This is for those of you who feel like burdens to friends and who are valiantly trying to shoulder the weight of your struggles by yourself.
Please give others the opportunity to help. Please don’t fight alone. Please treat yourself as you would a dearly loved friend.
In the last year, I’ve had too many conversations with too many incredible humans who are hurting alone and who timidly come to me at the very end of themselves.
“I don’t want to be a burden.”
“I’m sorry I’m calling again.”
“I’m sorry to bug you.”
They don’t want to be burdens because they know how heavy what they are carrying is and they don’t want to involve anyone else. They don’t want anyone to feel the way they do or to be trapped in the same emotional struggle they are. They don’t want to reach out only to not find help or a listening ear on the other end of the line. The logic seems sound – life is hard enough for each of us, why should I just add my own burdens to someone else’s plate? How will that help?
I want to answer this… Because you are a being not a burden. Because you aren’t alone. Because life is hard and you shouldn’t have to go through it alone. Because the people who love you want to be there for you. Because one day you will have the opportunity to reciprocate and be there for them. Because the thought process you are trapped in is poisonous and you’d be shocked at the amazing things you can realize when you invite in an outside party.
Imagine a friend calls you sobbing – things have been piling up for months and they finally broke down. I would hope part of this conversation would include the question, “Why didn’t you call me sooner? You know I’m always here.” It’s heartbreaking when someone calls you like this – when they are at the end of themselves and you just wish you had picked up on it sooner. It’s even more so when they may not call only to find out months or years later how bad things were and how you wish you would have known.
Treat yourself like you would that friend. You would want them to call sooner before things built up. You’d want to know if things weren’t going well. You’d want to have the chance to be there for them. Give others that chance to be there for you.
Make the phone call. Send the text. Reach out.
Sometimes when caught in the midst of emotions, we forget what we are feeling isn’t known to others. It’s so important to remember something so obvious – loved ones aren’t psychic. They don’t know how you are feeling. Some will ask and check in from time to time which makes it easier to open up. Others won’t for a variety of reasons – not wanting to pry, not wanting to intrude, etc. Not asking doesn’t mean those folks don’t care or don’t want to know. It means they just don’t know how or what to ask. I’m a lover of questions and am repeatedly reminded that not everyone is 🙂 This is okay. Even as someone who asks loads of questions, I don’t often know what to ask because I truly don’t always know what’s going on that might be causing someone to struggle. 20 questions in and I may find out or I may never ask the right questions and miss my chance entirely to be there for someone. Do your friends a favor and fill them in – don’t wait for them to ask because they just simply may not know to.
One day, you’ll be on the other side of this. One day they will need your help and it will feel fabulous to be there for them knowing how rock solid they were there for you.
One caveat to this: some you open up to may not know what to say or do. They may freeze, say the wrong thing, or not pick up on how bad things are despite you trying to tell them. Be patient with them in the long run as they may turn into those who do know how to be there with time. No one knows how to help in every situation but it’s important to go through things together and learn. In the short term, find those who you can turn to. Practice vulnerability. If you can’t find a friend when you really need it, find a therapist if you can afford it or a free support group if you can’t (google should be able to help with this).
To those who get the call/text/email/smoke signal from someone struggling, this is a sacred moment. All you need to do is be there. Don’t shut it down. Don’t panic. Don’t try to fix everything. Listen and love them through it. Remind them how much you love them. Follow up with them during the weeks after even if you have nothing to say except “Hey. I’m thinking of you today and wanted to let you know I love you”. Those texts mean more than you realize. In any case, leave the communication channel open after someone is vulnerable with you. Be the one to bring it up next time around.
To those who don’t get the call – ask your loved ones how they are doing consistently. Create a safe space where they can come to you. Ask in good moments. Ask in bad moments. Ask in boring moments. Make it abundantly clear that you are always there for it all. Make your name the one that pops into their head when their emotions take over.
To close, a vignette and a quote… a friend was driving me to the airport after a horrific weekend for me emotionally. He was so incredibly patient and kind with me as he extended the time he stayed with me on the road no questions asked. As he dropped me off, I thanked him profusely and joked, “if you hadn’t been here I likely would have been headed straight for the closest mental hospital.” We laughed and without missing a beat he said, “Next time it’ll be me calling you.” We both are at the point in our friendship where we have that sacred space built into our interactions. We take on each other’s burdens as our own knowing we’re never going through life alone. This is a sacred bond built on vulnerability. I am so thankful for the numerous people in my life who have been that for me and who have made it so easy to fall apart to.
“Believe that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Believe that you might be that light for someone else.” – Kobi Yamada
Some days you need someone to be the light – other days you might be for another. Create space for both. Practice both.