Today’s MHM will be brief. We all know important it is to share, to be honest about what’s happening in our heads and in our lives, but it can be difficult to do so. The primary reason for that is the reaction of other people; oh other people, how they fail to mitigate our fear of being judged, or dismissed, or told that we’ve upset someone with our honesty, or simply told ‘well what I am supposed to do?’ – as if you even asked them to do anything. Newsflash: sharing is not asking.
Generally speaking, people are afraid to be the one to hear an admission of sadness or suffering. The position comes with a veritable truckload of social concerns. What should they say? What should they do? It feels like a burden, an onerous responsibility. The fact is, it is none of those things. So I think perhaps it might be useful (though sadly burdensome for the already heavily burdened) to add a prologue to our moments of necessary honesty.
When we need to talk about how we’re feeling, it might be helpful to state some simple guidelines for those on the receiving end to help them understand all that is required of them. And those requirements are as follows:
First and foremost – listen without judgement.
Second and just as important – accept that this is my truth, my reality, even if it is hard to understand.
Third and no less vital – be there for me.
Now this last is no vast obligation, only a promise to be present, to say ‘it’s OK’ when I panic because I fail, to say ‘let’s try again another time’ if I can’t go out today or cope today; to be there without question and simply stand beside me, a silent, solid supporter. You don’t have to carry the burden of my hurt or my struggle (that’s impossible); only show me that I am not alone, that there is someone who – though they might not understand – accepts me as I am and does not judge it.
Now I know the onus should not be on the person who desperately needs to talk about what’s going wrong in their life, their head, but I think doing this (however you can, on cards, or by text, or to a professional instead of a close loved one) you negate that terrible worry people have that they might be obligated to shoulder your burden with you, or fix you somehow – anything that might preclude them from being willing to sit and listen.
As for those who cannot hear about the struggle someone is going through because it ‘upsets’ them to hear such things… all I can say is, it’s not your pain cupcake. Hearing about someone’s struggle is NOT akin to living it and you have no right, none whatsoever, to even dare suggest that by complaining about being ‘upset’ by what you’ve heard. Yes, some things are difficult to hear, some things are very upsetting, but if you are selfish enough to place your upset at hearing them above the pain of the person who suffered them then you are a very poor excuse for a human being and shame on you.
That’s all I have to say. Honesty is important, sharing is vital, and a little caveat shared beforehand can make it easier to do so and make it easier to understand that listening is not a burden, but it is a big deal.