I’d rather be the one going through pain than to have to watch someone else go through it. It’s so hard to stand back and know there’s not a damn thing you can do to make the situation any better. Sure, you can offer a listening ear, hold a hand or bring a casserole by, but your loved one has to hurt. It’s the only way to get better.
And how much better we can become! If there’s one bit of advice I can pass on it’s that there’s always something else. You are never stuck. If you’re unhappy in your job, there are other amazing opportunities out there. If you’re unhappy in your relationship, it sucks to go through the splitting process, but there is someone else out there. I promise you that. Please note that I’m not telling you to leave a good, fulfilling, healthy relationship or job that you love. But if you’re just feeling OK about life, know that great is out there.
I’m so grateful to all the people who were there for me when I was healing. There’s nothing better than knowing I can call and someone will pick up the phone. Or that my friends will go out of their way to be there for me.
We’re all different. We all need different things. I don’t have any magic cure-alls for pain. But I do know what worked for me. Here’s a list if you’re in a position of watching a friend go through hell:
1.Try your best to think about what you would need in that position, and offer it without being asked. A friend offered to look at apartments with me. That was something I did not want to do by myself, so we made a day of it. It’s not something I would have asked of anyone, so it was nice that she offered something specific, rather than saying, “let me know if you need anything.”
2.Answer the phone. OK, you’re allowed to go to work or the theater but if at all you can, do. My sister is home with her kids, so she was the one I called at weird times. She always picked up. Sometimes if I was crying and couldn’t even manage a “hey, it’s me,” she would just start talking, telling funny stories about what my niece or nephew did or something she saw on TV. Some days she had to work pretty hard to find out why I called.
3.Share your own stories. When they found out what I was going through, several people made their own confessions to me. It was really helpful to know I wasn’t the only one to ever fail at a relationship.
There was also something amazing about picking myself up. About finally knowing what I needed at that moment and going for it. It might sound simple, but one of my biggest accomplishments of the last year was when I took a standup paddleboard class by myself – well, not by myself there were other people in the class, but I didn’t go with a friend. That was the first step to me finding my true happiness and moving to New York.
All through the process, I remembered back to Introduction to Psychology my freshman year of college. I remember the professor saying if she could do one thing to change the industry, she’d stop prescribing antidepressants and pain-killers. She said humans need to feel pain. It’s the only way to learn not to do something. All our emotions are precious. I absolutely believe that feeling them is the only way to get through.
And it feels damn good to overcome and find yourself happy again.