As a child in the 70s, and born into a rural family, I was raised to believe that if you were feeling sad or upset due then you needed to go off alone and ‘deal with it’. My parents would either ignore me or quarantine me until I was able to act in a way that they approved of and made them feel comfortable; with minimal disruption to their lives.
I was also taught that I had to deal with my own problems and concerns and not to ‘bother‘ other people. Visibly showing pain, worry, sadness or any emotion was not acceptable and seen as a sign of weakness therefore I had to do such things behind closed doors.
For those who share a similar upbringing as mine we would tend to grow up and internalize all the pain and stressors in life because we are taught that ‘sharing‘ or asking for support is weak, inappropriate and a sign of failure.
It is little wonder that so many of my generation can drown in stress and depression, and as adults we have struggled to ever share our burdens or ask for help, even from those closest to us.
Men were quite susceptible to these difficulties as society has long told males that it is unmanly to seek help or to confide in others. This has caused so many difficulties with intimacy and relationships that many just do not survive this hurdle.
However, it has been my long held belief that when we are struggling, or when we have pain and emotions which are hard to deal with, that is exactly the time that our loved ones need to be present in our lives and by our sides. We need to know that support is there when we need it most and it is not going to walk away or dessert us.
No child should ever have to feel alone in pain or should ever feel that their struggles are a sign of weakness or failure. Those children grow up to be struggling adults with a string of broken or superficial relationships in their wake.
As an adult I have been in far too many relationships where one or both of us struggled to reach out and be a support to the other during hard times, and this was a major factor in the ultimate demise of those relationships.
Speaking for myself I just didn’t have the experience and practice of speaking out and sharing early on in life. I had been taught to build walls and barriers to my pain and emotions and I learned not to trust anyone or rely on anyone.
The message that I was not good enough to help or to support became the backdrop of my relationships and helped me choose partners that were not worthy of me.
If we can’t trust our family with our emotional support when we are growing up then who can we trust? If we can’t rely on our primary care givers as children then who can we rely on as adults?
Having our emotional needs shunned at an early age can also lead to fear of rejection and depression later in life. These are very dangerous burdens to carry around through life.
Many of my generation still struggle with these deep seated issues and it is a very hard road to travel in your adult life, and even harder to try and correct.
But it can be done.
The relationship I have now, despite the fact that I have health challenges, has been tested and I have forced myself to open up and talk about my struggles. I required my partner to do the same so that we were prepared to take the same risks and be the same refuge/shelter for each other… despite being incredibly hard it has also turned out to be incredibly rewarding.
Taking these emotional risks has enabled us to take strides forward and also helps us navigate the difficulties that life constantly throws our way. A true partnership.
It seems strange to me now that this is what I have always looked for but I didn’t realize how truly life changing it could be. I have often said that I never needed a perfect partner/ spouse in life but I did need someone I could open up to and share anything with, and they have that from me in return.
Reaching out is the hardest thing I have ever had to learn how to do and it is far harder than living with these diseases I have but I believe it is probably the most important thing I may ever do in my life.