It’s easy to get into a hell. It’s much more difficult to get out.
Sometimes we find ourselves going through hell because of the choices we’ve made. Sometimes hell is thrust upon us through no fault of our own. Sometimes the hell is obvious to others, like regional flooding. Sometimes the hell is hidden in an individual’s fight with their own mind and body. Sometimes we can get ourselves out, but sometimes we cannot. Sometimes a few relatively easy actions can get us on the “and back” path. Sometimes major interventions are required.
If you are the person who is experiencing every door around you being closed except the one that leads farther down, look up. Your only way out may be up. Try to "Spider-Man" your way up the walls to get out. If you don’t have the strength to climb, start banging.
Everyone else: Be sensitive to the banging. It may be faint. You’ll have to go to the person because they can’t get to you. A person who is about to drown can still call out for help. A person who is drowning cannot.
You know when you are experiencing a hell, so you can be sensitive when someone else is going through hell. If someone tells you something that would be a hell if you were going through it, it is for them, too. If someone just shrugs and says, "It's not a big deal," regardless of what inflection they use, they are most likely not okay.
At a conference I met someone who, like me, is embarking on a new career path (hence why we were at this conference). She casually mentioned she has a child with autism. She didn’t say she was not okay. She didn’t ask for help. But she has a child with autism. Enough said.
I introduced her to a veteran in the career field who also has a child with autism. She introduced her to her friend, who is also a veteran in this field and has a child with severe health issues. That person introduced her to several other moms who are working in this career field. In the space of a day, my new friend gained a new support system to help her manage the new career while parenting a child with autism. It was incredible to watch God move so quickly. But even if you don’t see results instantly, it doesn’t always take much on your part to make a big difference in someone’s life. My part cost about five minutes.
Besides having a personal relationship with Jesus, there are many resources available on self-care and obtaining support, both essential for making it through this life alive. As many already know, suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. Rather than provide an exhaustive list, I will detail varying degrees of what a few simple interventions can look like.
Go do a fun activity in the sun. Take a walk in sunlight. Sit outside in the sun. Sit inside in sunlight. Open the curtains. Take a hurting person to do a fun activity in the sun. Go on a walk with a hurting person in sunlight. Sit in the sun with a hurting person. If you go to someone’s house when it’s sunny outside and it’s dark inside their home, open their curtains for them (with permission).
Drink lots of water. Dehydration is not conducive to thinking clearly. Bring someone else water. If you don’t like the taste of the water you have, try a different type of water (like spring water) or squeezing some lemon or lime juice into it. There are also various products in different flavors designed to be added to water, such as electrolyte powders. Take a shower. Take a bath. Wash your face. Wash your armpits. Wash a hurting person’s hair and/or feet. Clean someone’s wounds. Clean your wounds. Wash the dishes. Wash one dish. Clean the bathroom. Clean the sink.
Sleep. And then get up. Too little or too much sleep both wreak havoc on our ability to function. Recognize it’s easier to handle things when you are well-rested, and in your mind put those things to rest so you can fall asleep. Utilize a bedtime routine to help prepare your body and brain for sleep. For example: turn off electronics, brush your teeth, wash your face, stretch, get in comfy pjs, pray until you fall asleep. Light a candle or use a nightlight. Use blackout curtains. Softly play worship music or soothing instrumental music. Put in ear plugs. In other words, do what you need to do so you can go to sleep easier. Those things may vary throughout different stages of your life.
If you are having difficulty getting out of bed, set an alarm or schedule to meet someone early in the day. Ask a friend to give you a wake up call. Aim to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night. You may need to go to bed earlier than your norm. You may need to be in bed longer if you have bouts of insomnia. You may need to ask a trusted person to sleep near you for a night or several nights. And if someone asks for help in this way, help them fight off their demons.
Jesus didn’t call us to take care of everyone on the planet, but He did call us to take care of ourselves and our neighbors—the ones God places in front of us. If someone’s having a bad day or going through a hard time, bring them a cup of coffee. Mow their lawn. Provide a meal. Offer a ride. Give a hug. Cover a bill. Helping others is a fantastic way to boost our own mood and fulfill the need to be needed. If God places someone in need in your path, and you are able to meet that need, then God may very well be using you as an answer to prayer.
If you are on empty, reach out to others and ask for what you need. Accept help. Then give back. If you are constantly drained, find the hole(s) and start repairing and/or get someone to help you repair it. This may mean cutting off a toxic relationship (even if the person is blood-related). It may mean physically moving to a different environment. It may mean reducing the number of “good” social engagements you attend if you are being pulled in too many directions. It may be something as simple as turning off the TV (or not turning it on in the first place).
It takes a village to raise a child . . . and a community to care for an adult. We were never meant to go through this life alone. "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Lev. 19:18). And don’t forget to care for yourself in the process.
The better you love yourself, the better you can love your neighbor.
*Katie Marie St. Clair has a degree in social work and over 5 years of counseling experience.
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