Instead Of Isolating, Ask For Support
by Cheryl Rainfield, 2003
Have you ever done this? You’re upset, you’re having a hard time—and you keep it to yourself. You don’t call a friend because you think you shouldn’t burden them with your problems. Or you don’t even get that far—you don’t even think about reaching out to someone else, you just withdraw from the world.
And while you’re all alone with your pain, it just grows and grows.
But who’s to say that your friend doesn’t want you to call them? By not reaching out, you’re not giving them the choice of whether or not they can be there for you. You’re not giving them the choice of connecting with you, of getting to know you better. You’re not letting them be your friend.
Sometimes supporting other people through their problems can help take you away from your own problems. That’s something your friend may know and appreciate. Being there for someone else can also make a person feel useful or needed. And friendship is built on intimacy. Intimacy is not just the times you feel happy together. It’s also the times where you share your pain and distress—and you let someone else in. You allow them to see you—and you allow them to respond.
To be heard, really heard by someone, can help so much. Sometimes that’s all we need. Other times we may need reassurance, or the gentle touch of a hand. Those things can help you out of your pain—but you have to be open to what is offered to you, and you have to reach out to someone, first.
There’s a balance to this, as with everything; if you’re frequently in crisis and you phone the same friend every time, they’re going to get worn out pretty quickly. But if you turn to different people—and to yourself—the pain gets spread out.
Give the person you’re reaching out to the space to say they can’t be there right then, or in that particular way. That way, you’ll know that when they agree to be there, they’ll be there fully. But also give them the chance to say yes! Give them the chance to love you.
If you have trouble reaching out to others, try reaching out to a friend over something small—something you find upsetting but not horrendously so. Allow yourself to take in the support they offer—and really feel it. Then next time, you can try reaching out about something larger. You may also want to remind yourself—through thoughts, notes to yourself, self talking—that it’s healthy to reach out to others, and that you deserve support. You don’t have to stay alone with your pain. And, in reaching out, you may even make your friendship stronger. When a friend realizes that you’re turned to them in a moment of distress, they may feel that they can do the same with you.
You might also want to connect with yourself, to reach inward, when you’re having a hard time. Sometimes when we feel pain, we clamp down on it, hold it there, because we don’t want to go through the pain, we don’t want to feel it. But clamping down on pain only makes it stay there longer—and can even make it grow. Try writing out your pain, instead—in diary form, in poetry, in a rap, in a musical lyric, in a child’s rant. Write it out with crayons, with markers, with pens and paint. In writing it out, you allow your pain expression, and a way of being heard. This can help lessen the pain, help you connect more deeply with yourself, and help you shift from a hard place to an okay place.
You can also just sit and listen to what your feelings are saying. Really listen, without judgement. Be a true friend to yourself. Just acknowledging how you feel, and letting it be okay that you feel that way, can help you move through the pain. Finding ways to comfort yourself can also help change how you feel.
So next time you’re struggling with your pain, and are curling up into yourself—reach out to a friend, reach out to yourself. You’ll feel a lot better.
©Cheryl Rainfield, 2003
Written by Cheryl Rainfield, award-winning author of SCARS, STAINED, and HUNTED
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