This a message to those who are struggling and those on the edges, seeing someone they care about struggle. This is what I learnt by unlearning what my family culture taught me.
It takes a village to raise a child, well that’s how I thought the phrase went, I think it’s actually it takes a village to teach a child. Either one is true. I wasn’t raised in a village, I was barely dragged up in a family. Boundaries and roles blurred, constant relocation and isolation. So when I eventually had a break down and this family couldn’t cope, I couldn’t tell them what was wrong, what I needed. They couldn’t hear when I could and that’s OK, we all have our limitations.
So how do I raise a child? One who has been taught and learnt just as I had with no emotional vocabulary, confidence or self worth. I had to grow all these in quick succession. I tested the village. Having grown with hypervigilance one coping mechanism was to be highly social and out of the house if I could be. So at 30 years old I had a big range of friends, from Art school, neighbours and from the glorious community of my local roller derby league. I had friends, good ones, old ones, ones that saw my ugliest and brightest moments. I just had to learn to ask for help and to set aside feelings of shame to let them help, to learn what unconditional love looks and feels like. Fighting the ingrained feeling that I didn’t deserve it.
You probably have a village, you might not tap into it but it’s more than likely there, big or small. If not, be brave and go make one, no one person can be a village for you or you for them. This might be online or at your local library, church, games club or book club. Start somewhere.
Remember that when you need help, asking won’t make it any worse. If someone asks you for help, know they are being brave and trust you. If you can’t help in one way, offer another way. No isn’t “no I don’t care”, it’s just I can’t right now.
What does help & support look like? Obviously it’s different for everyone.
Basics, food and a roof. Bring food, cook food, go out for food, wash the dishes. Is there money for food? If not why not? Is the home at risk? Whats happening with work? Whats happening with benefits? What does that look like? Is it possible to use a food bank? Have there been benefits sanctions?
Don’t take control, support independence. These are the life admin basics that can spiral way out of control. Perhaps getting the forms or helping to fill them in, making phone calls together. These things can feel so overwhelming that it’s easy to keep ignoring them, making them worse.
Do I have a doctor’s appointment? Do I need a Doctor’s appointment? Do I need meds? Is my prescription in place and available? Could you make an appointment for me, please? because the phone makes me anxious and I will just cry when questioned. This goes for any phone call. School, dentist, wellbeing, utilities. Can you make these phone calls with me?
Would a bit of escapism be healthy and practical? A day or night off from being a parent, not days. Can you support in the home, just be there, chat, pop in for a cuppa. Leaving the house is exhausting, don’t judge the mess or the PJs and 4day old “messy” bun. Shall we just go for a walk? Can I just have a bath and nap, knowing my child is safe?
One person can’t hold everything, nor can you. Calling the professionals is not shameful, professional help can be slow, when it comes it can be exhausting and re traumatising. Professional help isn’t enough. It’s just part of the village.
Don’t stop asking. It’s mental health not a communicable disease. You are worth the effort. You are enough. I know it’s tiring and can be hella repetitive, stick with it. Though not to your detriment. Don’t make excuses for me. Don’t let me be toxic to you. This won’t last forever. Lean into the village and notice how it feels.
Let yourself be GIGANTIC!