I hear so many people apologising for their suffering, as if their troubles aren’t ‘bad enough’ or worth paying attention to. As if other people’s problems were always more serious than theirs and that they ‘shouldn’t complain’. And my answer is often the same: ‘How do you measure and compare suffering?, ‘Why are you not deserving of attention?’, ‘Why isn’t your suffering important?’.
Your suffering is, actually, very much worth paying attention to. And you are the only person who can truly know about it, how it feels like and the only one who can do something about it. Whatever is happening inside you, other people can only imagine or make assumptions about your pain and difficulties. So, unless you reach out for help and share your feelings, no one will really know what you are going through.
Why it’s important to reach out for help:
- Suffering can be very lonely.
Sometimes you have been feeling in a certain way for such a long time, that you become ‘used to it’, thinking ‘it’s normal’ and part of who you are. But the pain is there, a nagging feeling in you. It affects your life, your decisions and your relationships. And other people react to you, not knowing anything about your internal torments and struggles. You might feel very lonely in this, because it becomes your ‘own private secret’. Nobody else knows.
- Your suffering is as important as anyone else’s.
Acknowledging your pain, and recognising that something isn’t right, might the first step towards real changes in your life. It is impossible to measure and compare inner experiences and feelings from one person to another. Yes, there are many tragic events in life that are universally devastating and everyone agrees that most of us would suffer deeply. But I’m talking here about the pain and suffering you might be experiencing every single day, carrying it with you and not being able to share. It could be: anxiety, depression, loneliness, addiction, postnatal depression, strange thoughts, low self-esteem etc. Or it could be feelings that you can’t even name yet.
- Valuing your feelings. Valuing yourself.
By noticing that something is wrong and by understanding that you can look for help, you will start a process of valuing yourself. Valuing your own needs. Valuing your feelings. You will start to realise that you are worth and deserve being helped. And you are the only one who can take that first step, others can’t do it for you. Nobody else really knows what goes on inside you.
- ‘Get a grip’ or ‘Toughen Up’ don’t really work.
Those orders can come from a voice in your own head, or a real voice from someone close to you. Even with their best intentions, those commands don’t really work in practice. You might try to ignore your problems, push them away, and put a brave face on. However, by dismissing your suffering you’ll be delaying the healing. You might be suppressing and hiding your emotions, trying to show an external strength, but only you know that the pain persists in you. Don’t listen to those voices. Try to be kind to yourself and really face your suffering.
- Reaching out for help can be transformative.
I am a firm believer that ‘the right relationship can heal’. Close human connections, understanding, feeling seen and valued by another person, can be very transformative. First of all, you won’t feel so lonely in your pain. Instantly, you might feel you are ‘sharing your burden’ with someone else and it won’t feel so heavy to you alone. It doesn’t mean that the other person will start feeling the same or will carry it for you: the right person will be there with you, holding a safe space and giving you the opportunity to open up and talk about what’s going on in you, offering the support you need. Something inside you will start feeling lighter, clearer. What before felt dark and confusing, might start looking brighter.
- Who to go to for help?
Reaching out for help can be an act of courage in itself, that big first step towards the unknown. And it’s very important to find someone you can fully trust. Trust brings a sense of openness and relief, an opportunity to feel respected and understood, whatever your situation. The helper can be a family member, a friend, a professional (counsellor, doctor), a charity or a support group. There are many options out there and you’ll hopefully find the help you need. But it needs to start from you. You are the only one who can give that first step, to make that first call, send that first email. If things are feeling tough right now, try to find some sort of will in you, that will push you forward and help you make that call. Reaching out for help will be worth it. Give it a try.