By Robine Jean-Pierre
Do you ever feel like you have no one to talk to? That even if someone were there to listen, they just wouldn’t understand?
I have been haunted by this loneliness from time to time, but I know deep down that there is no such thing as “no one to talk to.” It just takes way more effort to reach out to someone than to stay to myself and sulk.
This semester has been getting progressively more difficult. During the past week in particular, I realized that I was operating in “burn-out” mode. My days started early and ended late; I did not sleep as much as I would have liked; assignments were sneaking up on me and piling up. As a result, I was very physically, emotionally and mentally drained.
Who could I reach out to? Although I had so many friends and family around me, it felt as if talking to them would be futile. They all had problems of their own–why sadden them with my sob-stories? And even if they were willing, could they really afford to stop and listen to me? After my bad attitude had ruined one of our evenings together, it became clear to me that even my own fiancé, Angel, could handle only so much of my mess. I spitefully considered never opening up to anyone again–but then, who would that hurt more: me or them?
Fortunately, taking initiative would not have to be my responsibility all the time. My high school friend Erie texted me the other night, just to check up on me. I opened up to her, explaining how alone I felt. I even mentioned that I was considering going to therapy. Her responses were considerate and attentive. She gently chided me for not talking to her about it sooner. Our conversation really alleviated some of my distress.
Two days later, initiating a face-to-face talk with my long-time friend Cassandra was also very helpful. She and I have very similar upbringings and personalities, so she has been like a big sister to me for most of my life. She understood my rambling and personally identified with my conflicts.
People are not perfect, needless to say; even your confidants might miss your call, or misinterpret what you are attempting to express at first. Yet, once they are ready, they are all ears and all heart. They are quick to listen and give you time to breathe before offering their advice.
I am so grateful for all the people who have helped me overcome personal struggles, including family, teachers, friends, and Angel. One single person may not have been available all the time, but collectively, they have generously offered support, wisdom, counsel and love.
The next time I am tempted to shut down and cut myself off from others during a crisis, I will remember that communicating will only help me in the long run, even if it is painful. There is nothing strong about simply hiding weakness; strength is courageously making yourself vulnerable, knowing that none of us can handle this life alone.
Who do you run to when you are in a crisis? Is opening up about personal struggles a challenge for you? Why or why not?