I try so hard to walk the walk in terms of modeling vulnerability and asking for help. My greatest goal is to try to normalize and bring what so many of us endure into the light where it will be starved of the shame that keeps it alive and that nobody should feel alone in their personal hell.
But I am concerned that I don’t emphasize the other side of the coin enough because frankly, I get it wrong too often myself. Here’s what: There is a right and wrong way to go about being vulnerable.
Please let me be clear that there is nothing more dangerous than sharing some of the rawest and most ugly realities of PTSD or any other mental illness ***while we are in the throes of it*** with those who aren’t equipped to deal with it. And to be brutally honest, *most* people aren’t able to absorb that sort of pain and respond properly. Even if they *are* your true friends and loving family. They just can’t do it. This is dangerous because if you don’t feel understood/supported by those you love it makes you double down on the internalizing of a sense of shame just as you are in the biggest battle of your life. So then what? A vicious cycle leading to a greater sense of isolation/shame.
Again, it must be understood that PTSD and many other mental illnesses feed hungrily upon and often even originate from shame and isolation. Thus the conundrum: Bring what we are suffering to the light where shame cannot survive.. BUT be sure that the light is one that can shine steadfastly through the crisis without flickering or going dark. HOW, THOUGH? (These are notes to self as much as anyone else 😉
1. Ask the person you are confiding in if they have the emotional/mental time and space to hear some very heavy shit right now. Prepare to be ok with hearing a “no” and have a list of other people in mind. If they don’t have the head space, time or energy, saying “no” is the kindest most loving thing they can do for you, it is not a rejection and it shouldn’t be seen that way (but it might still feel shitty, that’s ok)
2. Get really specific with people about what you need from them *before* you unload. Think about what you need and verbalise it: “I’m going to need reassurance that I’m not crazy/bad. Or “I need you to tell me that everything is going to be ok, or I’m feeling a sense of hopelessness/ self loathing right now and I need you to tell me that I’m not a useless crazy effing piece of trash.
3. Consider support/internet groups.People in those groups have BTDT, will have the empathy for your situation, and they have signed on to help others who are going through it. They won’t be blindsided by what you are bringing to light. It’s also way less dangerous if you don’t get the feedback you are looking for from strangers than from people you love.
Finally: It’s important to remember that your loved ones do still love you but they may be as scared/overwhelmed by what you are experiencing as you are. It may well trigger something unaddressed inside of them which they can’t cope with. Honestly? There have been so many times when people have reached out to me and I just *cannot* be all they need me to be because I’m drowning in my own stuff. It’s sad as hell because there is nothing I want more than to be helpful to anyone in pain, but it just is what it is. Keep in mind that we are ALL fighting a hard battle and if someone can’t offer appropriate support at that time…it is not about you! And it is not because you aren’t worthy! You are absolutely worthy of support. There is ALWAYS help out there but the brutal truth is that it might take some searching. Knocking on the wrong door doesn’t mean there aren’t many, many others. Keep knocking! We are all in this shit-show together.
Love you. xox