Don’t worry…this is some taxi-driver wisdom worth listening to…
I took a cab home earlier this week to avoid the downpours and I got chatting to the driver. He was immediately conversational, to which I was initially reticent. Sometimes, I can be a bit grumpy like that. Especially, when I’m hoping to squeeze in another 20 minutes work before I get home to the family. But on this occasion, I caught myself. I caught myself trying to move away from a chance interaction and instead I took a step towards being more curious.
Mr cabby-man (I didn’t get his name) enquired into the nature of my work. Upon telling him I ran a training and psychotherapy business, he was forthcoming in sharing with me his struggle with anxiety and depression. Now, the reason I’m telling you about my journey home at the end of the day, is that I was moved by his story. Not only that it included what I think are some helpful lessons about escaping the clutches of depression.
As I sat in the back, we exchanged glances in his rear-view mirror while he told me his story. He described how he’d struggled a few years back when he hit the lowest point ever in his life. He lost his job as a manager in a supermarket and he lost his home. He battled with suicidal thoughts. He remembered thinking “what’s the point in living…in paying the bills…in carrying on? This is no life.” he thought. But, he didn’t give in to it. Despite being separated from his family who resided in Pakistan, he found the strength to seek professional help.
He proceeded to tell me about the help he got from his Doctor and a Psychiatrist. The Psychiatrist focused on helping to reduce the stuff that was making him worse i.e. smoking too much, staying in bed, isolating himself and increase the stuff that would likely make him better e.g. drinking water, eating food and most importantly for him, reconnecting with God.
Asked if he was a religious man, he replied that he was. He was a Muslim. His male, Hindu Psychiatrist advised him to reconnect with his God and his religion. “Your God is everywhere isn’t he, so start to pray again. See what happens.” So he did.
He prayed regularly and he visited Mosque. He made sure he went on a Friday, because apparently “if you miss Friday prayer three consecutive weeks in a row, then technically you are not a Muslim anymore”. He started reading the Quran. He realised again that when he prayed to God, he was speaking with God. And when he read the Quran, God was speaking with him.
Further chit-chat revealed that he had always gone to Mosque, prayed and read the Quran in the past. He grew up living and doing that. But, for the 6 months his mood plummeted, he stopped. By reconnecting again, he began to improve.
During this period, he told me was prescribed medication – an old tri-cyclic antidepressant medication. He said that it didn’t help. In fact, he remembers it made him worse. I took from his view, that his salvation, his recovery, his transformation out of depression and into health and well-being was choice and commitment to live with what he valued.
I listened closely to his story. I wanted to hear what he had to say and to learn what had helped him. He was a scientist in Pakistan and he had planned to train as a Doctor. He sacrificed this though to get a job and financially support his family. It seemed this had been a painful loss, because he loved to learn. And, yet he was able experience this again through his reading of the Quran.
His commitment to living with purpose, to make a choice, to connect again and to learn was what I heard made the difference. “Being a taxi driver is lonely, so whenever I have the chance to talk with customers I do it. And when they aren’t there, I read. I love to learn.”
Not being a religious man myself, I have no direct experience of a relationship with a God. But, community, humanity, connection and learning are values I live by; several areas of commonality we seemed to share.
I didn’t ask about what had led to his depression. It crossed my mind, but I resisted the urge to ask as I wanted to hear his story in his own words. Why a person gets depressed is ever only at best a hypothesis and one that is not essential to experiencing life here and now. He did not see it as important to tell me. Instead, he focused on the opportunity to speak to someone, to open up and to act on the professional guidance he received. He then discovered again what life was and what made a difference to his emotional and psychological well-being.
He remembered his tears and his pain. I assume that he did not shy away from this. That, instead, he felt it and learned from it. He struck me as one mindful and compassionate human being. I asked if it would be OK to tell people about his story and gratefully he said yes. He wasn’t the least hesitant. “That is why I told you my friend…so that you could tell other people. So that it might help them.” I thanked him and he looked pleased to have been asked.
“Life is a gift” he said as we approached my dropping off point. As we pulled up outside my house, he stepped out the car to open my door and shake my hand. He seemed pleased to have met me and I too was pleased to have met him.
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