When I say I’m struggling, that’s MY problem

Sometimes I blog about stuff I’m struggling with. I’ve written about struggling with depression, with insomnia, with time management issues, etc. Why do I blog about these things? I do it for two main reasons: to get it off my chest, and to bring it into the light.

Bringing it into the light serves two purposes: encouragement for fellow strugglers; and education for the general public. When I’ve written, for example, about struggling with depression, I’ve had lots of people say “me too”. I know it helps me when others choose to be open and real about it, rather than playing the game of “let’s pretend everything’s ok”. There is so much pretence out there, it’s a relief to be able to just share that actually, no, we don’t feel happy and bouncy all the time and actually there are times when we feel like we’re in the bottom of a very dark pit and we’re never ever going to get out of it. There is huge value in sharing this stuff. The “me too” effect – it doesn’t make the difficulties go away, but at least it tells you that you’re not the only person in the universe who feels like this.

And my hope is that some of what I write may also serve to educate people who have not experienced this stuff, so that they can understand it better.

But I wanted to talk about a different kind of reaction I’ve had sometimes – a very well-intentioned kind of reaction, but…

When I write and say I’m struggling, that doesn’t mean I’m asking for help. I realise it may be difficult to come to terms with this, especially if you’re someone who is caring, or who likes to fix things, or who feels somehow responsible for everyone else’s problems, but that’s the thing – you’re not responsible for my problems, I am.

You know that old story about the boy scouts who saw an old lady standing on the pavement and decided to help her cross the road? Turns out she didn’t actually want to get to the other side, she was standing there and waiting for a friend and they were going to go for a coffee or something. Kindness and caring and willingness to help other people are great virtues, but what are they worth without respect…

I think another factor that sometimes comes into the equation is that we’re uncomfortable with the general concept that people are struggling – but this is part of normal life! Life is not a bed of roses. Anyone who has lived on this planet for more than five minutes will have begun to get that idea – as soon as you come out of your mother’s womb you find reasons to squeal, because, hey, you will sometimes feel hungry or thirsty or too hot or too cold or too lonely or… zillions of things will cause you discomfort, unhappiness, frustration, etc etc. It is, sadly, a normal part of life. But still, many of us tend to react to someone else’s discomfort or unhappiness as though it’s an unexpected crisis which should be sorted out pronto. Whereas when I say I’m struggling, what I want first of all is the freedom to say it, to bring it into the open, to acknowledge it, to say: here it is, look, this is what I’m struggling with. I don’t want a whole load of people barging in and trying to fix my problems – they are my problems, it’s up to me to decide if I want to try and fix them at all, and to decide how I’m going to go about it.

There may be times when I decide to try and deal with a problem by asking other people’s advice. When I was thinking about different ways of doing backups, I posted a question online and asked for suggestions and recommendations. When I was wondering about what God was calling me to, I went to talk to my pastor. I have a voice, I’m capable of asking for input when that’s what I want. But I find that sometimes people don’t wait for me to ask, or they misinterpret my “I’m struggling with X” as a request for help or advice.

When I say I’m struggling with something, that means just that: I am struggling with it, and you’re welcome to watch, I’m allowing you a glimpse into what’s going on in my life – but it’s still my life and my struggle and my responsibility. You’re welcome to watch, but please don’t try and take over.

7 thoughts on “When I say I’m struggling, that’s MY problem

  1. It was an interesting experience to read you in English and a very chalanging one to respond (and probably also to read…).
    But I’m happy I did it because it was interesting, and as usual I more then agree. I believe men find it much more difficult to remain in the being part and feel they must do and “fix”.

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    • Wow, welcome, it’s great to see you here and I’m very impressed!

      and yes, I think generally men do this more than women, they tend to want to “fix” everything – which is great when you want something fixed :)

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      • I’m a little woried because I asked for a notification if someone responds. and didn’t get one…

        I’m sure I write ‘noah’ with seven mistakes, but I can’t do any better :-)

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        • oh, no, not so many mistakes, you’re doing fine :)

          about the notification thing – you should have got an email asking you to confirm, with a link to click. it’s a bit of a pain but they ask you every time. maybe the confirmation email went to your junk folder?

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          • I clicked the link they sent me. but once again got here by myself…

            Don’t worry – I’ll try again tommorow :-)

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  2. It’s L. from G+.

    About the boy scout trying to help the lady cross the street: How would he know beforehand she didn’t in fact need any help? If it were me, I’d ask first. “Do you need help crossing the street?” But would that still be a problem? If she was snotty about it or got offended by the help offered, that’s disrespectful and would lower my faith in humanity even more so.

    Is this case by case for you? For example, is it “respect” to walk by someone who just dropped a LOAD of documents on to the sidewalk if you had free time? Or an elderly man who fell off his bicycle? Would you just walk by?

    As far as psychological struggles with life or stress, THAT, I get and agree with totally.

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    • Oh, definitely – the respectful thing is to ask. Would you like help with that? or: would you be interested in some advice? There’s nothing wrong with offering, as long as we offer help in a way that leaves the other person free to say no thanks.

      Like

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