When someone asks how you are doing, do you answer honesty? Do you say "good" or "fine" even if things aren't? Maybe you are dealing with a recent heartbreak, a loss of a family member or friend, stress at work, stress at home, or maybe you are just exhausted and close to burn out. My answer used to be "good," no matter what internal trauma I was dealing with. I was scared to open up and to talk about my problems, because I didn't want to burden anyone else with them.
Pretending we are ok when we aren't, is bullshit...
I recently ran into an old gym friend in a parking lot. Someone who I hadn't seen in a couple years. I first asked how he was and he updated me on all the amazing things that had been happening in his life since we last spoke. When he asked me how I had been, I didn't hesitate. I said things had been really hard lately. I had just come from my Grandmother's funeral that morning and my heart was hurting. I told him that the past year was a struggle for me, that I had unfortunately been going through a lot. I was happy to leave it at that, but he asked what had happened....so I told him. I said I had been dealing with a major heartbreak, that 6 people I knew had died, and that my Father had been arrested and charged with sexual assault. He was shocked, but he told me he was sorry, gave me a hug and we went on our separate ways.
In the past I would never have told the truth when someone asked me that question. I would never have admitted that I was not doing OK!
At first I felt bad for maybe sharing too much. That I should not have burdened him with my own problems in a very casual parking lot exchange of hello's. But then I really thought about it. I was not burdening him, I was simply just being honest for a change. I was being honest with myself, I was accepting the current season of life that I was in, and I was brave enough to share it when he asked. When I reflected on this I realized this was actually a HUGE step for me!
Why do we hide our struggles?
There are so many reasons people may not feel comfortable sharing their own struggles with the world. In general it is because we are trying to avoid taking about what we are going through for fear it will make us feel worse. We are scared of something!
It could be:
We are scared of being judged
Fear of being vulnerable or appearing weak
We are not yet ready to face the emotions we are feeling
We are ashamed of what happened to us (I have fallen into this category in the past when I was cheated on. Being betrayed like that brought up a lot of feelings of inadequacy and shame)
We don't feel worthy of help or don't want to burden someone else (I have fallen into this category many times)
We don't want to take the time to explain our situation to someone, or don't feel listened to when we do anyway
We feel helpless or lost
We are embarrassed or even humiliated
We feel like a failure (I felt this way when my marriage broke down)
We feel stupid or silly (especially when someone has hurt us that we trusted)
We feel disrespected, insulted or angry
We don't know how to deal with these emotions so we do our best to avoid them!
I think it is so easy to fall into the comparison game, where we look at other's lives and compare it to our own. It is easy to look from the outside at someone else's life and think they have it all figured out. They are so happy, they are such a good Mum, they have such an amazing relationship, etc. But most of the time you are just seeing what people want you to see. Because they are also scared to share the truth. The truth is we all struggle. We all go through seasons in our lives that are hard. We all get stressed out. We all feel weak at times, or ashamed, or inadequate. THIS IS NORMAL.
Learn to get comfortable with being uncomfortable
The quickest way to heal is to face whatever emotions your are feeling head on. Learning to recognize what you are feeling and accepting it for what it is. This past year I felt a lot of sadness, because I experienced a lot of loss. At first I worried I may be depressed because of how sad I felt all the time. But then I realized, feeling sad is NORMAL when you are experiencing grief. I lost people and relationships that I truly cared about. My grief was expected and justified. So instead of feeling anxious every time I had a sad day, I started to just accept it for what it was. Emotions often feel like waves. Sometimes we see them coming and sometimes they just crash over us when we least expect it. However when we know that these emotions will come we can change our reaction to having our heads under water. We can panic and try to gasp for air which means we will end up gulping water instead. Or, we can remain calm, hold our breathe and allow the water to simply pass over our heads while we stand strong. It is our reaction that determines the outcome, not the wave.
How sharing has changed my life
At first it seemed scary. But just like anything else you just need practice. I started opening up to my family, then close friends, then to a therapist, then to acquaintances, then social media and even strangers! I never thought I would have a public blog that I share some of my biggest personal struggles!
But here we are...and I am so very grateful. I soon realized, the more I shared, the more support I received. This may have been one of the hardest years of my life but I also have never felt more loved and supported than I do now. People actually do care, and if people care about you they will want to help you.
Maybe it is a shoulder to cry on, a long hug, a place to stay, or just a DM from a stranger to say that your story helped them because they were going through something similar. It is amazing the places and people you will find comfort and support in when you put things out there.
Start small, but most important just start!
If you are currently struggling on your own I encourage you to share what you are going though with someone. Maybe that means reaching out to a friend to just catch up over coffee. Maybe that means talking to a therapist first before you share with someone you know. But most importantly just start talking.
Be honest. Be honest with yourself about how you are doing and how you feel about it. DITCH THE SHAME. There is no shame in facing your emotions. In fact, it takes straight up courage to do so! You are being BRAVE. It is easier to avoid emotions and uncomfortable conversations. Avoidance and suppression is what we do when we are AFRAID. Don't let fear be your driving factor. You are capable of getting through this. 💕
What are little things that you do to help reach out to others when you need support?
I admit I still struggle with this, and it is still a WORK IN PROGRESS...and that is also OK.