I receive many telephone calls and emails from mothers who have sons or daughters with a mental illness. They need to know that they are not alone. Not every country has well developed mental health services unfortunately. They need someone to listen. Many of the callers ask me whether there is anyone else in my home who can hear what I am saying. I assure them that I scheduled a particular time when I know that I will be alone, and only then do they start talking. At first, it is hard for them to open up so they ask for assurance that I will not pass on any of the information given me. ‘Of course,’ I tell them. Then they feel safer and it all comes pouring out, reminding me of how I felt when there was nobody to listen to me or comfort me. When I was going through something similar,I felt at times as if my family was the only one with the problem this mother or father is describing. I make coffee and sip it, all the while absorbing the difficult information I am receiving. There is seldom a need to say much. Some of these conversations can go on for an hour or two or more, and it is hard for me to say stop. On many occasions a caller has ended with; ‘Thank you so much for listening. Nobody has ever listened to me for such a long time without saying that they have to go.’ Of course a professional does not have that much free time and that is why I am here to do so. Even those who have the means to pay a professional per hour, seldom find someone who is prepared to listen to them until they are done.
I continually remind myself that it is not my job to fix his or her problem. My job is to be there and to listen.