I used to go to counseling. After talking her ear off about my childhood, my life as a college student, and my future plans, she woudl reply: “Interesting. Now, is there anybody you can talk to about your feelings on a daily basis?” That was an easy question. “Nope. No one at all.” She squinted her eeys at me in curiosity. “You don’t have anyone to talk to? No one you could call at any time of the day to ask for help?” The answer was still the same.
For a long time, I had believed that nobody cared about me or what I had to say. Although I knew that it was not true, I acted and thought liked I believed it. I had made excuses for people so that I did not have to face rejection. She’s too busy. He’s too preoccupied. She has problems of her own to handle; why would she want to help me? This is how I lived, knowing and believing that no one wanted to help me.
I started to ask for help last summer. I took a trip to Southern Spain to help with children’s camps and ESL classes. There was one time when I had a really bad fever. The fever was probably caused by the heat, and it made me feel nauseous and helpless. Normally, at home, I could easily grab some water, take a shower, or go to sleep. But I was in another country, speaking Spanish in a school classroom filled with kids. I didn’t know what to do. One of my friends came over and put her arm around me. I told her, “I don’t feel well.” That was the first time in a long time that I had admitted to someone else that I needed help. My friend asked me what was wrong. I put my hand on my foreahd and told her in Spanish that I had a fever. We walked to the bathroom. She put cold water on my head and neck, told me to breathe, and then took me to get a glass of water. Within about a half hour, my fever had left me. If I hadn’t asked for help, I would have sulked in my fever, and I would have believed that nobody cared about me.
I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not easy to talk with others about my own feelings, especially if they do not seem interested. It is also difficult when my feelings are fresh. For example, if someone says something offensive to me, it is difficult for me to express that my feelings were hurt. This is not something that I can learn overnight. As I said in my series about being childlike, it takes risks to depend on other people. But I am learning that it takes more of a risk to keep your emotions a secret from other people.
I always had anxiety because I knew that I could not get help from other people. After learning how to trust people with my anxiety, I feel like I am not alone anymore. When my eyes get wide and I have trouble breathing – a sign of a panic attack – I have friends now that understand the causes and know how to help. I also have friends that ask me how I am doing and then genuinely listen to me talk, which prevents panic attacks. Having others help you carry your burdens and help you live your life allows you to feel more at peace. However, if they need to give you advice, listen to them and accept what they have to say. They can see things in a way that you cannot, so they can offer you a fresh perspective on the situation.
My counselor knew the value of sharing my emotions with other people. If you trust other people with your emotions, your anxiety will not be as strong. Learning that you are not alone will help you to feel more in control.