Reaching Out or Turning In

This can be a difficult time for people who are already struggling. It is common knowledge that the winter holiday season brings both tidings of joy and a sharp increase in suicides. There are a number of people in my life – both personally and professionally – who are having a pretty hard time right now. I have noticed something I wanted to share with you; when they are suffering, some people reach out for help and others withdraw into themselves. When I started thinking about this topic, I was very quick to say, “I’m definitely the first type,” and now I’m not so sure.

When things start to feel beyond our control, a series of cognitive messages are set in motion. A particularly stressful moment (or year) may trigger fears about the future; we might worry about how we will handle the next inevitable problem. We find daily tasks increasingly difficult, as we find ourselves buried under thoughts of “this is so hard” and “this is impossible” and “what now?” Unfortunately, the harder things are, the worse we feel, and then, well, that makes everything feel that much more difficult and painful.

So, when we’re on the downward spiral, what do we do? Some people are able to reach out for help right away. They pick up the phone and call a friend. They make extra appointments with a mental health professional. They put out a message on social media. These are the people who are not only able to ask for help when they need it, but they are also able to accept help.

Other people turn off their phones, close their laptops and disappear. They pull their energy inward and allow the vortex to take them under. As far as I understand, it’s not that they don’t want help, it’s that they don’t want to ask for help. They don’t want to be a person who needs help. If help appears at the door, they may or may not be able to accept it. But that may never happen, because they have not let anyone know they need it. I have definitely done this, and I recognize it is a mistake.

This holiday season of the dreadful 2020, please take inventory of two things: Are there people you care about who have recently disappeared? Might be feeling down? Reach out. You could save a life. Two, look inward for a moment. Do you ask for help when you need it? Could you do a bit better in this area? This year, give the gift of trust in your loved ones by letting them know you will ask for help when you need it, and they should do the same.

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