FYI, this post is not about the tv show, although I liked it a lot.
I ran into a friend at the grocery store today. We were close once, but over the past few years we’ve drifted apart. Our daughters brought us together, but they grew up and found new friends, and so, our friendship faded.
That’s not exactly true, and since They say (no, I don’t know who “they” are) a writer must be honest, I’ll try again.
Our daughters grew up and my friend dumped me. Over the past year she stopped responding to my emails, answering my texts or returning my calls. I was hurt, and wondered what I had done wrong (because that’s the way my brain works. It’s always my fault). After a while, my feelings turned to anger. I decided she was a “friend for a season” and that I was better off without “friends like that”, but I was still heartbroken.
When I ran into her at the store, my first impulse was to smile politely and keep shopping – after all, I didn’t want my ice cream to melt. Seeing that I didn’t have any ice cream and that it was too late to hide, I decided to Be the Bigger Person and make polite conversation.
“How are you? How are the kids? Is your son a senior now?”
She responded by blurting out personal and devastating news.* I was heartbroken again. I had written off a friend who was struggling to deal with a difficult situation. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t know, that I had no way of knowing what she was going through. I had walked away rather than trying harder. I had failed to be a lifetime friend.
What she did was not new – I have done the same thing in the past. I pulled away from friends and family, embarrassed to admit that I was having difficulty coping (“difficulty coping” is code for “having a hard time getting through each day without crying”). I don’t know why we turn away, when we should be reaching out for help. Or maybe I do.
We have been trained to believe that we can do it all (easily and effortlessly, thanks to Cosmo), and that asking for help is a sign of weakness. We’ve been told that help is a four letter word. We have been led to believe that other people sail through life (with perfect hair and makeup), and that we are the only ones who can’t get our S*** together. This way of thinking is not only wrong, it is dangerous. It’s the top of the slide into a dark, deep hole with slick steep sides. The bottom of the hole is filled with jagged glass and the sound of the Evil Inner Critic howling “You can’t do anything right, you are stupid, you are a failure, nobody will ever love you….”
There are ways out of the hole, but they’re difficult to find. It’s dark, and cold, and there are blocked doorways and false exits. Some people choose to leave the only way they know how, ending their lives and leaving family and friends behind. Some people are strong enough to climb out on their own. It can be done, but it’s a long, hard process. The journey out is much easier when you have a team of people working with you – people who will cheer you on as you begin our climb, or throw you a lifeline and pull you up when you get stuck.
The first week of October is Mental Health Awareness Week. If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask. Asking for help was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I am so glad that I did. Help came from the most amazing places. I learned that, although I CAN walk through this world alone, with a little help from my friends, I can fly.
*The news is not mine to share, and it’s not important to this piece.