KELLY BREVIG COLUMN: Be brave enough to share the load
Teal mascara blended with Smurf-blue eyeliner and rolled down my face. The giant bangs were still firmly in place, but the makeup was a force with which to be reckoned. One-ply tissue was not quite doing its job after two hours worth of sobbing from the front row of the theater. My friends were laughing at my extreme overreaction to the movie, "Beaches" while older girls in the theater bathroom were asking each other, "Did you hear that poor girl howling in the front row?" The year was 1988, and needless to say, I was a wee bit emotional.
Life can sometimes catch us off guard. There can be plenty of dips and turns that we encounter that we never saw coming. We may feel exposed by our grief, like ruined makeup that fails to conceal. While a simple movie now pales in comparison to real life, it served its purpose to prepare me better for life's challenges. It is a reminder to seek balance in all that I do, permitting myself to cry and also to laugh. In the movie, Bette Midler speaks about this very thing, "I always try to balance the light with the heavy—a few tears of human spirit in with the sequins and the fringes." The question is, how do we create balance in our daily lives?
Balance is defined as an "even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady." If we are unable to carry the load on our shoulders, we re-adjust. When the load is heavy, our minds can play tricks on us as we labor under the weight. Sometimes we even need to ask another to help share the load. This is why friendship is so important. Positive connections with others are essential for finding equilibrium and surviving. Relinquishing control can be difficult, but we can restore balance just by talking. It takes courage and trust to share our load. We are not alone, even if it feels like it.
When we see someone struggling with more than they can handle, there are several things we can do. We can share resources. We can listen without judging or fixing. Listening is an art that takes practice requiring us to use our ears twice as much as our mouths. It is about allowing the other person space and freedom to speak and patiently waiting even when there are pauses for thought. It is about being present in the moment, putting down one's cell phone, making eye contact and not thinking about what we are going to say next. It is about being willing to sit and be saturated with pain for a little while as words come streaming out. It means we keep trying until they are willing to open up. It means we keep showing up, even when it is difficult. It is about understanding and recognizing that feelings are a right to be had by all.
Knowing our resources is the easy part in helping someone else during a difficult time. Everyone needs to "share the load," and this means helpers too. None of us are in this alone. Many places provide mental health services in Bemidji. Therapists are often not called on for help until there is a crisis, and having to wait for an appointment can seem daunting. The Mobile Crisis Team, call (800) 422-0045, can be accessed in the Bemidji area 24 hours a day and is not solely reserved for those with suicidal thoughts. Anyone in a mental health crisis can call. The goal is to create an environment where we are comfortable reaching out for help before the load gets too heavy. Community Resource Connections is also a great place for information. The CRC is a one-stop shop that can direct people to the appropriate agencies and resources in our community. They can be reached at (218) 333-0880 or at www.crcinform.org
Finding balance can be tricky, but sharing the load can help. Coach Lou Holtz says, "It's not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it." Be brave enough to share the load.
Kelly Brevig is Suicide Educational Services Coordinator for Evergreen Youth and Family Services.