“What do you say when a person says ‘what am I going to do…I can’t go on’?”

 “Leesa what do you say when a person says ‘what am I going to do…I can’t go on’?”

This was a question my friend asked me recently. And it’s a question I’ve been asked many a time. My answer?

“You tell them to breathe. And you breathe with them as they do.”


“Yeah. Tell them to breathe.”

“What the on earth do you mean?”

“I mean tell them to BREATHE.”

Okay I know it sounds like simplistic crap but hang in there with me. I’ve got twenty-four years of psych nursing under my belt, several bits of University  paper and some serious life experience. I know what works and oh lordy lordy do I know what doesn’t work!  

When a person says they ‘can’t go on’ they are saying that they are overwhelmed.

Eventually in therapy we will be able to deconstruct all that has led to overwhelmed. We will discover the causes of such powerlessness, we will heal the wounds and develop new skills so this doesn’t happen. And YES, for ALL folk EVERYWHERE this IS possible.

But none of that is possible in the moment when a person’s feeling desperate, but…thank god… none of that actually needs to happen right now anyway.

The only thing that counts right now…right in this desperate moment…is that we breathe. And we breathe together.

Later we might need to drink, to eat, to talk, to do lots of things. But right now…let’s breathe.

Later we might want to…I don’t know…take a little step.

But for now…let’s just breathe.

Our minds can become desperately overwhelmed by problems…real and perceived. The problems attach themselves to the ferris wheel of our mind and as stressors come along the speed of the ferris wheel is increased. It’s hardly any wonder then that we can develop a sense of desperation as to how we are going to cope. 

Now the thing is, many a kind-hearted folk avoid helping another because they are so fearful that either they don’t know what to say or they’ll say the wrong thing. Fortunately, you are not required to come up with anything brilliant and profound :).

In the very moment…

in the right now…

the best help you can give a loved one or a stranger (that should be a loved one) is a steadying hand.

A hand that doesn’t try to find a solution immediately because that’s impossible…

A hand that doesn’t offer the ‘standard’ comments because they simply don’t work when a person is feeling this bad…

A hand that does offer to be there…however long it takes…

A hand that does transmit that they are not alone.

And now…let’s breathe

My next post will be about Charlie. He and I worked together to enable him to conquer his panic attacks. By staring at a tree.


8 thoughts on ““What do you say when a person says ‘what am I going to do…I can’t go on’?”

  1. Breathe.

    Good advice. You might be interested to hear the Reasonable Doubts podcast episode #74, ‘Mindfulness’, where they discuss their experience with Buddhist meditation and the value of mindfulness, breathing, and the possible benefits towards overcoming various physical and mental stresses.

    It’s an atheist or humanist podcast, but one of the hosts has been meditating for years and has attended various buddhist retreats and takes the issue quite seriously. They have a fairly lengthy discussion on the positive aspects of mindfulness and talk about some of the scientific studies relating to it.

    • thanks Iain. I have actually studied the Buddhist and the Vedic system in this area as they have much to add to our understanding of tools for good mental health. I look forward to following your links…cheers…Leesa

  2. Leesis / When another in such a bad state that the just feel its
    all just a bad dream that turns into the occassional nightmare.

    Then it also best in reminding them that they having signed a
    donar card leaving all their organs etc etc etc to ones in need
    those whom value their life yet through illness may lose such.

    That one has a occassional downer is but par of lifes course
    its a part of their lifestyle / their / mental stage of development
    as they being. In truth the harder the times it being for people
    then the BETTER in truth they be / because their mental state
    suich they come out of the illusion / and facing lifes true reality.

    At present find uncertainty because / their brain going through
    very crulial stages in development / once clearing such stage
    then the situation as life will have far more clarity as meaning.

    Humanirty is at a crucial stage in their spiritual development
    the brain going through a period of development / as when it
    being past it shall leave people with the greater capability in
    depth of experience understanding / their true spiritual being.

    Meditation plays a great part in human evolution // as in one
    turns the senses inward finding spiritual experience // thus
    one bring the needed balance unto the material experience.

    PS / humaniy in truth but uses a small fraction of the brains
    capability / in taking the senses inwards opens the gates to
    great knowledge / great experience in knowing the true self.

    • thanks for you thoughts. May I gently suggest that guilt tripping though (re organs) isnt very effective and indeed can increase feelings of unworthiness. I would also say that the ‘occasional downer’ is very different than feeling completley overwhelmed.

      I absolutely agree that it is seeing these times through that we grow. But in that moment we need others…just their presence can be enough

  3. Leeses / having another show sympathy as understanding is
    justifiable. As times in it requireing / thus its one transgresses
    through the difficult times not alone but strengthened of others.

    HOWEVER it be we must learn from our experiences as raise
    ones understanding. / Not always looking upon negative side
    not always seeking aid / but in a open heart give toward others.

    Regard the greater understanding / experience. One in need
    of a spiritual teacher. / At present times humanity is fortunate
    it being blessed in (prem rawat) whom not only be a spiritual
    teacher / he be the teacher of teachers /thus we are blessed.

    In pc search put (words of peace) / (prem rawat foundation)
    both sites have videos of (prem rawat )speak at depth unto
    the individuals growth in spiritual development // where the
    practicale of turning the senses inwards bringing the reality
    of true understanding / experience / towards enlightenment.

    Such time for humanity its the darkest hour before the dawn
    thus understanable / people suffer from a long hard journey
    yet in truth it an time of rejoicement / not being that of sorrow.


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