Tuesday, November 27, 2007

HELP

I am REALLY bad at asking for help. It's a pride thing, I know. But I wonder if it's also a cultural thing. Once upon a time neighbours were more aware of people's situations and therefore their struggles and would automatically lend a hand at times. These days it would seem that a combination of our busy lifestyles and our desire not to "interfere" has made that sense of community gradually disappear.

Isn't it sad that our lives are so busy that we find it hard to fit in reaching out to another? Isn't it sad that our desire for privacy and "individuality" has caused us to shut others out of our lives?

What about help within a family? DH and I have been talking about this lately. We've been trying to work out why his parents seem to want to help his sister and her family and yet seem reluctant to help us out - even when it seems really obvious to us that we're in need of some help. At first I thought perhaps it was the son/daughter issue. BUT, he has 2 sisters and only one of them gets the attention and the help.

Is it that they're not interested in helping us? Do they love her more than they love my DH and the other siblings? Does she appear more "needy" than the rest of us?

Sadly, DH and I have come to the conclusion that the only way to get help from his mother is to basically "tell her" this is what's happening. Occasionally I have gotten to the point of actually asking her for help, only to have her turn me down. This was very perplexing to me as it takes me quite a lot to actually ask for help and when I ask, I'm really DESPERATE. Not that she would know that I guess.

DH has taken over the "asking" now and he basically says "we need you to have the kids.....". And 99% of the time that works out well. I struggle a little because I feel like we're being "demanding" and that we shouldn't expect anything from her. We should wait until it's offered. I guess we've waited for over a decade now...... It's not that she doesn't really want to help. It's sort of a case of "the squeaky wheel gets the oil".

I guess on reflecting on all of this I feel a great sadness. A sadness that we've all let our lives get so busy that we just don't have the time to reach out to others when they're in need. I know that before my breakdown I was as guilty of this as anyone. I also feel sad that many people feel they need to put on an act of "having it all together" and not opening up to others about how they're really feeling. Again, I'm really bad at this myself.

So many people have commented at how shocked they were when I had my breakdown. Nobody could even imagine that I'd be struck by something like depression. Even my poor DH was rather shocked by the whole event. Me, well.....I knew something wasn't right and that if things kept going the way they were I felt like I was going to collapse in a heap. To be honest, I did try to tell my DH about it. He thought he could "fix it". :-) He's Mr "fixit" himself. He and I make for a bad mix when it comes to getting help because neither of us is very good at admitting when we need it.

I wanted to tell someone. For months I had it in my head that if an opportunity would come up, I would say something to one of my closest friends. Sadly, the opportunity never came up. Maybe I was supposed to *make* the opportunity. Maybe I was so used to putting on a "front" that I didn't know how to let down my guard enough to show people the tank underneath had run completely dry.

When I saw a Psychiatrist for the first time in January of this year, he diagnosed me with having zero self esteem. Not "low" self esteem but "NO" self esteem. I remember sitting and talking with a friend about this (finally getting to the point of opening up and being more honest) and she was rather shocked. Her comment went something along the lines of thinking that no-one would EVER have picked that about me. Do people really see me so much differently to the way I see myself? Sometimes, I'd really like the opportunity to just sneak a peek at the way others see me. Curious minds want to know and all that.

It's ironic that now I sit behind a keyboard and spill my guts in such a very public way. Not that the whole world reads my blog or anything. But they could if they wanted to..... :-)

In 2006 I was out of circulation for many months. In that time I was sent 1 card. Just the one. If I had been in hospital, do you think I might have received more cards than that? Don't get me wrong. We weren't abandoned by our friends or anything like that. Many people from our church cooked meals and cakes for us. I did receive a few emails. And people were constantly asking my DH how I was going and sending their regards and love via him.

But just 1 person of all the people in my life took the time to actually sit down, write a card and send it. To be perfectly honest, that hurt me a little bit. I know my friends care. I know how busy they are. And it's challenged me to consider how often in my life I've stopped and taken the time to write someone a card. Just a note to let them know I'm thinking of them. Nowhere near often enough.

I have been as guilty as anyone else of filling my life up to capacity and then some. Running from one thing to another. Constantly on the go. Constantly running so close to empty that there's nothing left to give another person. The hearts desire might be there. But if I don't act on it, how can that person ever know I was thinking of them?

I think we all need to take a step back and really examine our lives. Are we too busy to help someone in need? Are we too busy to bake a cake for our own family, let alone find the time to bake a cake for a neighbour or friend? Are we so busy trying to tread water ourselves that we don't even notice those drowning around us? And if we do notice - are we in a position to help them without drowning ourselves?

This is a challenge I want to take on myself and I encourage any of you reading this to do so also. As we move into the busy, festive season and then in to a New Year. Do we really want to keep living this fast paced life where people don't matter enough to us? Can we pause a moment and take a step back long enough to look around us and see how others are doing? Can we pop a little note or card in the post telling someone how much they mean to us?

What can we do today to make someone smile? What can we do to make their day just that little bit brighter?

Some of you may have noticed I've changed the title of this blog. I felt the old title was rather long and cumbersome. The definitions I've posted underneath are my own. They're not who I AM but who I desire to be.

What can you do today to spread a little "lightening" in the world. :-)

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

great post and a great reminder, just how hard is it to take a little time to show/tell people that we care and are there for them.

I will do everything I can today to make someone smile.

love your blog
cheers Lenny

lightening said...

Thanks Lenny. Hope you find plenty of reasons to smile yourself today. :-)

Cathy said...

You are right when you say its a challenge to slow down and look at others and see how they are coping.

In particular this time of the year is supposed to be a time to do that - Peace on Earth and Goodwill to all Men.

Doesn't always happen but I do try to make one person smile each day.

Hope you are feeling a bit better tomorrow and get that help from your in-laws

Cathy

Kendall said...

Lightening, I'm often touched by your posts, both in this blog and your other blog. This one has really sruck a chord with me. The aspect of putting up a brave front and never letting others know you even need help is something that I'm the queen of. Maybe I need to be a bit more transparent and less proud. It's difficult to know "who" to care for and how to care for them when we have no idea what's really going on in their lives. You really have me thinking!

Love Kendall

Frogdancer said...

I've still got two notes that my dad and my sister sent to me years ago when I was going through the divorce.

You're right. Cards can mean a lot to the recipient, yet we never seem to think to send them. I don't know why that is.

emma.jean said...

Great post, Jodi. It reminds me of some other random acts of kindness / paying it forward stuff I've seen on the Internet. Re. the cards, I often have written cards and thrown them out, the words don't sound right and I can't say it how I want it to sound. People tend to remember things they took offence to more than things they didn't, which is probably why I stress about it.

Leanne said...

Oh, I can totally relate to your post. DH and I have often wondered these things about our own parents. My own parents can go months without seeing their grandchildren because they are 'getting old' - they are in their mid fifties! A close friend of mine has the same problem, her parents twice migrating to Australia only to move back o/seas home (at great expense) and she is their only child! Go figure! It is sad that as we get older, some of us begin to see our parents for who they really are.

Miserly Mum said...

Having gone through a breakdown in September last year I can completely relate to how you felt. I personally felt almost abandoned at times by friends and family and it would have been nice to hear from them when I needed to. I like you tried to keep a brave face but it all became too much one day and I spent a solid week crying on the couch - barely able to do much at all. That was one of the hardest moments in my life but also my turning point. I knew then that I had to put myself first and slow down and to let things go.

In response to your comment about family, I feel the same way also. I feel like at times I almost need to beg my inlaws to take my children, of which they have twice this year. I am no longer comfortable asking them and also leave that to my husband - being the one with the relationship with them. I also understand what you mean about there being some more help available to other siblings - I see this allot in my husbands family.

River said...

I'm not good at offering help. I'm always afraid others will see me as interfering, or poking my nose in where it's not wanted. On the other hand I find I can't ask for help either. I was raised to believe that if I couldn't do stuff on my own without relying on others then I was useless and weak. My first husband reinforced this. There are times when I feel so very alone. I grew up without close friends and am thankful to see that my kids are not like me.

Ali said...

I am always willing to help others but don't ask for help myself ~ too stuborn too, lol!

this is definitely the season when we do tend to think of others a lot more than other times of the year...

Beth said...

I just love your blog and look forward to a new installment of wisdom to reflect on. Your insights are very reflective and I really enjoy that.

We have had some similar struggles and have taken a long time to recover. Life as we knew it to be became scary and unpredictable. For us it was about 2 years for life to reflect 'normal'. We have grown from this experience and look for joy consciously each day (we list 4 things each that were a source of pleasure for us). We also list 4 things each that we did to bring joy to someone else (a concept from 'Eat Mangoes Naked' by SARK). Our kids love this and it helps us to actively look for them. I actually make a practice to write mine down (they make me smile again later when I re-read my list).
My list of things that gave ME pleasure today was:
1. My morning coffee (made by my hubbie just the way I like it).
2. The drawing of a person doing yoga with a goofy smile(drawn by one of my 6 year old twins). I put it up at my desk at work and it reminded me to BREATHE through the stress of the day and made me SMILE.
3. The sound of laughter in the backseat of the car on the way to school this morning. It was spontaneous and full of abandon.
4. Hubbie arriving home from work early today. I just loved the sight of him walking through the door. It was such a treat that he was early.

Joy I brought to others:
1. Took some frozen pasta sauce to school for a fellow mum who has been unwell.
2. Made a cake for my family to have as a treat for morning tea through the week.
3. Read with my children at school.
4. Washed whites so there will be school and work shirts for my family.

Looking forward to yout next installment.

teachingmum1970 said...

What a great post! I too let my "tank run dry" this year which led to my breakdown. I was fortunate enough to get half a dozen cards while I was in hospital for 9 weeks and each of them was very very special. But since I've been out of hospital and living everyday life picking up the kids from kindy and school etc people just assume that everything is fine now and they never really ask how I'm going or if there's anything they can do.
But then I'm at fault too because it takes me a long time to admit that I'm having a bad day and need some help. Today I didn't admit it until 9:45pm after a severe migraine, a very sick little boy and the school Christmas concert.
However I think Beth is on to a good thing so I'll emulate her:
4 things that brought ME pleasure today:
1.Being able to go back to bed and sleep when I needed to this morning.
2.My wonderful GP who was so reassuring even though little ds was so sick.
3. Seeing my beautiful Year 1 son in his Christmas Concert tonight complete with flashing red nose and reindeer antlers.
4. Seeing my class from this year performing so well and having such a good time on stage.

lightening said...

My longest comment EVA and the internet ate it!!!!! Will try again. :-)

Cathy - thank you. We're doing fine with the in laws really - well, better than we were. In law relationships sure are tough aren't they.

Kendall - glad you're enjoying the posts. It really got me thinking too. LOL. :-)

Frogdancer - that's wonderful. Do they know that you still have those cards and how much they mean/meant to you?

Emma Jean - I know what you mean. Putting it in writing makes it so permanent doesn't it. I think a simple "thinking of you" or "I appreciate you" can go a long way. I wonder sometimes if we try too hard to say the right thing when the fact that we're saying anything at all is what really matters?

Leanne - it's tough isn't it. Families can be hurtful by their actions or inactions. Then you get the other extreme where some Grandparents are expected to do too much.

Miserly Mum - sending you (((HUGS))). Why is it that we find it so hard to put ourselves first at times. I know it's something I struggle with. I get so worried about becoming selfish that instead I run myself into the ground and I'm not good to anyone.

River - it's particularly hard when we've been programmed like that - to be self sufficient. Sometimes it is hard to know where the line of interfering is. I guess that's why I prefer unobtrusive things like cards or a cake. That doesn't necessarily give the practical assistance that can sometimes be needed though can it.

Ali - yep, stubbornness can be a problem at times. I know it well. :-)

Beth - thank you so much for sharing. I hope you don't mind that I shared some of this comment in todays post.

Teachingmum - you are doing so well! You might find it helpful to list a few ways in which you make others smile each day too. I think you and I are alike in many ways. Something my counsellor has been encouraging me to do is write down the things that I AM doing as I can tend to focus on the things I'm failing to do too much. I'm thinking in particular when it comes to your children - I'm sure there are more than 4 things a day you do to make them smile! :-)

Snoskred said...

The header graphic looks brilliant! ;) Well done.

So much of this post resonates with me that I don't even have the words to express it. And I get the depression thing, but I didn't get ONE card. I think it is just that people don't do cards anymore. It's recycling mania or something. I can understand it, cards aren't exactly cheap but we've all got printers haven't we?

Cheers!
Snoskred
www.snoskred.org

lightening said...

Thanks Snoskred! :-) I figured it I couldn't work out how to use a better template, at least I could make a few tweaks to the one I had in order to make it more "mine".

I went down the "cards are a waste" type road for a while but now I think that was just an excuse not to bother. They are NOT a waste of time and resources if they make someone smile. There are plenty of other areas environmentally that we can be focusing on aren't there. And they're so easy to recycle, make something with etc etc. :-) In fact, it doesn't take all that much to make a card out of recycled materials if you're that way inclined.

I guess all we can do is share our own experiences in the hope that the message might get around in regards to what depression is like, that it is a physical as well as an emotional illness and ideas on what can be done to support someone you know if they're suffering. And of course, find a little bit of time in our week to send a note or a card to someone ourselves (and that's not an EASY challenge). :-)