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GUEST POST The Next Table by @SoviDreams

Updated: Jun 29, 2021

Lovely blog   by @SoviDreams 

I’m at another lunch with a friend who also struggles with their mental health and we have a new set of lunch companions, well not companions exactly, but people at the next table. I’m calling them companions as they don’t seem to be sticking to the conversation on their table. You see, we have noticed a theme. Whenever we meet for lunch or coffee the people at the next table seem to take an interest. Not only do they take an interest but they either fall over themselves leaning in to hear our conversations, or they take to the opposite extreme and lean right away. Some have even swapped tables!

Now, before I begin to sound really paranoid, let me explain. We meet up, as friends do, and we discuss our lives, as friends do. Only, due to what we have both been through over the last couple of years, we are having conversations which include the words “therapist”, “psychiatrist” and “hospital” and if I’m in a really good mood I might throw in some conversation about my current project which features the word “hospice”. On another day we might include some more triggering words that I won’t include here but that we are not afraid to talk about because we feel safe with each other.  

We aren’t having these conversations to be dramatic, or to make a scene. We are having these conversations because everyone needs a friend they can confide in. Neither of us feels uncomfortable talking to each other about our mental health or my grief and that in itself is a thing to be cherished. Sometimes though, we forget that not everyone is as well versed as we are in having this conversation, in checking in with how someone is really doing.

Why am I talking about the people at the next table? Well, because invariably they seem to be listening to our conversations in horror! Often they are not even pretending to not be listening. I know because I can see the looks on their faces and their thinly disguised whispers to each other. At first I did think I was imagining it but I asked my friend and she noticed it too! When we were on the third occasion of seeing this happen we were certain that it was us and our conversations that were causing this. We were starting to wonder if we should say something, to ask what the people next to us were thinking.

The last time we met was slightly different though. This time we overheard a conversation about a friend who was apparently not acting the way someone with depression and anxiety should. My friend was getting quite triggered about this conversation and was wondering whether she should actually say something to them in order to educate their misconceptions. She didn’t, but they could see that we were dithering on our way out, hopefully wondering what it was they might have said. 

Should we have said anything to any of these strangers at the next table? I don’t know. But do you know what? I really wouldn't have minded if even one of them leant over and asked me what we were talking about, instead of so obviously listening in. Neither of us is ashamed of our experiences and I’m sure we would have welcomed the opportunity to help someone to consider their conceptions of mental illness. What would you do? 

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