by Ken Edelston
Every one of us has problems. It is hard to imagine what life would be like if there were no problems. As a matter of fact, it is hard to define exactly what a problem is. Here are a few problems I have experienced:
When I was 16, 1 went to a party and felt like I just did not fit in. I was shy, not at all sure of myself, and felt on edge the whole time. On the way home from the party, I told myself that I would not go to another party until my personality changed. I thought I needed a personality transplant (Personality transplants were not available at that time. Unfortunately, with the advances of drugs, temporary personality transplants are available. :)) )
At another time, much later in my life, I ran up a huge credit card balance over a period of a few years, during which I was fairly sure that I was being responsible about money.
A final example is that I have been plagued by serious episodes of depression during my adult life. During these times, I have felt hopeless, worthless, useless, anxious, ashamed, am unable to sleep well and unable to work well.
Some of us have medical problems, some of us have financial problems, some of us have relationship problems, some of us have parenting problems, some of us feel like we are wasting our lives in our jobs, some of us have mental and emotional problems, some of us think they don’t have any problems, some of us feel overwhelmed by life, some of us feel trapped in relationships, some of us drink to relieve our problems, some of us use illegal or prescription drugs to relieve our problems, some of us think that we should be able to solve our own problems, and finally, most of us think that asking for help is a sign of weakness.
After the horrendous events of September 11, 2001, we as a nation gathered together to help the victims. During this time of emergency, we felt more open to asking for help, and almost everyone felt good about helping. We humans are like that. We like to, and even feel a duty, to help one another when there is a threat or a perceived threat from the outside —like weather, or war or personal tragedy and loss.
After the immediacy of the threat has passed, our lives slowly return to normal, and so does our openness to asking for help. Our desire to help remains longer, but also ebbs as most of us believe that enough time has passed for those who were affected by the crisis to “get over it and get on with their lives.” Along with this thought, we return to the idea that we should handle our lives by ourselves and not burden others with our problems. After all, we are independent and proud of it.
The reality is that humans are never independent. We always need others in our lives. We are interdependent. We take turns relying on others and having them rely on us. There are times in each of our lives when we face problems or dilemmas. During these times, it is a mark of personal strength to ask for help, whether it be from a friend, a relative, or a professional. This request for help affirms ourselves as being worthy of help, and affirms the other of their ability to be there for us. “Help” is not about rescuing someone from their pains or other burdens. Help is about witnessing and valuing another’s struggles. Pain in life is inevitable. Life is difficult. But it is much, much more painful and difficult when we attempt to be totally self-sufficient and hold in all our worries, fears, feelings of shame and inadequacy.
People often ask me what good it serves to express what is going on in themselves deep down inside. Many of us have learned that no one has been really interested. It does no good and can be harmful to ourselves if we talk about very personal issues with people who do not value us. It does a world of good to share ourselves with those people who are open and receptive to whom we truly are.
My experience is that when I do not talk to others about painful stuff, I exaggerate negativity in my head. I blow things out of proportion. Minds are like that. They invent all kinds of demons that thrive in the darkness of our insides.
When exposed to the light of another’s caring attention, the demons wither.
Take some time to tell someone about your concerns. Take some time to listen to someone else's.