Figuring Out a System That Works for You

So today I want to talk about my struggles with finding support in times of need, as I stumbled around for months and it was so painful, so I want to share what I’ve figured out. If you have any tips as to what you do to seek support, please feel free to leave a comment and let me know! While too much support can sometimes be smothering, it’s always good to know there are options/people/resources out there.

As I discussed in my Open Letter, after Sean’s death, I found myself more alone than ever. It seemed like everyone was just suddenly surprisingly absent. I know I had kind of drifted away from a lot of people since Sean and I both worked a lot and we didn’t have a car, which were two big barriers preventing us from going out with friends, we still would talk to friends online a lot and invite people over (whether or not they showed up is a different story). After the first week or two following his death, when everyone is shocked and the morbid curiosity as to what happened is sparked, it all died down super quickly and never came back. I never even saw it coming just one day realized the only place I felt I could share what I had going on was in groups (more on that later). I could maybe understand initially as I was a wreck, but even months down the road, I could barely get people to respond to me, even when asking them how they are doing – I would often try to make conversations with the full and honest intent to not talk about myself as I had already learned that even just saying I’m doing well could kill conversations. Aren’t most people supposed to like talking about themselves? In terms of IRL friends, I was never more alone than I was before I posted my letter and I hope that’s the lowest I’ll ever be in my life, because it was absolutely horrible. My life was so miserable that I spent a few months bitter that I couldn’t have just died when Sean did and wishing I had the guts to kill myself (in retrospect though I’m so glad I decided to keep trying to give life a good chance, mustering up all the effort I could). Fortunately though, I had found some resources to fill the gaps, shared below. Back to the letter though – the day before I wrote that letter, someone I considered a good friend, whom I had known for a decade, and had had many deep conversations with, actually started ignoring me directly after I told him how people were hurting me by ignoring me. It was an ironic point for a conversation to end at. When I called him out on it, he made me feel bad and I immediately apologized with embarrassment. A few hours later though, after talking with a new online friend, I realized I didn’t owe an apology and took it back – obviously I didn’t get a response. While still talking with this new internet friend was when I realized how there were actually a good amount of people out there genuinely trying to be there for me and I should let them into my life. What did I have to lose? Someone else starts ignoring me? How much would that hurt given that we might not have been the closest? I was tired of constantly hurting myself by directing my attention towards those not equipped to support me. I had already accepted that it was a difficult situation and that others have lives. I stayed up all night writing my letter, ran it by this friend who provided me some good feedback, took a deep breath, and posted it. It was one of the scariest things I have ever done and I was anticipating taking it down really quickly but then realized I should just leave it up. I’m so glad I didn’t let that hesitation and fear hold me back, because my grief journey truly changed for the better after that letter. I began sharing more openly, I decided to start writing more, I acknowledged that I deserved space, and more people started to reach out to me, and I am able to help others now. I think that was my real pivot point.

So that was my epiphany, but who/what was I turning to before I realized to accept the support being offered right in front of me? There were a couple different outlets, but these are the two big ones:

1) Facebook groups – Facebook groups around grief (particularly those for widows) and bipolar disorder were a godsend! I’m still super active in the groups and talk all the time with the friends I made through them. I feel like you could probably find a Facebook group for anything. Being in these groups gave me a place where I could seek support from people in somewhat similar situations and inversely support them. Someone there had some sort of an idea as to what I am going through. Everyone is just trying to find their way out of the darkness together and if that seems too hard, we can just share how overwhelmed and lost we are and hopefully others will reach out their hands to us (they do). I didn’t join just one group though, I had to join a bunch. Some are great, others not so much. Whenever I have something going on, I typically share it in multiple groups and from the responses I can gauge which group(s) I find most helpful. An additional amazing aspect to groups is that I have formed many new friendships that extend outside of them. I now have a whole lot of Facebook friends with whom we are both invested in each other’s lives because I opened up and posted/commented in these groups. If you decide to join groups (doesn’t have to just be on Facebook), try to not stop at just sharing your experiences though. At first that’s okay, but we can all benefit from hearing about others’ journeys. Listen to what others have to share about what they’re dealing with, what worked for them, or even just how their day went. If you are able to, try to be engaged. If you can give your own input on someone else’s post, even better! You might be able to really help someone else, you never know. I’ve been told numerous times that my writing has helped others. Through Facebook groups, I connected with others when I couldn’t connect with old friends and it really fortified my support network. I have many Facebook friends who check in on me regularly and I check in on them. I should give one small warning though – I haven’t really encountered much of it, but everyone knows there are some people on the internet who have malicious intent. If you encounter someone like that, don’t pay them any mind, just block them. Who are they to pass judgment while acting like that? Don’t let the fact there’s a chance you may encounter that deter you from finding the good, genuine people out there though. I have noticed that if someone gets out of line, people will often stand up against it. Groups really are small (sometimes virtual) communities. Use them whether they be on Facebook, another website, Zoom, or IRL, which is kind of hard as of now due to COVID, but you might be able to find something? (side note: sharing in groups is what helped me get more comfortable opening up and eventually sharing publicly).

2) The Crisis Text Line – If you are located in the US, Canada, UK, or Ireland, there is an amazing resource right at your fingertips that you can reach out to at any time. All you have to do is send a text.

Just text “hello” to one of the following numbers:

  • US and Canada: text 741741
  • UK: text 85258
  • Ireland: text 50808

­Awake in the middle of the night and need someone to talk to ASAP? In crisis and feel you have no one to talk to? Hate talking on the phone? Just shoot them a text, that’s what they’re there for.

I love this organization so much that I raised almost $1,000 in honor of Sean when I was just trying to raise awareness! (Facebook kept prompting me to start a fundraiser so I decided to give it a shot – first time ever, so pretty good and I’m pretty proud haha) Here’s an excerpt of what I put together for the fundraiser:

… the Crisis Text Line in Sean’s name to give back for the help they have provided me with their invaluable service. By having a text line that is not exclusive to suicide, they largely increase the population they serve. I myself have a hard time picking up the phone and this organization has provided me personally with great service, even recently, as well as countless others. They are always available and I have always had a great experience, and I sadly can’t say that about the standard phone lines.

I am also trying to just simply raise awareness. I’m guessing many of you do not know this existed, and I just wanted to let you know that it exists. If you need it, contact them, they’ll be there for you. They have been for me.

So yeah, the two resources above are a large part of how I sought out support when I felt like I had no one. I’m honestly at a place now in terms of support I would have never imagined. Whenever I have something going on, I know I have ways to get the support I need in that moment. If you’re one of those people to whom I turn, THANK YOU! I love you all with all my heart. And you better know you can always turn to me too! 🖤

If you have another way you have found to get some needed support, please let me know. It’s always good to be aware of the resources out there. 

Liz Kay
December 2, 2020