I was thinking a lot about the post I shared earlier on Facebook that was a “copy this” post. I just have a policy of not doing those. But I did this one because the issue hits home and someone important to me “asked” me to post it on my wall. Anyway, it’s been gnawing at me for days. And here’s why:
When I say “What can I do?” I mean *What can I do?* When I say “I’m here for you 24/7.” I mean always. Not “or when I feel like it.” When I tell you “I’ll be there if you need (or want) me there.” I mean I will find a way to get to you whether you’re down the street, across town, or across the country. I love with my whole heart and when people I deeply care for or love are in need or are hurting and need someone’s hand to hold, I’ll move heaven and earth to get to them.
But here’s the bitch of it all. We seem to live in an “I’m fine” world these days. In fact, the worse off you actually are, the more “fine” you become. I know how to play that card to perfection. “Oh, you know, rough days but I’m good.” “The headaches? Yeah, they’re back but I’m doing fine.” or “I’m just annoyed I got another diagnosis but it’s nothing I haven’t been through before so it’s all good.” And especially the ones that go something along the lines of “Oh, that Facebook post about feeling worthless? Just a bad moment.” And in case you ever venture into the dark side of my Pinterest board? (Scary place. Take a friend.) “Oh, those Pinterest pins that talk about being broken and needing my friend(s)? I pin them on rough days. I’m fine!”
You’re not going to get more out of me because very few actually want to know the truth- especially when you’re like me and have chronic illnesses. That’s just the way it is and those of us with chronic illnesses know it. We learn quickly who is asking “How are you?” and who wants to know “How are you?”
Unfortunately, when you get a diagnosis that changes the very basics of your life, depression can set it. And I’m talking about real, deep down, hopeless depression. You have to know who you can count on for not only the initial truth but someone who cares enough about the follow-through. Sometimes that’s just too damn hard because most people are just designed to not only prefer the “prettier” fine than the”real” fine if that is your life. You may lose friends. (I have.) You may gain friends. (I have.) You may see friends you’ve already had in a whole new light. (I have.)
I guess what I’m trying to say is, please, think long and hard before throwing out those oh so easily said words: “I’m here for you. What can I do?”
Someone may be counting on you to mean those words. I’m serious when I say that. How many times have you said that yourself and meant either for the moment or until you get tired of their mood? Or said it with good intentions and did call or send something thoughtful or check-in and that’s where it ended.
You see, for many, it’s in the follow-up. Did you text them even when they didn’t text back just so they’d know they weren’t alone? Did you call and leave a voicemail just to say that you’re there and won’t go anywhere- that you’ll still be there when they are ready to talk?
That’s the bitch of depression. When you’re deep in it, you want… no, you need to hear that you’re loved and worth something, and that the people you love aren’t going anywhere. When you’re depressed, your mind lies to you. When things go silent you begin to believe you really are as unlovable as you feel; you are worthless; you are losing friends & family you love. And you believe that deep into your soul.
So, when you say “I’m here for you” please think about whether you are there for the moment or for the time they need. (Especially if you’re dealing with someone who has a chronic illness or autoimmune disease or really anything that’s not going to go away or go away easily.) We’re in for the long haul. Before you offer, ask if you think you can be too. Do you have the strength to ride these highs and lows with your friend or is it too much? There is no shame in admitting it’s too much if you’re honest with yourself and your friend. If it’s just for the beginning when everything is new, be honest. Say something more truthful like “I’ll keep you in my thoughts” or “Is there anything you need right now?” Believe or not, we count on those “I’ll call you back” or “I’ll text you later” comments you throw out. Yes, even when we are so down and dark and we sometimes don’t reply. Just please know, it gives us hope. It helps us hang on to something. Your simple “it was no big deal” can be a lifeline to someone who is suffering. Who feels alone. Who feels like her illness means she is no longer worth it. Who can’t find the light? Who wonders if she’s loved. Who wonders if out-of-sight is out-of-mind. Who feels as if when her whole world was turned upside down, her friends fell off.
All of that to say one simple thing.
Don’t say it if you don’t mean it.
There was a study done some time ago (sorry, I can’t find it at the moment), that showed, people who just THOUGHT about doing something for someone else, or donating money, etc… actually got the same level of satisfaction and feeling of euphoria as those that actually helped another person.
Unfortunately these days there are far too many that are more than happy to settle for THINKING about being helpful, but have no intention to actually make the effort to follow through with their promises if asked.
I’d like to say I understand this completely and empathize with you. But, that would not be accurate. Mine is a far cry short of it. I have had those very same people that offer to be there, yet the discussion of my cancer is apparently far too much for people to hear to actually allow me an outlet to TALK about my issues. Hell, all I want is someone to let me to vent, and that is more than anyone can stand.
To have people who back away and abandon you when you need someone is outright criminal. The only thing I wish was that we were closer so that I could say and mean those words. In the meantime, the best I can offer is anything that I can do to “be there” (from a distance). Well… that I can say and mean it.