Lately I have watched many people I care about face serious misfortune. Two close friends of the family were diagnosed with serious cancers, a friend just had a worrisome mass on her cervix removed, another friend's father is ill, a neighbour's son has an illness not yet diagnosed and the husband of one of my best friends just called it quits on their 12 year marriage (they have two sons aged 4 and 1).
I am devastated and concerned for each of them and left wondering both what I can do to help, and what would I do if it were me in their place?
Like many people who struggle with anxiety, I have a tendency to worry about what ifs because of this irrational belief that if I do, the what ifs won't happen, or somehow if they do happen I'll be better prepared. This is, of course, a fallacy because it assumes magical thinking, and worrying about things before they happen does little to prevent or minimize pain and trauma when they do occur.
I am relieved to say that all of this misfortune around me has not yet sent me into a spiral of anxiety like it might have in the past. I know I've mentioned the importance of gratitude in the past, but I believe it applies here too. I may not be able to explain why I am so fortunate, but I am. A wonderful husband who I have been married to for almost 10 years (upcoming anniverary in May!), two smart, healthy, adorable girls, and a priviledged, upper-middle class existance. My life has not been without it's share of heart break, trauma and disappointments, but relatively speaking my life has been very good. Finally at the tender age of 37 I have realized that I am not undeserving of this fortune and enjoying it will not cause the other shoe to drop. Actually, it seems far more selfish and narcissistic to not recognize and appreciate how blessed I am. This also puts me in a better position to reach out to the ones around me who are right now facing major challenges.
The other point of this post is to remind you how important it is to reach out to others regardless of whether you are the one offering or needing help. There is no shame in seeking help, we all need to lean on others for some reason at some point in our lives. AND THAT IS OKAY. I also think one of the most important things we human beings can do is help others. Obviously, that is why I am in a helping profession. But help can take many forms: donating money to a charity; opening the door for someone in a public space; housesitting for a neighbour; a hug; cooking food for a sick friend, etc.
I grapple with how I can help each and every person dear to me who is dealing with a serious problem right now and the answer isn't always easy to find. Sometimes it is best to ask. Sometimes the person won't know, but the fact that you asked is what is important.