#4 on the list of coping skills is : Make sure you have a support system.
Like today's dysfunctional family, a support system can be made up of any of a list of things: your family, friends, therapist, Doctor, neighbor, Pastor, Priest, Candle Maker, and/or Indian Chief. Whoever you choose, whatever the makeup of the support group, it is YOUR support group.
These are the folks who you can turn to when you need someone to talk to. These are the shoulders you can cry on. These are the ones who can tell the difference between a "blue day" and the "black dog". These are the folks who are there for you. More importantly, these are the folks you trust and the folks you will listen to and you will hear what they say.
Acquaintances and those who hardly know me ask, "How are you doing?" Sometimes this can be a serious inquiry about my state of mind. Being in the south, this can be the proper thing to say. And, due to our human nature and unease, it can be the only thing that comes to someone's mind if they are aware of my most recent unpleasantness. More often than not, it is the second.
Even though down here we have been schooled in certain things to ask in pleasant conversation : ("How is your mother?" "What color did you decide to do the dining room in?" "How do you think the team will do this year?"and "How are you doing?") However, most cringe at the thought that the answer to the later will be anything more than, "OK", "Fine", "Alright", or "Better".
God forbid someone be honest and say, "Not very well. I am having a hard time dealing with life today." or "Badly." or "Depressed." There may be an uncomfortable silence. The alternative will be a weak attempt to respond in some type of compassionate way.
This leads to skill #5: Communication. Be honest and truthful when anyone asks how you are doing?
This flys in the face of the way we were reared down here. Our Mamas taught us to always be polite and pleasant when asked about our well being. So here lies the conundrum. Not only do I have to fight my ingrained upbringing, I have to bare my soul.
Seriously, it is hard to learn to be honest, when my natural instinct to answer, "Fine" or "OK", whether I am on top of the world or fighting the black dog. It is important to be truthful in my answer. Not for sympathy or attention, but to be honest to myself and let my support group know my life is not rosy. It also helps me face reality and accept how I really feel. How can I get help and ever get better if those who want to help don't know when I need it most?
For the record, I still tell little ol' ladies and gentlemen, as well as folks I do not know well, that I am "Fine". No need to share my issues with the world. Afterall, even in my condition, I can set boundaries.
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