Waves of Life — How can we help each other overcome?
As the waves of life crash over you, tossing you around inside their fury, you will find yourself wondering which way is up and which way will allow you to escape the furious torrent that threatens to overwhelm you. It is when waves such as job loss, long-term illness, financial issues, or the death of a loved one we find ourselves pondering, “when will my life be better and does anyone really care about me?” Many people have asked those questions during some of life’s worst crises, and many have succumbed to the false notion that no one cared about them and would not care if they were gone. But, others, even in their darkest hours, find ways to help their fellow man while running away from facing their own crises. Why?
As human beings, we are a social group, and we look for the adulation and the adoration of friends and family to validate our lives and our behavior whether that behavior is good, bad, or ugly. At our most vulnerable and weakest points, humans sometimes wonder why they are not, ‘good enough,’ ‘special enough,’ ‘nice enough,’ or ‘pretty enough’ for life not to be so hard. I have often wondered why I ‘think’ the things I do about life and what has driven me to be the type of person who, when confronted with a challenge like cancer or diabetes, after the initial shock, just got on with the business of dealing with it and moving forward instead of wallowing in the pits of self-pity. Others, like my friends Donald Stratton and Louis Conter, when confronted with bombs falling on their ship in Pearl Harbor just did what they had to do to survive, and they did their job. But, then I have friends who when challenged by life’s problems and travails, seem to shrink from the trial as if the “elephant in the room” is more significant than what they believe they can conquer. The only way to conquer the proverbial elephant is by breaking the problem down into bite size chunks and work through each piece individually.
But, I find myself asking questions like ‘why do some people when given a diagnosis of obesity shrink from addressing the issue and working to lose the weight needed to live a healthy life?’ or ‘why do others just get on about the task of getting healthy through proper diet and exercise? Undoubtedly, these issues have something to do with the constitutional makeup of the individual, and no amount of coaching or help will get them to work to make their life better. So, my question here is, can anything be done to change the constitution of the individual to make them more resilient to stress and less apt to implode at the challenges life seemingly throws at all of us during our time here on Earth? I do not have the answer to this question other than to support the person who is unwilling to do what must be done to ease life’s sometimes extremely cumbersome burdens without placing undue stress and strain on yourself due to having to carry the load for that person.
What can we do to help our fellow man when they seem at the end of their proverbial rope? First, I believe we should continue to work on communication which will allow us to form an understanding of the issue or crisis which that individual must overcome. Once we understand the problem, we can empathize with them, work with them to create their own action plan, and allow the individual, if they so choose to, “eat the elephant, one bite at a time,” so that this life crisis does not seem so daunting that they have no chance of ever overcoming it. Second, when someone is facing the feelings that they are no longer wanted or needed and are suicidal, what should we do to help them believe again that their life is still worth living? Communication is essential here as well, but one must make sure it is the appropriate communication for them to see that their life is worthy and they need to start thinking about tomorrow. To do this, we must ask them leading questions because if we can get them thinking about tomorrow, we can stop them from thinking about the crisis at hand and get them the mental and physical help they need to overcome the feeling their life is over, and they would be better off dead.
In conclusion, my life has been better because of the support system I have around me from my family to my close friends, but I know there are others who are not as fortunate as I am and may not have anyone to listen, understand, and empathize with them without judgment. What can be done for those people who have no one? If you witness something about to happen, act. And, act if that person were your brother, sister, mom, dad, best friend, etc. and help them in their moment of need. If you are all alone and need help, there are national and local mental health services available 24 x 7 willing to listen without judgment and help you overcome the problems you are facing. As part of my writing on mental health, I am learning more and more that my life and support system is an exception to the rule and that most people do not have the level of support I do. We all must work to change the perception that mental illness is a permanent affliction because it is not and we should all be thankful that with the proper counseling and in some cases, appropriate medications, most people can live happy and productive lives even after a major mental breakdown.
Until next time, be kind to your neighbor and find a way to pay it forward every day.