Try to imagine what it is like, to watch someone slowly become a stranger to you.

To watch them slowly become a stranger to themselves.

Try to imagine watching them engage in a daily practice that may not technically be, but often feels, like suicide. Not in a single, life-altering attempt, but a daily dosage of self-harm that means constantly choosing not life, but escape from it. Escape from whatever torture living means for them.

Try to imagine being a part of that life. And having to know that while there is always room for improvement, there is no big shift or change you can make, no right thing you can say, that will make them take a step, even a small one, onto a different path.

Imagine how sad that might make you feel. How utterly powerless.

You watch the others in your circle struggle with those same thoughts and feelings. See them do everything they can think of to try to turn the tide. See them turn away, and tend to their own hearts, when they too come up against that wall of powerlessness.

Imagine looking back. Seeing the signs along the way. Mental illness. Addiction. Could you have made a difference then? Back before it was less serious? Oh, but you tried. You did the best you could. Imagine accepting that your best was only ever going to make it less bad, but never good.

Imagine having all these memories. Some good. Some not so good. Some really, really not so good. And all these years of fear and anger and love and affection for this person who you now know was only ever doing the best they could. Even if that best sometimes hurt you. Made you want nothing more than to hide. To run away from this intensity and turmoil and “not normal,” into something, anything else.

Imagine the work it takes to learn, and learn, and relearn, and relearn, that you can, and should, take your space. But that you can never really run away from it. That it just is. And you just need to learn how to be with it.

Imagine that this is okay, or mostly okay, 80% of the time. That you are a relatively happy person living a rich life full of beautiful relationships and interesting work and exciting opportunities for growth and reflection and joy.

And imagine that sometimes it’s really not. And you just need to be okay with that. And not try to hide from it. Because it’s okay that it’s not always easy to love a stranger.