Midweek Musing: help (un)solicited

I asked Facebook friends. I received helpful responses from their experience. I also received further information which, in the voice in my head, sounded condescending and conveying a subtext of you're a child who knows nothing. But I asked, so getting annoyed is more my own sensitivity to being thought of as stupid than anything else.

But when I tell Facebook friends what I am feeling – sad, ill, in pain, homesick – and then get advice about how to fix it, my getting annoyed might be more excusable. For that advice is unsolicited.

Years ago I completed the Myers-Briggs personality scale. Some people find that scale and/ or all personality scales pointless, inaccurate, inadequate. I have found it helpful as a point of reference for understanding how I engage with the world.

I scored strongly on the 'NFP' side, with a balance of E/I. Briefly, this would indicate that I am intuitive, rely on feelings and perceptions for engaging with the world. I have heard the E/I balance described as 'ambivert'; I understand my balance of extravert and introvert tendencies to explain the delicate balance of energy I need to aim for. Too much time with people, and I begin to shut down and crave with a physical intensity solitude; I also don't like crowded spaces very much. It takes longer for solitude to turn to a craving for company, but eventually, too much time without others around and I go a little crazy.

All that to set the context for the telling my Facebook friends what / how I am feeling. I rely on my feelings a lot. Expressing how I am feeling – emotionally, physically, mentally – is helpful to me for understanding myself, and for connecting with others.

That introvert / extravert balance is vital in this vocation I am following. Solitary, but needing community, I gather that community from wherever I can, and have found live and local as well as virtual and scattered communities of support through congregations, family and friends, networks, scholarly institutions and more, in various places around the world. One way of connecting with people is for me to be honest and open about the way I am feeling – the 'good' and the 'bad'. It helps me, because perhaps you will understand and be able to support in one way or another, even simply knowing you know how I am helps me feel less alone. And I have found that it is one way I can help others, for in sharing honestly and openly I have shown people that I am a safe person to whom they can bring what they are feeling, and find welcome, affirmation and care.

So, when I tell my Facebook friends what I am feeling and get advice on how to fix it, that advice is unsolicited, and to be frank, unhelpful. Back or neck pain? No, thank you, I don't want your suggestions for how to fix it – I've lived with it for over 25 years, and I have methods that work. I simply need to give voice to the pain. Depressed? No, I do not want to be told to get out in the sunshine, go for a walk, or whatever seems helpful to you. I have lived with this one for more than 20 years, and I have methods that help me endure and move back towards thriving. I must speak out from the midst of it, for those of us with confidence will help our communities continue to improve our understanding and care for all who live with mood disorders.

When I tell you how or what I am feeling, reflect that back to me to tell me I have been heard. That is all that is needed, and is one of the most respectful and healing gifts we can give to another. To be heard.

And when I want your help, need your advice, seek to learn from the wisdom of your experience, I will ask. I've lived with those chronic conditions, remember, and if I have learnt anything from those experiences (and I needed to), it is how to ask for help.


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