Get help – give help…

December 12, 2016

“All of us, at certain moments of our lives, need to take advice and to receive help from other people.”  (Alexis Carrel)

Of course that little quote came from the Jack’s Winning Words blog that I get 5 times a week. Jack went on to write – Sometimes the advisers suggest “consult a pastor.”  There truly are problem situations out there in the real world.  Fortunate are those people who have someone “to lean on.”    😉  Jack

Jack is the retired pastor of the church that I attend and I’m sure many people have found him to be a comforting pillar to lean on over the years. I have always found Jack’s calm, yet warm, presence and reassuring words to be a comforting touchstone to which I could look for reassurance that things would be alright if I continued to put my trust in God.

Asking for help or advice for others is hard for some people. They were probably told not tohelping-2 be a cry-baby when they were growing up and to “suck it up” and face things themselves. They may be embarrassed to be in a position to need help. Many want help, but just don’t know how to ask for the help they need. There are also people who seem to decline help of any sort from anyone. They push away those who are seeking to help them or stubbornly refuse to ask for the help they need, even in the face of certain failure. Of course there are also people who are so blissfully ignorant of their situation that they don’t realize that they need help.

We live in an interconnected world and it is important to realize that our problems do not occur in a vacuum, nor will the solutions to those problems be found in a vacuum. Problems may be caused by, or may impact, others around us. We are not alone in thishelp-me problem space and we may be able to get advice or help from others, based upon their experience with the same problems. It is also important to share our problems with loved ones, so that they understand what may be causing us to act as we are and not think that they are the cause of those actions.

In Jack’s post, he mentioned a couple of the advice columnists in our local paper and, certainly, that is one way to seek advice. A quicker way is to turn to those around you that you know and trust and just ask, “if this happened to you, how would you handle it?” For those problems that are too big or too embarrassing to discuss with casual friends, one may need to turn to trusted sources, often a relative or very close friend and sometimes a pastor, priest, rabbi or imam. Keeping problems that are gnawing at you inside just makes them seem bigger and scarier. The key is to get it out there and ask for their advice or help.

Sometimes, just summoning up the courage to share your problem with a trusted friend is being kind 1enough to release the pressure that had been building up inside of you. Even if that friend doesn’t have a whole lot of advice to give you, the fact that you got it out there and found a way to verbalize what has been bothering you many time allows you to take a whole new look at the problem yourself. You may realize that what you thought was the problem wasn’t what was causing all of the anxiety or concern, so much as how you were reacting to the problem. Stating the problem clearly also may allow you to take the step of saying to yourself, “So what?”

Years ago I wrote a post here about being able to say “So what” to life’s problems. That post was based upon some advice that I had received from a friend and neighbor, John Hussy. John often used the phrase “So what” when dealing with many of life’s issues and he advised me to stop and look at things the same way. If you can look at what has happenedso-what or what may happen and say, “So what? Did (or will it) it kill me?” Then you can put the problems into perspective. So what if I got turned down for the date or that new job. So what if I had a meltdown in public or at work? So what if I’m not in the “in crowd” at school or at work? So what if some people see me as “different” and don’t understand or accept me? Did any of those things kill me? If not, then why am I letting them dictate my life now? You may realize that it is not the perceived problem that is causing you the pain; but, rather your reaction to it. It’s time to say “So what” and move on. You’ve got better things to do with your life than worry about those “So what” problems.

The take away here is not to keep things bottled up. Seek help or advice from others. Then listen to their advice and sort through what makes sense to you to try or accept their help and get on with the task. Many times the path to a solution will become apparent just because you had to explain to someone else (and in the process to yourself) what you woman-prayingperceive the problem to be. Don’t forget God in your search for help, since talking to Him is often the best way to resolve things. I have written several times here about the calming and healing effect of the simple prayer, “Not my will but thy will be done.” Try it some time. Give God your problem. You may discover that giant weight is removed from your mind after saying that little prayer and believing that it will happen.

Learning how to seek and accept help is just part of learning how to live in our interconnected society. Another part is learning how to give help to those who reach out to us. So many times we get off on the wrong foot by starting out with some statement like, “I know how you feel”. No you don’t, so don’t just say that and expect a good reaction. It is better to say, “I don’t know how you feel, but I accept that you are in pain; how can I help.”

Acceptance is the foundation to being a good source of help. Start with the mentality thatlisten says I accept you as you are, not like I would like you to be. Then ask them to share the source of their pain and listen (don’t talk). Being a good listener is the key to being a good helper. Sometimes you will hear things that the speaker doesn’t even realize that they are saying. It may be in how things are phrased or emphasized that gives you the clue to the real root of their problem. It’s hard to listen that intently if you are talking or thinking about what you will say next.

Another key to being a good advice giver is not to offer advice only within the context of opinionatedyour own life experiences. If your advice starts with, “Well, if it was me, I’d…” it is likely to be ignored. It’s not you and the person who you are trying to help isn’t going to react as you think you might. If you start off with, “Wow, I can’t imagine how that must feel”; but maybe here are some things you might try; at least you’ve gotten off on a better foot.

Having the ability to be a good listener and offering good advice only works for the other person if they perceive that you are willing to help. It’s hard enough for them to ask for help, much less trying to seek that help from someone that they perceive to be self-centered, aloof or uncaring. Being perceived by others to be a caring and open person, withhandshake whom they can discuss things, takes work. It means greeting others as if you are happy to see them and are interested in their lives. It means asking about then before telling them about things in your life. It means listening when they talk, instead of focusing upon what you want to say next. It means picking up on what they are saying and how they are saying it and asking follow-up questions. It means opening up your shell and dropping your shields first, so that they feel comfortable doing the same with you.

Being there to share their pains and to give help or advice is not for everyone and not for every situation or person that you may encounter, but it is critical for those in your life with whom you share bonds of love or true friendship. There is no greater calling or responsibility than to become a trusted adviser to your friend or loved one. Treat the role with the respect that it deserves.

praying-togetherSometimes the little prayer that I referenced above is a good way to bring both of you to a humble, open starting point from which to honestly discuss a solution to the problem. Nothing exposes your own vulnerability and honest concern for them more than asking the other person, “Will you pray with me?” If they cannot or will not respond positively to that request, then perhaps they are not yet ready to accept your help.

So, my friends, as we venture into a new week ahead; don’t be afraid to seek the help you need and be ready and open to give the help that you can to others. In either role, never be afraid to bring the power of God into the conversation. That may be the best advice of all.

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What does depression feel like?

November 24, 2016

Recently I wrote a post here that focused upon what autism feels like to someone on the autism spectrum – see my post https://normsmilfordblog.com/2016/11/23/trying-to-understand-others-without-a-frame-of-reference/. As the author of the story that I linked to stated, it was just her personal description of how autism affected her and her life.

A line that I found to be very apropos about almost any health issue like autism was referenced elsewhere on the same autism site –  anonymouslyautistic.net – “if you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person”. In other words, you can’t and shouldn’t  generalize and characterize or stigmatize an entire group of people based upon one experience or one meeting with a person who is somewhere on the autism spectrum.insight Every person who lives somewhere along that spectrum is different and must be accepted with those differences.

The reason I found that site and the story that I referenced so interesting and useful is that it forces the reader to try to understand that they can’t really understand. It exposed a different way of looking at things and life that I called a “frame of reference”.  One ends up admitting that they can’t even imagine what that different frame of reference must feel like and that at least provides the basis for doing something more useful, like accepting
and accommodating the actions and needs for someone who is viewing life through that different frame of reference.

I don’t intend to solely focus here upon the topic of mental or health issues in general; however, the research that I did for that first post did take me off to a journey of discovery about the information available and the number of web sites devoted to providing support for a wide variety of health issues. The site that the article about how autism feels  was posted on – The Mighty – is particularly helpful in providing information about an enormous range of health issues, both physical and mental.

depression4I did decide that, from time to time, I would pursue the approach of looking at posted articles that deal with or focus upon how a particular condition or illness makes one feel. The reason is that I believe that gaining an understanding what is causing a person to act or react the way they are is an important first step towards accepting them as they are and helping them, if they wish to be helped. It is just as important in learning when and how to back off and let the person have the space and time to deal with what is going on in their life. A recurring theme that one sees in the writings of people struggling with some of these issues is how annoying the bumbling efforts to help from well-meaning, but ill informed, “friends” can be. I am not a fan of the “intervention” approach to this topic.

Anyway, as I looked through the huge list of topics on The Mighty, one that I could relate to was Depression. I have known many people who suffered some form of depression anddepression2 believe that I went through an episode (or bout) of depression in my own life a decade or so ago. For me it was just an episode and not a recurring or continuous thing. Many who suffer from depression cannot say that and must seek help in order to live a “normal” life. So, I set out to find an article on-line about what depression feels like, and found the site – http://www.wingofmadness.com.

While, I’m not sure about the site name, it does contain the same sort of what does it feel like and how can I deal with it advice as the autonomously autistic site and it is set up in the same way, as a site for those dealing with the issues to share with others. On that site was the post – What does depression feel like?

depression3So, what does reading through this article this do for you? It gives you yet another “frame of reference” with which to better equip you to accept the person in your life who may be suffering through depression, whether episodic or on-going. It may help you recognize the symptoms that are manifested when one is depressed and perhaps better understand why they do certain things. Perhaps it will help you to not make the mistake of writing off that person or ignoring their actions in hopes that they will just “snap out of it”. If you have a friend or loved one in your family who may be suffering with depression, you may find this article at the same site to be helpful –

http://www.wingofmadness.com/how-to-help-someone-who-is-depressed/

To some, posting this during the holiday season may seem to be inappropriate. However, for almost all of the physical or mental conditions that are referenced on the sites that I pointed you to; holidays tend to be the most stressful and difficult to deal with for people suffering through the misunderstanding of others about their view of, and reaction to, these “special” occasions.girls hugging Rather than getting down on someone for being a “wet blanket” during the holidays, take the time to think about how they feel and find a way to help them feel more accepted and comfortable within a setting that is perhaps frightening and overwhelming to them. Sitting quietly with them in front of a fire and giving them a hug, may be the best present that you can give this Holiday season.

Let them know what love feels like.

 


Don’t be inert – speak up, act up…

December 22, 2015

“Not to speak is to speak.  Not to act is to act.”  (Dietrich Bonhoeffer) – from the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Jack went on to write that Bonhoeffer was a Christian who spoke out about the Nazi atrocities in Germany and lost his life because of it. You can read more about him by clicking here.

There is a line in the marriage ceremony (at least those shown in movies) that goes something like, “If anyone here know why these tow should not be joined in Holy matrimony, speak now or forever hold your peace.” In the movies there is more of a likelihood that someone will speak up or listenerthat something will happen. In real life, most seem to follow the rule that “silence is golden”. However, silence in the face of injustice is not golden, it is shameful. Not taking action when your heart tells you to is just as bad.

Fortunately or unfortunately, we live I a time when dash-cams and body-cams and people’s cell phones document many of the egregious events of our day. It is perhaps telling and a mixed blessing that the individuals who choose to document the events did not choose to step in and change those events. We spend an inordinate amount of time after the fact reporting and analyzing the coulda, woudlda, shoulda’s of those tragic events.

Some might look at Dietrich Bonhoeffer and what happened to him because he had the courage to speak out against what Hitler was doing to the Jews in Germany during WWII. I’m sure that a considerable number of other German Christians must have felt the same way, but they chose to remain silent and do almost nothing. There are enough stories about German Christians hiding Jews in their homes (see The Diary of Anne Frank) that we know that some others did take what action that they could or thought that they could do without being detected. They also took great risk and faced certain punishment if caught.

The news of today is full of examples of injustices, shootings, persecution and discrimination based upon race, ethnicity, religion or sexual preferences. It is also full of scenes of protest and violence sparked by
many of these events. Seldom reported is the reaction of the general population, those people sitting at home going, “tsk, tsk, that’s terrible”, either to the event itself or to the reactions by those protesting. The “Silent Majority”, as the Republicans like to call them can be counted upon to do nothing and that is sad.

Perhaps our inertia is because of a “them vs. us” mentality tpredjuiceshat has gained foothold in America. “Them”, of course, are all of “those people” who are not like us – the foreigners, people of color, and people with religious practices or lifestyles that we do not understand. “They” almost always belong to one of those groups on the citizenship form that fall under non-white. “They” are different from us and that is scary.

Another thing that is scary is the number of perpetrators of atrocities who claim to have acted in the name of their faith.  It is alright to disagree on topics like abortion or sexual orientation, but it is not OK to go to a family man mad at himselfplanning clinic and shoot people with whom you disagree and say that you did that out of religious conviction. There are few religions that condone killing in the name of the religion. Certainly those who claim to be Christians may peacefully protest those things with which they do not agree or they may pray for the souls of those whom they consider to have wandered away from the teachings of Christ, but they do not harm others in the name of their religious beliefs. Nothing could be further from the teachings of Jesus than those types of actions taken in His name.

Tis the season of giving and not acting on the urge and the need to give is indeed an action – the action of not caring enough. “Gee, I meant to give something”, is not enough. ”I’ll give next time”, won’t help. Even, “I gave at church”, won’t meet the needs that are all around us. While I don’t discourage giving to the big national causes, there are lots of small, local causes that neseerving othersed your help, such as food pantries or homeless shelters. Many are run mostly or entirely by volunteers, so more of your money goes directly to impact the cause and fill the needs. Every one of them, if you check into them, is run by people with a true passion for the help and services that they provide.

One such service that I’ve been supporting here with posts is the Supportive Alternative Living (S.A.L.) organization, which provides services to adult special needs people living in our area. Many were the cute kids that you saw and cheered for in Special Olympics, when they were younger (some many still compete as adults). What happened to them? They grew up and now they live in our community as adults, many with jobs at local businesses. They still need help with day-to-day living; and, even though there is some money available through government programs at various levels, someone has to be there to perforin the services that are needed, from simple things like driving them somewhere to helping them with their bills and finances.

S.A.L. staffers perform those services in our community. S.A.L. used to be funded by Oakland County under the Mental Health budget, but that budget was slashed recently (another tax saving move with unintended consequences), so now they need the help of donations fro the community to be able to continue the program that allows these special needs adults to live independently and not in group homes somewhere. To learn more about S.A.L. and their programs for adult special needs people, go to their web site. You can help by clicking on the Donate button below to make your donation.  If you don’t live in or near Milford, Michigan, donate anyway; I can assure your that this is one of the more worthy causes that you can choose to support this Christmas. Now is the time to act. Give today and have a Merry Christmas knowing that you acted.donate


What you see isn’t all that is me…

April 20, 2015

“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.  Be kind—always!”  (Sent by TK) – as seen on the blog Jack’s Winning Words.

There is a Teddy Pendergrass song that has the lyrics: “If you don’t know me by now, you will never, never, never know me.” That song was about trust and understanding of a soul mate in a relationship. It was not about the personal battles that go on inside everyone that TK was taking about in today’s quote, but perhaps it cold have been.

I’ve title today’s post “What you see isn’t all that is me…”, it could have also been “What you see is what I let you see.” girl cryingWhat we share with others about ourselves and our personal battles varies greatly depending upon the relationship that we have with each person. Some in Robin Williams’ family knew about and understood the personal battles that he had fought all his life with depression; while others just saw the face and character that he “put on” in public. Those who expressed shock at his suicide didn’t really know him and didn’t reach out to help him.

In the funny papers some of these battle are depicted as the fight between the little angel on one shoulder (good) and the little devil (evil) on the other. Imagine how noisy our world would be if all of those little internal battles played out in public where you could hear them. Many other descriptive devices have been invented to explain the pushes and pulls that go on in the battles that may be raging in our minds mind: Yin and Yang from Chinese folk lore; Sigmund Freud’s Id, Ego and Superego; perhaps impulsiveness vs. logic; the old standby of love and hate; trust and suspicion. Most of these forces that shape our reaction to the world go unseen by most, even to the closest of companions, until they get severely out of balance and we “lose it” in front of someone.

single momWe are taught from early childhood to suppress external displays of emotion, especially those that might upset others. We are told “big boys or girls don’t cry” or “shake it off” and get on with life. So the battles that rage inside are buried beneath layers of self-control and the public is not invited in to see our angst or pain or sorrow. We keep “a stiff upper lip.” A part of why we may turn away from someone begging on the street or avoid someone who is crying uncontrollably at a funeral is that we don’t want to let our guard down and admit that we have similar feelings of inadequacy or insecurity or loss. We are fighting those battles inside and, so far we are still in control.

Perhaps it is that temporary loss of control that we fear or that embarrasses us. Men usually hate to be seen crying at movies that depict things that one should cry about; but, there are war movies and sports movies that do not leave a dry eye in the room. That’s probably a good thing, because one can get exhausted by the struggle to stay in control and keep thatlady under cloud stiff upper lip. A bit of a quiver in that stiff upper lip every now and then, perhaps even accompanied by a moist eye, is a good release of the tension that can build up. Women have the advantage there because they seem to allow themselves and other women the release of a good cry every now and then.

Beyond this rather simplistic view of things, there rages in many the more serious battle against depression. At the core of many of those battles is a conflict over self-worth. Sometimes those doubts were planted in childhood by parents who called that worth into question at every opportunity. Most of the time when you read the life stories about very successful people you will find that they had good support systems growing up; but sometimes the there are stories about how an individual rose from a chaotic childhood and overcame very high odds to become successful. In those stories, there is a common theme that they never stopped believing in themselves. Along the way they may have encountered others – a teacher or a pastor, a relative or just a caringfriend – who also believed in them and gave them encouragement and support. Those were the people of whom TK spoke in today’s quote – they didn’t understand all of the battles that this person was going through, but they were kind and supportive and maybe loving.  Without knowing it, they may have provided that extra little push to get that child or young man back on track to his/her dream.

If you are the person in need of that kindness and support, don’t allow yourself to become isolated. People are more supportive than you might imagine, but you have painted into cornerto stop hiding from them. You can win the battles that are raging within “with a little help from your friends” to paraphrase the Beatles song from the Sgt. Pepper album. Seek out those with whom you might be able to share the things that are troubling you. Often “talking out” issues or problems with someone else provides you with answers that you just couldn’t see by yourself or it at least releases some of the tension that may have built up.

For the rest of us; we can help someone each day by just being kind, by expressing interest and support and maybe showing a little love. If that person was sliding into a funk, your kind words of encouragement may provide just the lifeline needed to rekindle hope and reinforce their perseverance. Just saying “I’m so proud of you for what you’re doing or what you’ve accomplished”, is just the motivation that some may need to keep going. Asking the question, “is there anything that you girls huggingwant to talk about?” and then listening may be all that was needed to help that person keep it together. Maybe they just need a shoulder to cry upon and that’s OK too; just being there for them and lending your shoulder is enough. If more help is needed than you can render, then help them find it. Don’t try to be an amateur psychologist, just be a friend; often that is enough.

Be kind out there today!