“Trouble shared is trouble halved.” ~ Dorothy Sayers
From the day we’re born, support is what nurtures us and encourages us to thrive. It’s emotional nutrition that energizes and fortifies us! It’s not just for bad times; we all need it throughout our lives to help us live well. It’s like a soft, billowy cushion. It’s there to sink into when you’re tired. It gives you comfort and eases the way during challenging times but there’s a limit to what it can do. It can’t put your life back together. It can only help you do that job. During my stay at the rehabilitation centre I was surrounded by support but I knew I was alone in my journey in one important way. I was the one who was going to have to build my shattered life back up again. Nobody else could do it for me. Others could do everything possible to lessen my stress and buffer my healing process, but I was the one who had to walk the path.
For a number of reasons, some people find it hard to ask for and accept help. They may not know how to ask for it, and accepting it may feel too uncomfortable and awkward. They may believe that if they are less than 100% self-reliant it’s a sign of weakness or that if they depend on others, they’ll lose control. If you are reluctant to seek support it helps to remember a simple truth: we can’t get by in this world without each other. We sometimes forget the reality of the human experience: we are interdependent, relational beings and from the moment we’re born, we’re driven to form emotional connections. As difficult as it may be, it is good to ask for help when you need it. Reaching out does not mean you are weak. It means you have a natural human need. Look to the people you trust for support and, even though you might feel uncomfortable, accept it. All you have to do is graciously receive it and know that in time, life will give you abundant opportunities to reciprocate.
Finding the support you need can sometimes be a challenge in itself. It’s often a process of trying different things until you find what works for you. It’s most important to keep looking even when you feel frustrated and discouraged. Listening to those you trust and respect can give you direction. Practice becoming more aware of what you’re drawn to as well. What sparks your interest – books, a yoga class, doing a retreat? If it grabs your attention, act on it and see what happens!
Most people who have faced a life-changing crisis say support played a huge role in helping them put their life back together again. Support comes from all kinds of people, places and things, but I have found it generally takes one of three forms.
We’re really good at this one! Human beings are multitasking masters! We love to DO things. In some ways this special skill has become too much of a good thing. There are more stress-related problems than ever these days. But when a crisis stops you in your tracks or hardship slows you down to a crawl, having someone there who will do the things that need to be done provides tremendous relief.
One afternoon a friend came and sat by my bed when I was in the hospital. She read the paper. She asked me at one point if I was mad. I said I was. Other than that we didn’t talk. I remember her visit as if it had happened yesterday. It was wonderfully calming and comforting. “Just being there” is the form of support many people find most difficult to give – not because they don’t want to, but because they don’t know how to. People who are “doers” (most of us), think they aren’t doing anything when they’re just sitting with someone. They are. They think they are not being helpful. They are. They feel inadequate and ineffective. They are not. Many people who have faced a radical life change will tell you their most profound experience of support was when someone simply spent time with them not doing anything. When people sit quietly, or walk with someone in silence, or just listen attentively, they are sending an unforgettable message. They are saying “you are not alone.” The healing power of that message is beyond measure.
All support is intended to encourage, but some kinds of support are particularly motivating. This can only come from those who are close to you, because they know you, and from those who have also experienced adversity, because they know what you’re going through. When friends and family encourage you, they are telling you “We know you and we believe you can do this!” In times when you can’t see your capabilities, having someone who knows you point them out helps bolster your belief in yourself. When you’re struggling, being around someone who is living well after overcoming adversity gives you hope. In them you can see that things can get better. When they encourage you they are telling you “I am a person just like you and I got through it. You can too!”
Support is everywhere. It comes from other people – strangers, best friends, communities and organizations. It comes from your environment, from your Higher Power, and from cherished things. It comes from you as a gift to yourself – learning how to take care of yourself is an important part of healing for many people! Anything that freely nurtures and sustains you is support. The possibilities are endless. A singing bird on a quiet afternoon can do it. A day at an amusement park can do it too. A smile can be just as supportive as a community-wide effort. It all depends on you and what you need. Seek it, ask for it and receive it!