be limited to their own perceived expertise on the matter.

Though this may sound dismal, there’s so much more freedom to explore and experiment with what works once you’ve let go of sure-fire answers. On a personal level, what’s helped me most is completely immersing myself into a multitude of books and journaling about life from this newfound perspective; for my brother, it was dedicating himself to physical health and wellness. It would have been impossible for someone else to have told us that these would be our ‘answers.’ What someone else can do is support and encourage you to take steps in the right direction and be open to discussing possibilities. After all of this, what I mean to say is to rethink expectations about yourself and those around you.