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May 17, 2020

A few individuals have crossed my path these past weeks, all of whom are struggling – struggling due to trauma, Covid19, heck, just LIFE. I have offered to help, as one does in these situations, but my services were declined. “I’m fine,” they tell me. “It’s okay.” “I’ll be alright.” And so I go on my way. But I have a nagging feeling in the back of my head, that perhaps this is not the whole truth.

Somewhere along the way we have been taught that it is weak or unacceptable to share our feelings or to ask for help when we need it. The goal is to appear strong and capable. Was I the only one taught that you don’t share your problems or your *dirty laundry* as it used to be called? I am not sure where all this managing on our own, or “faking fine” as I like to call it, has gotten us.

Trying to cope in challenging times makes me think about the people we love who have died from suicide. I spent countless nights wondering why Luke didn’t tell somebody he was hurting and needed help. So many of the things that weigh us down are not easily handled at seventeen. What kind of strategies does a teenager have? WHY didn’t he ask for help? I have been thinking about the doctor in New York who recently passed away, also from suicide. I can only imagine how overwhelmed with her job she was and what it would be like to be surrounded by so much sadness and suffering. I wonder if she told anyone how she was feeling or just carried on until… well, she couldn’t. Xxx

I would like to tell you I have become a master of asking for help when I need it, but folks, it would be a gosh darn lie. And I give help for a living! As a teacher and with Hope Lives Here, lending aid is my business. Accepting it? Not so much. The reality of this smacked me upside the head not so very long ago. Here’s the story.

John and I are away with friends one weekend in early Winter. We love these couples and have created some pretty fantastic memories over the years. On this given evening, we have been out all night eating and drinking and laughing our heads off. After I drive everyone home (’cause someone has to be the voice of reason, lol ) we are back at the ranch, as I like to say, and winding down. My girlfriend and I are sitting on the couch together and we get to talking about Lukester.

“I read every one of your blogs, you know, and well, I can’t believe that I never even knew some of those things were happening; that things were so hard with Luke.”

“I know,” I replied, well aware that I had kept things pretty closed up.

“We have this great group of friends here for you and we love you and yet, you’re an island,” she announced.

Cue the theme music…. –

I am a rock, I am an island

My friend’s pronouncement didn’t upset me because, well, she wasn’t wrong. Isn’t wrong, as not much has changed. I AM an island. I TRY to share, but it is damn hard, friends. And I think I feel the same emotions everyone else does that doesn’t want to ask for help:

I would rather do it myself.

I don’t want people to know what I am going through.

There is guilt with asking for help.

I don’t want others to think less of me for not being able to handle things.

Should I go on?

I get so upset when I hear about one of my lovelies going through something difficult and I don’t know about it. “What do you mean you lost your job?” or “What do you mean your parents are getting divorced?” or most recently, “What do you mean you just got back from rehab?” I chastise them and remind them I am here for them, but isn’t that the cat calling the kettle black? Of course they’re not talking or asking for help. Why should THEY be any different? We are a society of silent sufferers.

So here’s what I need you to know: Being vulnerable is quite possibly the most challenging of human emotions. It is the purest form of trust and being open. But if we are ever going to forge a generation that leans on one another instead of trying to handle all of life’s predicaments solo dolo, we need to change our mindset and we need to show the kiddos what it looks like. One of my favorite artists, Charlie Mackesy, has a print where a young boy asks his horse, his mentor – “What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?” And the horse replies, “Asked for help.” Brilliant.

So in the spirit of that, I am going to try to be more brave, more vulnerable, in the hopes that it might inspire one young lovely to ask for help when they need it most. My first step has been to try and find a few people that I feel can handle my darkest moments and I am working to be as honest as I can with them. Who will be yours? I also continue to be so grateful, to all of the people who ask me how I am doing… and really listen. Even if I’m not giving them the whole truth, lol. #Faking Fine. Lastly, I want to say thank you for the wake-up call, my beautiful bestie. I am STILL an island, but at least now it has a landing pad where my friends can swoop in and save the day. With love, Xxx.

Rivers & Roads blog by Patty Inwood

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