It’s dark at night. That’s not the darkness you care about, though. You’re lying in bed; you can’t sleep. You haven’t been sleeping well, neither eating well for days now. Everything seems to be hopeless. Your heart seems to faint every time your brain reminds you of the troubles that bring you all this anguish. You drown your tears in your pillow, wishing the night would end… but also wishing the day didn’t come. You check your phone, again. You wished someone would notice you. You wished someone texted you now, at 3 AM, asking how you feel… But you know it isn’t happening, you put your phone aside, sadder than ever, and stare at the darkness that fills your room and your heart.
I’ve been there. A lot of times. Quite recently too. I know how it feels. And I know how it feels when you realize that nobody around you seems to notice your pain. Even worse, when they seem not to notice after you’ve told them of your issues.
I know this is an unexpected topic for me to post about. The thing is that the amazing girls at the Daily Grace Blog posted this lovely article yesterday and I loved the part about anticipating the needs of people who are in need of help. What struck me especially hard was this, though:
Those who are suffering often cannot communicate what they need.
THIS. There are so many reasons why someone in desperate need might not tell you what they need:
- Convicting feelings of shame about their situation… and feeling they must solve this on their own because it’s “their own fault.”
- A genuine state of confusion due to trauma, not letting them think straight.
- Fear of being disappointed or let down.
- Actually not knowing what they need help with.
And there are probably many, many more I can’t think of right now.
In our current culture, there’s a super ambiguous attitude towards close friends, relatives, or acquaintances who are in need. First, people are empathetic towards them, people listen to them, and sometimes make the first move by directly asking the affected person how to be helpful. This is all good, don’t get me wrong, but, in my own experience, it provides the person in need with help that comes from a feeling of compassion that many times doesn’t help in stabilizing the situation of the person in need. This is so, so, so especially true when that first help is just lending some money to that friend of yours… Yeah, money may help, but if that person is not thinking straight for whatever reason (and trauma can have this effect) or if they don’t have a plan set out to get out of the crisis, you’re just going to frustrate your close friend in need further down the line when that money eventually runs dry.
On the other hand, people also expect the person in need to have a plan figured out, know any time what they need that will help them solve all their short-, mid-, and long-term issues… while that person might be in desperate need for a hot meal or being with someone in person to feel safe and let their tears run freely… When your soul is in darkness, there’s little chance you know what to do, what is really best for you… or you might know, but your strengths are not there and you need someone there for you for real.
This digital age makes us so inhumane sometimes. Yeah, texting someone who’s suffering from depression might be the only lifeline open because you two live in different towns… but is it? Maybe a phone call could be more effective! Or just wiring some money via any mobile payment service… again, it may help, but…
Look, I remember when I was sheltered in a very bad place because I… well… I was at my lowest, no food, no job… A great friend of mine did wire me money so I could stay at a hostal, but she did this super lovely thing of using the description field to include some Bible verses and words of encouragement. She lives in Florida, so no chance we could meet, you know? She put some effort in making things make sense, which helped so much! She also took time to check in with me via phone calls. She was there despite the Atlantic Ocean separating us from one another. She anticipated (she was so right in this) that I also needed spiritual help even though I was super firm in my atheism back then and I didn’t start coming back to my faith until almost a year or so later.
I mean, I’ve also made huge mistakes when trying to help out others. I’ve also fallen into the trap of showing unfruitful empathy… or forgetting to check in with that person from time to time. We all live inside our own bubbles, worrying about our own stuff, and quite disconnected from each other despite being hyper-connected. Of course every situation and every person involved is different… sometimes the time and attention that must be devoted is a lot,1 sometimes things get better in no time and with little to no effort.2
Taking care of others is a serious thing, especially when it comes to people who are close to you. Feelings get in the way, communication gets rough, everyone involved becomes stressed… and sometimes you do feel like the best thing to do is to leave that person behind because you’re feeling worn out by all of it too (which is a very human thing to feel, by the way). No, you’re not responsible for anyone’s issues… but that someone might be in utter despair and needs to feel they’re not alone in their struggles.
Words of encouragement, true love, connection, prayer, showing you’re listening to them, also placing boundaries and explaining you also need your rest to be able to help them better the next day… crying with them when it’s due, encouraging them to smile when it’s due… Being there with them also when they take steps out of their crisis, celebrating with them their little successes… I know, it feels like you need a PhD to do it right and it can become hard… and sometimes you might need to leave way to mental health and other healthcare professionals do the job (and this may bring you pain)… But in most cases, it’s just a matter of being there, showing you are there as a person and not as a “resource,”3 and yeah… you might also mess up, but hey… Trust me: someone who’s in despair and wants to get out from there will appreciate your love, even if you happen to make mistakes.
Thank you for reading this one. I know, weird post tonight. God bless you all!
Bringing in more trustworthy people might unload you from bearing the whole situation on your own. ↩︎
This does not mean the problem wasn’t real or grave. ↩︎
One of the worst therapists I ever had talked about other people I could ask for help to as “resources.” I hated it when they used that word. ↩︎