A Helpless Hand
Reaching out to someone can be one of the toughest experiences you go through, or it can be the most gratifying way to let off steam depending on the type of person you are. Maybe it surprises you when people around you confidently open up about issues they are going through or maybe you can’t understand why people find it hard to ‘just talk to someone’. Whichever the case, till today there remains a stigma attached to the concept of sharing how we really feel with people around us. When a person you love is really struggling, we just assume that if they have any problems that they’ll confide in us, as if it’s the most conventional thing to do. Yet we’ve never been taught how to broach the subject? When someone asks us ‘How are you?’, is it ‘normal’ to reply with how you’re actually feeling?
Normalising reaching out or asking for help is the first step towards being able to support people who need it. Inculcating transparency about our inner thoughts and feelings into daily conversation can to a great extent encourage those who feel trapped by societal norms to reach out. People who feel like they have no one to talk to may find it easier to find someone when it is ‘normal’ to bump into someone and talk about how isolated you’ve been feeling. Regularising interactions like these can prevent cases of mental illness or depression escalating into something extremely critical which unfortunately happens often in today’s day and age due to the hesitancy people feel to come forward about such topics until it is ‘bad enough’.
When you should reach out …
There is no fixed time at which you must feel obligated to reach out, rather the right time. You don’t necessarily have to share all your feelings with everyone, moreover in certain situations retreating for a period of alone time just to process your thoughts privately is totally okay! However, there is a limit to bottling up your emotions, a point when you know you’d feel better if you talked to someone. This is an indicator that it is time for you to consider reaching out to someone you're comfortable with. Nevertheless, understanding how deeply something is affecting us and seeking help can be daunting, putting yourself in a position of vulnerability can often be nerve-wracking. Especially when thoughts like “I don’t want to be a burden”, “They’ll think I’m doing it for attention”, “What if I’m making a big deal out of nothing?” start to seep into your mind.
“Being a Burden”
First and foremost, if you feel like you're going to be a burden maybe you should reconsider the person you’re trying to reach out to. The best way to help yourself when reaching out is to make sure you talk to the right person. A close friend or family member you’re comfortable with, or even someone you don’t know well who seems kind and trustworthy. Choosing the right people is what enabled me in the past to first start talking about what was going on in my life rather than keeping it to myself, a decision I’m so glad I made as it helped me feel less alienated and normalize my situation more. I chose the right people to talk to who I knew cared for me and I’m so grateful for the support system I had during such a rough time.
Furthermore, I would like to stress that asking for help does not make you self centred. When you’re thirsty, hungry or tired you need food, water and sleep. In this same way when you're sad you need support or help from people around you and you deserve it. We’re always taught that giving to others is the right thing to do, when sometimes receiving is the right thing to do for your own happiness. Reaching out could be a difficult decision but the key lies in choosing the right person who gives you the support you need and doesn’t for a second make you feel like you don’t deserve it, which can take a huge weight off your chest.
Lastly, I’ve summarised the process of reaching out into four basic steps which can shed some light for anyone who’s unsure on how to go about it.
Step 1: Decide who to talk to: a parent, guardian, mentor or friend who you trust and feel comfortable around.
Step 2: Think about what to say. Try to work out what it is that’s bothering you, maybe write it down to get a clear idea of what you’ll talk about during the conversation.
Step 3: Find the right time. Approach the person you’ve chosen, it can be face-to-face, a video call or even a conversation over text, anytime you know you’ll have their undivided attention.
Step 4: The conversation: Make it clear to the person whether you want advice, support or just want them to listen. Don’t belittle the way you feel or push yourself if you still aren’t ready to talk about something.
In addition, if you feel like perhaps you aren’t getting the support you wanted from friends or family there is the other option of seeking professional help. There are counselors available day and night on this website, for you to talk to and engage with anonymously anytime. They are trained to help anyone trying to reach out and will be more than happy to talk or even just listen to you vent.
Till today the stigma attached to the idea of bringing up how we’re really feeling in daily conversation haunts many of us. It brings up doubts as to whether speaking out is attention seeking, whether our problems deserve any acknowledgement or if they’re just a burden to others. However, your biggest priority is taking care of your own health and happiness so if you decide to reach out, no matter what society will have you believe, you deserve the help you receive back.