wpid-2012-02-27-16.23.47.jpgThis poem was written by a mental health consumer who was a resident in facilities over a number of years in Queensland, Australia. He wished to remain anonymous. What strikes me is the number of mental health professionals he must have encountered over the years, yet he still remained unheard. As a social worker, I try to “hear” the people who come to see me first and foremost. Their words are important, the stories of their lives need told and heard.Then, the fancy “evidence based practice” and the “fixes” can come out, if the client chooses. Most do. Most people want to get better. As a TBI survivor, I still struggle with aphasia. My speech has improved but I still stutter or pause between words, especially when fatigued or stressed. Often, people assume I am stupid or try to complete sentences for me. It takes a little extra time to listen.

When I ask you to listen to me
And you start giving me advice,
You have not done what I asked.

When I ask you to listen to me
And you begin to tell me ‘why’ I shouldn’t feel that way,
You are trampling on my feelings.

When I ask you to listen to me
And you feel you have to do something to
solve my problems,
You have failed me, strange as that may seem.

Listen! All I ask is that you listen;
Not talk, nor do- just hear me.

And I can do for myself- I’m not helpless
Maybe discouraged and faltering, but not helpless.

When you do something for me, that I can
and need to do for myself,
You contribute to my fear and weakness.

But when you accept as a simple fact that I do feel what I feel,
No matter how irrational
Then I quit trying to convince you
And can get about the business of understanding
What’s behind this irrational feeling.

When that’s clear,
The answers are obvious and I don’t need advice.

Irrational feelings make sense when we
Understand what’s behind them.

Perhaps that’s why prayer works sometimes for some people;
because God is mute and doesn’t give
Advice to try to “fix” things,
He/She just listens, and lets you work it out
for yourself.

So please listen, and just hear me, and if you
want to talk,
Wait a minute for your turn,
And I’ll listen to you.


There are so many points in this poem.  When you’re with someone who has a disability, respect their ability to be independent.  Let them do what they can do on their own.  There’s more I can do, even with my TBI, that I cannot.  I may be slower than I used to be but I get there.  Be patient, wait your turn. 

When a friend or family member has a problem, listen first and foremost.  Perhaps they don’t want a solution, just someone to hear the problem. 

Have a good day. 



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