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dear ones

dear ones Posted on March 28, 201714 Comments

dear ones,
never hesitate to tell someone how much they matter, how profoundly they’ve changed your life for the better, how much you love them.
when people ask for help, answer the phone.
reach out, even if it’s awkward.
don’t assume they’ve got it handled.
don’t “be cool”.
Let it matter.
I’m alive because of a million tiny and huge and significant gestures from hundreds of people.
not everyone makes it.
you can’t always fix it.
you can’t always stop it.
but every time you reach out it makes a difference.
depression can be fatal.
fight back.


  1. I’m really fortunate to have learned in my 20s that expressing these things is what matters. Although I struggle day-to-day to make it happen in real life, there are never enough reminders. Because that one connection, that one email/message/text could mean more to someone than you can possibly imagine. Take the time. Make the connection. If you’re not in the dark you probably can’t imagine how far away the light seems.

    1. yes. addendum: You can name the awkward. as in, “hey, I know this is weird and awkward but I was thinking about you and wanted to tell you that I’m really glad I know you. #thatisall”

  2. This from the other side of the question: how to reach out. What do you do if you are the one who is desperate and reaching out and you encounter people saying, “wow, I’m sure busy” and similar reactions that push away the person seeking help? I had this happen during a horrible crisis and could not believe what I was encountering as I reached out. One of my closest friends of 40 years suddenly couldn’t find five minutes a week for me. “You are having panic attacks? I have to get to lab. You feel suicidal? I have grant reviews to write. You are suffering from post-traumatic stress? Sorry, no time to talk.” The several hours a week he used to spend on personal phone calls with me turned into minutes a week of professional information exchange. That once valued friendship is apparently permanently lost to a strange assault of busy-ness, and then silence, and I found myself wondering if I did something wrong in reaching out. but it wasnt that one friend. I was surprised at how many people around me did NOT come forward to help when they heard I was struggling. “You are seeing a therapist? oh good, hope it helps, gotta run.” When someone needs help, needs support, needs someone else to say, “you are not alone,” is there some right way to do this? Fortunately, I’m doing OK. Rhi pulled me into a group online, and a few friends came through at about the point I was ready to walk into the Pacific and head for Japan. So it came out OK in the end but was pretty grim for a while when everyone I reached out to for help acted like I was presuming a bit much on their terribly busy lives. The whole experience left me wondering. Are there ways to reach out that garner help and other ways to reach out that leave everyone jumping back as if molten lead were spattering ….. which was how my lost friend and frankly other close friends reacted? If I hit another crisis, is there some way one is supposed to reach out that doesn’t result in, “gee I’m busy and a look on their faces like you are about to ask them to clean your house or babysit,” from the same people who had felt they could ask for my help in the past? Is there some protocol, some acceptable way to say, “help”? I am so thankful for the lovely people who did come through for me, but I really did not undetstand finding myself in a scene like the hungry child in the Dickens novel, hands upraised asking, “help,” and being handed back an empty porridge bowl.

    1. The short answer is yes, there are more and less effective ways to reach out. The most effective thing I’ve found is to prenegotiate–talk to people about what you might need and what they might be able to offer before the crisis hits. Figure out who can offer what. Plan to spread it out. Make sure you do have a good therapist and maybe a support group. It can be really wrenching when you need help and you can’t find someone who is willing to give what you need when you need it. It’s great that you’re asking this question now. Have frank conversations with people. If they think they will get in over their heads they are unlikely to open the door.

  3. yes, someone who has been there once can ask these questions, can figure out which people in their lives are emotionally available and who sees an emotional crisis as a signal to run. Can figure out what they would do next time. Can know the help line numbers, have a therapist. Too many of the people who get into trouble are the ones who land there the first time who never dreamed they would be where I was. So they will always be the ones who land where I landed, suddenly in crisis with nothing pre-planned and nothing figured out. When you are the one who has always had it together, always been everyone else’s support system, a sudden crisis is a surprise to everyone including the person having the crisis. So this is part of why I asked, because there must be so many people who land in places like this who would never have made arrangements ahead of time because they were not someone “vulnerable.” So they won’t know what to do, will not have pre-arranged support systems, so this is why I end up asking, are there ways that someone in sudden new first time crisis can approach reaching out, given that they did not pre-arrange? Because others will land where I was. It took me four months to get past the barriers of my health system to a therapist and almost that long to find personal support that wasn’t thousands of miles away. It almost seems like there ought to be something out there, some “how to” for surviving through an initial crisis for someone who has never been in crisis, never anticipated one so that they have not done all of those wise things you talk about above. At this point, I will be taking all of that advice and adding it to the other things I have learned, but I still think the people in greatest danger are the ones who hit a first crisis with no support and no clue how to connect. …… I have to say my experience became a kind of mix of surprising and non-surprising commentaries on people in my life. Huge surprises regarding some who supported or turned away from me, no surprise at all for others who supported or turned away from me. I want others who hit a first time crisis to not face what I faced, to not push away help.

  4. And I want to thank you for your thoughtful reply. Among other things, it gives me pause to reconsider how I interpret some of the responses I received. I sometimes have to remind myself, “not everything in the world is about me,” sometimes people are doing things for reasons inside them, about them, that are not about what I did or said, such as that they are having do many problemys of their own that they just don’t have anything to give right now. A hard thing to remember if you are drowning and reach up a hand to be pulled out and the other person doesn’t pull you out. Hard to keep in mind that maybe they can’t swim, or they are drowning, too, or they are already holding up four other people.

  5. Yes. Depression makes it easy to believe that everything is about you even when it isn’t. People may or may not have the resources or skills to handle what you need help with.

    As for the first time: the answer is simple and for everyone: do not assume that you’re immune, any more than you assume that you don’t need your seat belt because you haven’t been in a car crash. You are not immune. Make sure you have the conversations, negotiations, and most of all, community. Make your contributions to them. No one can go it alone.

  6. Leela, I loved the suggestion you made above to Julie about making arrangements for help in advance, when you are feeling good. I just shared it with someone in another conversation, and she thought it was brilliant and could be very helpful to her! Thanks for putting this into words. I appreciate it, and so does my friend. 🙂

  7. I’m glad, too. It was someone I don’t know very well, but something she said prompted me to share your thoughts. I’m glad I took the risk.

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