In the last week two things have happened which made me think.
The first was a receiving a text from a friend. She told me that a work colleague was suffering from work stress and was about to be signed off. She was concerned and didn’t know how to approach the friend so asked me for advice having been in a similar situation. I told her that when I was suffering from the same it was the impromptu contact by friends that got me. I suggested dropping her friend a text just to say hello and to let him know she was there if he wanted to talk.
The second was finding out that another friend was recovering (successfully so far) from surgery for bowel cancer. I was shocked – I thought he’s had dental problem but this news explained a lot. He seemed upbeat but knowing what it was like recovering from illness offered. In doing so he responded: “One of the many positives about cancer is the HUGE impromptu support network that springs up around you.”
And so these 2 separate events combined in my head. They both made me think of what I had been through. The initial feeling of being totally alone when I was facing up to my problems followed by the development of a growing support network. Much of this was based on friends but not always the friends you though it would come from and one of the outcomes to be prepared for in this is the loss of some friends. Yes, some people you thought were close turn out not to be so, to disappear in the time of need never to reappear. I have to make a distinction here too. I am not referring to those friends who find it difficult to react but who find ways to communicate, The “friends” you lose are those who disappear completely and never make contact. In my experience I didn’t lose a lot though.
It is fair to say that everyone finds it difficult at times knowing just how to react. And an immediate reaction isn’t always the best, nor is it needed or wanted. But over a longer period of time there are many ways that support is offered. It starts with the small things – receiving a text, an email message or a phone call based around another issue but with a “how are you” dropped in are the small things that mean a lot. At a mechanical level it opens a channel of communication between you and them – and today there are so many ways to communicate, don’t shun the obvious. On a more psychological level it shows that they/you are not alone, that others have gone through similar and equally that there are others out there to share your problems with. And never forget that it can be an important distraction. I always start with seeing if someone wants a coffee as from my experience it a) got me out of the house, b) gave me a focus on something I like and c) created a space where you could talk about whatever you wanted, problem, distraction or both.
The support I received was invaluable and I hope that the people who are part of that network have felt valued. If you are the one suffering know that there are people out there who can help but you have to let them know – nobody can really read minds that well. And if you know someone who is going through the mill, reach out in a small way – it’s a bit like the acorn and the oak both the small start and the strong branches.