One particular day I was sitting at home, staring out of this window, having a boxing match with myself on the unconscious level, and we had some painters in the house doing some renovations and touching some things up. They’d been there for about a week and one of the painters had spent the last couple of days looking at me while I was crying and I was furious because every time I looked over he was looking at me.
This day he decided that to come over and talk to me, and all of a sudden he’s asking me all these questions and I’m thinking, “Would you just go away? Who are you? I don’t want to talk to you, I just want to be alone in this space.”
Anyway, he persisted. I started telling Louis about all the things I had accomplished, and the hours I’d worked, and how none of it meant anything. He just listened as I told him all of this stuff, and how I’d come to be there and what a failure I was and how every night I went to bed praying that I wouldn’t wake up the next morning.
And he didn’t argue with me, he just said to me, “Well, what is it that you wanted to do?” like he really seemed to understand. You know how sometimes you just get those encounters with strangers? And he just seemed to get it, you know, unlike all my family and friends who were always telling me how wonderful I was, but I couldn’t believe it.
But Louis the painter was different. Because he was actually listening and he didn’t just go “Oh, here’s this blubbering idiot.” He seemed to really get it, like he’d been there or something. So he started asking me all these questions and he kept asking, “Well what was it, exactly, that you wanted to do? Why can’t you do it?”
Finally I said, “Well, I wanted to be a motivational speaker. I really enjoy talking in groups.” And he responded, “What’s so stupid about that?”
“Who’s going to listen to a 20-something year old who’s got depression? What could I possibly say that anyone would enjoy listening to? And what’s more, even if I get through this I’ll carry that label all my life.”
He said, “Well you go and you learn some things and you’ll do some stuff that’s different and you’ll figure it out. You can still make that happen.”
So he called over to my Mum and said, “Teresa, can you get me a piece of paper?” and Mum comes over with a piece of paper and he says, “Here Chandell, I want you to write down something for me in a minute. I don’t want you to tell me what it is, I just want you to imagine that in five years’ time you’ve just finished doing a presentation and there’s this young girl in the audience and she’s just a mess and she doesn’t know what she’s going to do and she’s just totally lost. I want you to write down what it is that you’re going to tell her – the one piece of information that’s going to give her a chance.”
And I wrote it down. I was angry, but I wrote it down and gave him the piece of paper, and he didn’t even look at it – just folded it up and put it in his pocket and walked away. But I’ve never forgotten Louis, somehow his response started me back on the road to health. Maybe it was even his refusal to argue with me – it didn’t matter how angry I was, all my excuses just bounced off his determination to get me to project forward and think what I’d say to that girl.
Talking to Louis like that didn’t transform my life overnight – it wasn’t until a few weeks later when I went to an Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) Training that that happened – but for just a few minutes it did force me to look outside my misery and create a picture of a different way of thinking and living.