Louise Giltrap: The days of wine and tidy clothes
Louise Giltrap has been to deep dark places and knows the one question people who need help want to hear.
OPINION: I have done a couple of public speaking engagements lately and my presentation is simple, honest and from the laughing done during it, pretty funny.
Yes they are laughing with me not at me, because I can laugh at myself. But it's not all about being the class clown.
My basic message is, "Stop being who you think you should be and just be who you are". It's about asking the next level of questions and building relationships - honest and whole-hearted relationships.
The last time I spoke, the speaker before me was a psychologist. Ya know, I can hear how hard you're laughing. You're thinking I drummed up a few more clients for her by the time I finished.
Well, we all had a lot of laughs while I shared some of my own coping mechanisms for dealing with stress, off days and when things haven't been easy.
I sometimes wonder if that might be missing from all the talks, workshops and seminars about depression and suicide. Honest deliveries from real people who have embraced feeling vulnerable and used it to create change.
I have written before about not always being the smiling laughing bundle of joy most people see now.
Have I told you exactly how bad things have been? No, but not because I'm ashamed.
In fact I didn't tell anyone that I used to have my first wine at 10.30am. No-one knew about the times I didn't leave the house for 10 days or didn't shower for five of those days. Or the four days and nights lying on the couch crying and only getting up to pee and get another wine.
Then there was the other extreme - keeping the house so immaculate that it looked like a show home. Towels and linen arranged in colour-coded piles and heaven help anyone that mucked that up.
I spent 12 months avoiding the phone. We don't have caller ID on our land line and when you're feeling below par the last thing you want to do is talk to anyone.
There was one friend I spoke to regularly, but I doubt he knew what was really going on because he always focused on how much I was drinking, not why I was drinking.
I put on 10kg in a year as I went from training for half marathons to fat and unfit.
The people closest to me commented on what I was doing wrong but they never asked the one question that I needed to be asked.
And therein lies the problem. Being judged by someone who doesn't ask what you need is the last thing anyone who is struggling needs to feel.
The other thing is, when you are struggling with everyday life, having someone come in and tell you that they are taking you out for coffee, ice-cream or a walk in the park is almost enough to tip you over the edge.
Imagine having not showered for four days or washed your hair and a friend decides you need to be taken out of your home and into public.
In my case, that only amplified my problems because flash coffee literally gives me a gutsache and everything that goes with it.
Again I felt nothing but judged and minimised, and, to be honest, all I wanted to say was, "You can have a flash coffee but I would really just love it if we could sit here for an hour talking and not being judged by you for having a wine".
"Instead, maybe you could just sit and listen... again, without judging me."
So... here's the question I have asked people who have needed help and it's the ONE question no-one asked me, "What do you need, and what can I do for you right now?"
I asked someone that question one day and ended up going for a run. It nearly killed me, but that's what they needed right then, someone to run with them in silence.
What's the message here? Don't assume you know what someone needs just because you attended a course.
Be prepared to ask the next level of questions, the harder questions, and then provide a safe place for the answers.
It could literally save someone's life.
Louise Giltrap is a Northland dairy farmer. She loves to hear from readers at email@example.com.