Hurting on the Inside and on the Sidelines


“Happy Easter!” I said to her. “May the joy of the Resurrection be yours!” Looking at her, I could see very little joy, though.  Her flat expression, slumped posture, and listlessness revealed far more than her words ever could.  For her, moments of joy are fleeting.  She’s trapped in a mind that can’t turn off.  When it isn’t given something to focus on, it will find something on its own and it usually isn’t something positive.  Worries about the future, the present, and the what-ifs exhaust her mind and her body, keeping her frozen in indecision and fear.

And all I can do is watch helplessly.

RyanMcGuire, Pixabay, CCOPublic Domain

Image Credit: RyanMcGuire, Pixabay, CCOPublic Domain

In my mind, I know I’m doing more than just watching.  I counsel. I listen. I love and I pray…a lot. I make appointments. I fill prescriptions. I buy books. I plan activities. But it doesn’t feel like enough. And the anxiety is still there.  It’s become the bass line to the music of her life, and mine to a certain extent.

What I can’t do is understand why. Why is it so hard to let go of the fear? Why, in a loving, stable family does she struggle so much to feel safe? Why can’t we find a way to help her more?

I know she doesn’t want to feel this way. And I also know from my own small struggles with anxiety and depression that you can’t just choose to not be depressed or anxious. But, inside I’m screaming trying to get her to hear me in a way that will miraculously change her state from struggling to thriving. On the outside, I stay calm and upbeat because I know that if I don’t, she’ll only spiral down with me.

I’m not the only one in the world struggling to help a loved one with depression or anxiety or any host of other psychological struggles. I know I’m not. It feels like an epidemic at times. Everywhere I turn, I hear about the emotional pain that people are going through. I see family members and friends struggle to help others and to help themselves. It hurts to watch them. It hurts to be them.

I know that suffering has a purpose and that we can elevate our suffering by offering it up to alleviate the suffering of others. I’ve learned a lot about myself, about her, and about God throughout this process. Part of me thinks that if I learn “enough,” the suffering will end. But, I know it doesn’t necessarily work like that.

God has a plan. I believe that. I really do. And, He doesn’t leave us alone in our suffering. I know He’s with me and that it hurts Him to see our pain. I pray constantly for God to heal her and for God to give all of us the grace to accept and handle all that we need to. I work on trusting God and letting go of the control that I pretend I have. I work to accept His will. I lean on Him.

What I really want to know is why? Why are there so many people suffering this way? Why can’t we help them more?

Do you hurt watching someone you love who suffers emotionally? How do you deal with your hurt and with theirs?

Copyright 2016 Laura B Nelson


About Author

Laura B. Nelson is a Catholic wife and mother of three children. She is also a Catholic blogger, author, speaker, teacher and life-long student of the Catholic faith. After receiving her degree in history from the University of Texas at Austin, Laura let her curiosity and enthusiasm take her down many paths including working in the world of finance, full-time motherhood, ministry leader, catechist, music teacher, speaker and author. Laura likes to be busy but she most enjoys spending time with her husband and three children at their home in Grapevine, TX. Visit her blogs at Green for God and Suburban Sainthood.


  1. Your post is dear to my heart as I am in a similar situation with my daughter…and it breaks my heart turn it makes my situation a harder…..but……I do my best to reach out her and keep her positive by doing what she loves to do…going on line. I use Pintrest with her to pin versus from the bible that will lift her spirit and assure her that she is not alone…God is with her and most importantly she is not being punished…we have good days and bad days…but I do find redirecting her to God has helped immensely as I see her smile more often now….she attends Sunday mass and is much more curious and wanting to learn and I am putting it all out there for her. I think she has found peace within God and she has has seen proof in me…I battle depression and was hospitalized …since that moment doctors could not help me ….I turned deeper into God and each day my family can see that I am okay…the tears fall less now and the anxiety is not preventing me from living….I am not cured by any means….but I am more at peace now…we pray as a family at bedtime and they really enjoy that and go to bed feeling more uplifted…it is heartbreaking to see a love one suffering and unable to take it away….I can only imagine what my husband lives with watching me….but I think he too has comfort knowing that I will be okay and that I have found some peace….he too redirects me to God if I start to slip….just a gentle nudge to read a verse and to pray….he knows I love the rosary ..he encourages me when I am down to turn to God if I forget…and I do the same for my daughter…..I also never let her forget how much she is loved by God and by her family….that we are here no matter what and if she needs a hug or to jump into bed with us …it is okay….we are here …God is here..she is not alone….my prayers to you and your daughter that she will find peace and be able to live her life and not have to suffer.

    • Paola, Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I agree that prayer is powerful and that God can heal what man can’t. I will pray for you as well. I have faith that we are not alone in our struggles. God is good and He will help us to get through this. I just wish the process didn’t hurt so much.

      Yours In Christ

  2. Thank you so much for this post, I truly believe it was not a coincidence I found it today.
    “Better or worse” takes in a while new meaning when your spouse battles a mental illness. It saddens me when he was his tough times but you just have to lean on God even if you’re lived one cannot or will not.

    • Robbie, you’re so right. It hurts when we see our loved ones hurt. But leaning on God is the only way to get through it and to have hope that things will get better.

      I’m praying for you and your husband

  3. Included me in this prayer circle. I will pray for your daughter, Laura and Paola and your spouse, Robbie. Please pray for my daughter, Mary. She has been battling for 3 years now. It came to a head this August when she tried killing herself. I totally understand your pain and questions. Been there, done that, still doing it. Saddest to me is that it is now causing her to question her faith for she feels no relief by calling on Jesus’ name as I have taught her, or no strength from the Eucharist, or no peace in prayer. And so she is tormented and exhausted from the battle. I know God will not let this talented, once-vibrant young lady’s life go to waste. She will shine for Him again. We are just waiting on the Lord. Meanwhile, we do all the things, Laura, that you list above, hope for the right medicine, and hope even more for a cure. In my post on Monday I also share about my daughter’s struggle and our prayer for a miracle.

    • Kelly, I’m so sorry that your daughter is struggling so much. As a mother, it brings me some comfort to call upon Mary. She felt the pain of watching her child suffer too. It doesn’t take away the pain but it makes me feel like there’s someone who really understand me that I can always go to.

      I look forward to reading your article and am sending you my prayers as well.

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