Support is one of those things everyone needs but not everyone has. It’s hard battling life alone. I’ve had people not want to be my friend because I was too negative. At my lowest point, I was my loneliest. I prayed for friends, but it felt like those prayers fell on deaf ears. Now, I’m fortunate to have a few close, supportive friends but I’ve been cautious about sharing the depth of my pain. Misery may love company but people don’t want to be around miserable people. That was a hard lesson to learn. I felt so stuck. I didn’t know how to get out of my pain. I couldn’t deal with the pain alone and yet the pain was too much for others to handle.
I don’t think I’m alone with that dilemma. I think there are those of us with too much pain for other people. There are those of us whose pain drives us into isolation – we’ve been hurt before and we don’t want to be hurt again. Or our pain is too overwhelming, too scary, for others. For whatever reason, we find ourselves alone with the pain.
Whether it’s physical pain or mental pain, that kind of anguish begs for relief. I tried to find people to help me. I would beg God for someone to help carry my burden. Unfortunately, that kind of pain cannot be erased over coffee. That kind of loneliness isn’t relieved easily. That type of pain drives people away. It’s too raw, too in your face. So, what does one do? If you believe in God, know He is with you and can comfort you. For those who don’t believe in God you are still not alone. There are people in the world who care about you. If you feel alone, know that it’s not true. You are not alone. You are not unlovable. You are not to be defined as a failure or a disappointment in this life. The family that rejected you does not speak for everyone else. Your friends that do not understand you are not the only friends out there. You are understandable. There are others in the same boat who understand pain even if they don’t totally understand your pain.
I cannot stress this enough. Please, believe me, you are never alone! When you feel alone, when you feel scared, when you feel desperate, you are not alone. When you feel rejected and isolated, you are not alone. God is with you when it feels like no one else is. I know it can feel like that’s not enough. I want physical arms wrapped around me not just spiritual ones but, if I remember that simple truth, that God loves me when no one else does and that God is with me when no one else is, I can get through those bad, scary, lonely times. It’s tough when the crazy steps in. I’m not going to lie. When my brain is surrounded by chaos, it’s hard to remember such a simple truth but I think when we know something to be fundamentally true, it stays with us even in the worst of times. The fact that God loves me is a fundamental truth that is foundational to my survival. And if you can know that there is a God and that He loves you, too, it will get you through many a dark night.
There are times when we want more than just knowing we’re loved by God. So, how do you get the support you need when you’re in pain? It’s hard but it is possible if you’re willing to be patient and cautious. Unfortunately, finding friends takes reaching out and when you’re really depressed or have a physical illness that keeps you down, that’s really hard but it’s worth it. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not ready to do this yet but if you have the energy, if you have the desire, give it a try.
To find others who can ease the loneliness, reach out to others for connection. There are support lines, groups and organizations who care and want to help. Use what is in your community. If you don’t want to ask for help, ask to help. Find a place to volunteer to help others. It’s a great way to connect with others and meet loving, caring people. Just remember, another person isn’t going to take the pain away. That’s more than one person can do but they can help. They are worth finding.
Once you’ve made a connection you need to nourish it. This can be a challenge, especially if making friends is difficult. One thing that helps is focusing on the other person. Instead of thinking about the pain you’re in, think about what’s going on with them. How can you help them? How can you be there for them? How can you support them? This serves two purposes: 1) It shows the other person that you care about them and are interested in them. People love to be the center of attention so, let them be. Put your focus on the other person. The other reason to be there for others is just as important 2) It gets you to STOP thinking about all the pain you’re in! If you’re focused on helping someone else, you are NOT focused on yourself. I try to help people as much as possible. It’s not because I’m a saint. It’s because when I’m helping others, I’m not focused on the pain I’m feeling. I’m focused on someone else.
Beware Toxic People
It can be so hard. There are toxic people in this world. There are people who claim to be friends but then they delight in tearing you down. There are people who claim to be there for you who are really just there to use you. Those are the people you want to run from! So, how do you distinguish between a friend in pain who needs you and a giant sucking vortex who wants to drag you down? First, examine yourself. Where are you at in your pain? Do you have resources to give to others? No? Then a relationship with someone who is unable to give, may be a relationship that needs to either end or be lessened. If you do have the resources to be a support to others then realize a person unable to give to you may be one you are called to help, to minister to, and not expect them to be able to be something they’re not. When I choose a friend, I am determined to be there for them. I want them to be there for me but I’m prepared to have a relationship that is a one-way street. If I don’t have the ability to be there for them, and they can’t be there for me, then it’s not a relationship I can be in.
I hear some of you saying, “I’ll pass”. When it comes to pain, been there, done that, got the t-shirt. Your fear is real. Some friends will hurt you. When you feel your pain is at its worst, why would you risk more? So, instead, you isolate yourself. If your pain originated with other people, isolation seems a valid course of action, but, please, hear me out, it’s not. I know you’re hurting and you just want to protect yourself from being hurt again. Isolation may be a good idea for a time as you really look at yourself and figure out how to keep from being hurt again but please, don’t punish yourself with loneliness because of what someone else did. You may need to look at how you can strengthen yourself so that you don’t get involved in unhealthy relationships, but once you have done that, it’s time to step out and take a chance on others.
Years ago, I got involved in some unhealthy churches and was hurt very bad. It took some time for me to learn what an unhealthy environment was and how to avoid it. I didn’t know the difference between common human failings and truly destructive people. I had to learn this. It took some time. I went from unhealthy environments to human environments to loving environments. There was a long time when I isolated myself from churches and people. I needed that time to learn and grow. Then, I tried it again. Very cautiously at first but, as I met others who reached out in love, I was able to respond in kind. I made friends. After even more time, I made close friends. Now, I have people in my life I can turn to when I’m hurting and I have people that turn to me when they’re hurting. It takes time to find healthy people but it can be done, and it’s worth the effort. Go slow and trust your instincts. Don’t let your desire for relationships cause you to jump into unhealthy ones, but don’t let your fears rob you of healthy ones. Take it a step at a time. Evaluate your relationships as you go. Realize you’re dealing with imperfect people but take a chance. Step out. Make some friends.