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Is it OK to not be OK?

February 13, 2017

One of the hardest things many of us will ever have to do is ask for help. For some, the whole idea of asking for help is unthinkable – it feels like failure. Where this idea comes from is likely to differ widely from person to person, though its often something we learn early-on in life. Whilst it’s healthy to encourage our children to be resilient and bounce back from adversity, it’s a sad fact that sometimes we overdo it.
To not have all the answers is essentially to be human, yet too often we create the impression that to not have all the answers is to be somehow inadequate. Sadly, people suffer unnecessarily, sometimes for years because they are either too afraid to ask for help, don’t know how to ask for help or believe that asking for help is proof of their inadequacy.
What often happens is that instead of seeking help from another human being, we turn instead to self-soothing and self-medicating with food, alcohol, drugs, sex or gambling, or by throwing ourselves into overwork. Some become pre-occupied with sorting out other people’s problems and care-taking. Whilst this ‘compulsive helping’ is often welcome and commendable, it is also very often inappropriate and unwanted. All that happens in practice is that we enable others to avoid taking responsibility for themselves, whilst conveniently avoiding having to look too closely at our own problems.
Some sink into depression or suffer bouts of crippling anxiety as they struggle to cope alone. Relationships start to fragment and general health and wellbeing start to deteriorate.
A friend of mine recently wrote a powerful article about how it feels to struggle with loss, and how it’s sometimes OK to not be OK. He had recently lost three close friends in quick succession to Cystic Fibrosis (he is now the sole surviving member of a group who underwent treatment together). He admitted that he was tired of ‘soldiering-on’ in the face of adversity and simply needed to express how upset, helpless and hopeless it felt to be ‘The Last One’.
In his way, he was asking for help, not for answers.
Sometimes there are no answers, but to be heard and understood makes the carrying of the burden a little easier. My friend understood that, as painful as his loss was, it was something he was supposed to feel. The pain of loss reminds us, not only how much we loved those who are no longer with us, but also to remember those still with us and to cherish the times we have together.
As a new year gets underway there will be thousands of people across the county who are battling their (or someone else’s) ‘demons’ alone and feeling that they are losing. It’s important to remember that we human beings are social animals, designed to be interdependent and to co-operate and collaborate. That means offering and accepting help when needed.
It’s OK sometimes to not be OK, as long as we remember that it’s also OK to ask for help when we are struggling.
Jeff Cockfield
9/1/2017

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