Do you ever feel as though you are the only one in your circle or tribe that has dark times? Times when you struggle to put one foot in front of the other; you feel bad and you don’t even know why sometimes, or you are feeling low and worries and anxious feelings creep in? These are often the times when you look around you and see everyone’s else supposedly getting on with life – skipping around looking like they don’t have a care in the world. You may look upon them with feelings tinged with envy because they appear to have everything sorted out. But do they really?
During my counselling years, one of the most striking features about some clients I worked with was how terrifically well they appeared to be coping. Smart appearance; good fitness regime; holding down a career and running a home: it could have been easy to imagine such people didn’t have a care in the world. And maybe that’s what their family and friends thought too. And yet when the person began to open up during their sessions I would often find that behind the smart facade was someone suffering deeply, and feeling alone in their distress. Often, they were the sort of people who didn’t want to burden their families – maybe other issues were going on which they didn’t want to add to, or maybe they just didn’t want to appear vulnerable. The trouble with keeping up appearances though, is that stress can gradually build over time and feelings of isolation can keep growing.
One of my mantras in life is ‘never assume anything’, and this actually stands me in good stead in many ways. I’ve learned over the years that virtually everyone we meet in life has had moments when they feel like escaping from the world; getting under the duvet for twenty four hours or setting off down the road like Dick Whittington, carrying nothing more than a few belongings tied in knotted handkerchief on the end of a stick and with just a faithful cat for company.
Most of us are lucky to have good friends and yet how many times do we really open up and tell them how we really feel. If you are like me, the normal stock reply you give to most questions about how you are doing is ‘I’m good thanks’. None of us want to be a burden with our woes and none of us want to appear negative or grumpy. And of course, being positive and upbeat is a really good way to be and plays a part in lifting our spirits and can help change our outlook. But there are times when we can really benefit from being honest and getting something out in the open; and we can also find that we gain much more insight into another person’s feelings and behaviour. To show a friend or loved one that we trust them with our feelings is showing them how much we value them too. We don’t want to be glad to hear other people have been through bad times but it does help us when we hear someone’s personal story – to hear how they overcame their fears or adversity and found light at the end of the tunnel – and even transformation – for what can be more encouraging than that? And if we recount our worries and someone says “ It’s okay, I’ve been there – here’s my thoughts which might help” – it can feel literally like a trouble shared is a trouble halved as the saying goes.
This ‘opening up’ to people takes time. I find it much easier to give than to receive in all areas of my life. I love sharing gifts and know too, the importance of giving out kindness and being generous in all ways, not just financially. Sometimes, even when we seek help professionally (which I would advise if you really can’t seem to cope) and we are paying for counselling services – we may still struggle to look right and still try and maintain a good front because it is so ingrained in us to do so. Why is it hard to ask for kindness, advice or attention? We need to remember that there are good and loving people out there who would love to help given the chance.
Another point to remember is this: you may feel totally fed up with your story; your particular angst and worry. You may think no one will be interested in hearing it, or you may fear they will think you are daft. If you have been overtly anxious you will be tired – (trust me, anxiety is the most tiring emotion in the world), but to the person you talk to, this is a new story; one to be viewed with fresh eyes, from a new angle and a new perspective. I doub’t very much if there is a person who wouldn’t want to reach out to you and be kind, to take on the privilege of helping you feel better. And if you do come across someone who isn’t on your wave length, don’t take it personally. They may be suffering too and not in the right place to help. For now, they are not ‘your’ person but I promise you, your person is out there.
Think about Eeyore. He was grumpy and he was miserable but his friends knew he had a good and loving heart.
‘One awesome thing about Eeyore is that even though he is clinically depressed, he still gets invited to participate in adventures and shenanigans with all of his friends. What is amazing is that they never expect him to pretend to feel happy, they never leave him behind or ask him to change, THEY JUST SHOW HIM LOVE.’
I hope you are in a good place, but if you are not, reach out to someone today, even in a small way. Open your heart a little. Let in a little beam of light as you lift the corner of the duvet. And remember – Dick Whittington may have been in dire straights when he walked off into the distance but he eventually found good fortune and became the Mayor of London! You may not wish to be Mayor (or you may but that’s another story!) but you CAN change things.