Tuesday, July 9, 2013

With a little help from my friends

This past weekend was a holiday weekend, and it was full of truly fantastic moments. I had lots of time with friends and family, getting outside and enjoying the weather. I even saw a beautiful rainbow, and this is how it looked just before it disappeared. (yay!)

Also, I sliced my hand with a knife. (boo!)

I was being foolish, really. I was attempting to cut a watermelon the wrong way (note, this is not quite like carrying a watermelon) and the knife slipped a bit further than I wanted it to.

I stood at the sink, water running over my hand and trying to get my head straight over what had happened and what was I going to do and how badly was I hurt. I couldn't look at it. I've heard you are supposed to put pressure on these things, so I did. There wasn't much pain but I was very woozy. I was scared, I thought I had hurt myself very badly. I didn't know - maybe I needed to go to a hospital and get stitches. Thoughts about 'what would I do about the kids' and 'oh gosh I've not done this to myself in a long time' were running through my head.

I asked for help.

Thankfully I had friends nearby, friends who knew first-aid and could offer assistance. They were there for me, and I'm so very grateful for their help.

Physically they helped by showing me how to stop the bleeding, by moving me somewhere restful and by keeping the kids happy elsewhere while I recovered. Thankfully I didn't need an emergency room.

Mentally, my friends and family helped by gathering around and saying all sorts of wonderfully supportive things. They reassured me that I was going to be fine, they told me that I didn't need to worry about anything, that they would help. They asked me how I was feeling, and listened. They held my hand and made me feel better.


As I was being cared for so well, I couldn't help but think about other times I was in pain, times when I was around folks who were 'less than helpful'.

For example, I've had people compare my situation to other people's. Have you had this happen to you? "Oh, look at that, your leg was hit by that hockey puck. It's swelling to the size of a baseball. My friend had that once, and he was in the hospital for three days. Yours doesn't look as bad." The author of this article calls the above kind of comment the trap of 'Even Worse'. I felt even more hurt when hearing these comments, because I felt like they were telling me that my feelings of hurt and pain were not valid.

When I'm hurt, I may cognitively understand that there are plenty of people in the world who are hurting more than I am. Emotionally on the other hand I need to get past my own hurt before I can recognize others' pain.

If I try to put myself into these people's shoes, I remember how it feels when someone I know is hurting. I want to help in any way I can. One thing I've tried to do, and perhaps this is the reason that people say these things, is to distract them from the pain. From the outside I think 'distraction is good'.  From the inside, I believe that the pain is sometimes worse when I try to ignore it. I have to look my pain right in the eye and say 'yes, I'm hurting' to move past it.


What kinds of things do you say to people who are hurt? What do you want to hear when you are in pain?



Anonymous said...

When I found out that my boyfriend had died, people I talked to in the grief chat room were very helpful. They said I was entitled to my grief.

When I went back to college at night the first time, after registration I was totally numb. Some friends found me and took me to their house and fed me and talked to me until I adjusted emotionally.

Anonymous said...

it has been my experience that most of the time other people are not there for me when I'm hurting; somehow I just have to muddle through. you were right to treasure the friends who were there for you.

susan thom said...

i try to let them know that even though i can't feel exactly what they're feeling, I'm sorry they're in pain. i think it helps the one in pain to know others really care.
whatever they need to feel more comfortable, i provide, and i am their legs for a while so they can rest and grow stronger.

Kimmy said...

I find it so wonderful, that different people find different things helpful! I DO find it very helpful when in times of pain and struggles, to hear about other's stories of struggles, because if they made it, then so can I. I wonder how we could know what others prefer - the golden rule is to do unto others as you would have done to you, but the platinum rule is to do unto others as they would have done to them. So what one might find comforting, might insult another. I don't think that a set rule, or "empathy trap" is true for all people. Even when my son was burned severely, the doctor was telling us about his mother's severe burns, and her experience and recovery; that didn't lesson the fear and sadness over our son's injury, but it gave me hope, and made me feel less powerless. now that I know stories don't provide comfort to you, we'll just be there and provide the comfort you find most effective.

Janet said...

Thanks Kimmy, Susan and Anonymous for adding your voices to this article. I do agree with Kim that stories probably help some people more than others.

I recall, for example, that when I was pregnant I liked hearing stories about how others had successfully labored, while I didn't like hearing stories about how others had bad experiences. Perhaps it's the tone and the intent of the person sharing that is the key.

In my 'hockey puck' situation, perhaps the person was trying to make me feel better.