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.