When you are going through hardship, is it possible to help others? This is an important idea, as we are all facing our own individual uphill struggles. We all have invisible battles. In which case, the clear answer must be yes.
These past few months, as I’m sure you’re all aware, I’ve been dealing with grief. As well as a diagnosis that seems to have turned my life upside down, past trauma that has reared its ugly head again, and a few other difficulties that I’ll keep quiet for now. I can’t tell you how many people have been there for me, all the while going through their own stuff. I think mental health issues makes one selfish. At least for me it does. I become so wrapped up in my anxieties/low moods that it’s like I’m this narcissistic ball of emotions I can’t even name – enter autism.
The only thing I have ever known to pull me out of this is to focus on someone else. When I worked at the nursery, I had such reprieve from my anxieties because the little babies needed me to hold them and love them and ensure their safety. When a friend has a crisis, suddenly it’s no longer about my loss, my grief, my anger. It’s about what they need in that moment, and I forget my pain. And of course, the foremost use of trauma/grief/illness etc, is the ability to empathise with the problems of others and guide them through the thorny path you’ve already walked. As I grow older I find this is something I encounter so much. Younger friends going through the same difficulties I went through in my early twenties. I offer advice, I regale them with case studies of my own life, I listen. Listening is so key. And if you’re listening to someone else, how can you possibly be focussed on your own instability?
It’s a hard thing to do, and I’m a hypocrite for suggesting this as I find it inextricably difficult, but next time you feel trapped in a bubble by your anxiety, or weighed down with sadness or numbness, do something for someone else. Make someone a card, write someone a letter, donate, talk to a homeless person, start up a conversation with that person on the bus who looks as sad as you. I promise you, it will lift you out of the ball of darkness you were in. Even if only for a short time. It’s worth something though, right?