If you’re reading this, you’re probably not a hermit. And if you’re not a hermit, then you probably have somewhat of a support system of friends, family members, co-workers, neighbors, and other circles you may be included in. I certainly hope so, because everybody needs somebody. None of us were meant to be an isolated island. Have you ever thought about why solitary confinement in a correctional facility is such a powerful punishment for inmates? It’s because isolation is something we humans tend to view as a negative situation. If you have a burden of some kind, feeling isolated or alone can be especially difficult.
If you have a child, parent, or someone else for whom you provide care, then you’re in need of a good support system. This is very true if you care for someone with a disability. It takes a lot out of a person to care for another, but I dare say it might be a tad bit more depleting to care for an individual who has a disability of some variety. My husband and I have one child without any disability and two children with them (and one of those two children has multiple diagnoses). I can attest that I spend more time caring for the two children who have the greater needs.
They have multiple specialists that they visit every year, so we make several trips a year (it’s a 2.5 hour trip one way to the building where all their specialists are). Their diagnoses create the situation in which they need to have an IEP (Individual Education Plan) at school, so that means multiple meetings each school year with their team of educators and therapists. Lately we’ve had a lot of lab work, ultrasounds and even an MRI, so more appointments. This short list doesn’t account for the extra time at home focusing on our youngest one’s needs for personalized interventions.
Any time you start a new job, look into pursuing a new hobby, want to begin any unfamiliar endeavor, you want to find some experts to learn from. You may need some training, some expertise. Ideally, you’d connect with someone who has walked the path before you. The traveler further down the road can warn you of the bumps and potholes, the dangerous curves and the steep inclines. He can warn you of the scary things that lurk in the darkness, so that you’ll be ready for them. The traveler further down the road can also look back with a confident, even if weary, smile and tell you the scenery from the top of the mountain is worth the climb.
Obviously, I’m saying you would benefit from drawing from someone else’s experience in whatever issue you may be dealing with, whether it’s a new diagnosis of diabetes, autism, muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s syndrome, or a cancer of some kind. It definitely helps to connect with others in order to not feel you’re going it alone. Facing your struggle is a bit easier when you lock arms with another, especially an experienced voyager, and forge onward together.
So who should your cheerleaders include? Well, family if possible and if advisable (not all family members can help handle your load, especially at first; it just depends on how they respond to difficult situations). Close friends can be some of your greatest supports. If you have a church family, they can help prop you up – I know we’d be completely lost without ours. Then if you still don’t readily know someone who has been where you’re about to go, ask around to people you trust. Ask the doctor who delivered the diagnosis. Check your community resources for supports that fit your situation. Maybe your pastor/minister/priest can point you in the right direction.
It will take some work at first, and it may feel more overwhelming than you think you can bear some days. I get that – I truly do. But approach it a little at a time; it’s less difficult that way. Read the papers any doctor may have given you. Do some research on the topic (be very careful what you read on the Internet, of course, because obviously not everything you read is true). Look for an agency, foundation, association, group, etc. related to your need. Just do one task a day so you don’t feel like you’re drowning. As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. But whatever direction you choose for your journey, take someone with you. You might even let someone with experience guide you. After all, we were never meant to walk alone.
***this was originally published as an article on the Good Men Project website