Wasteland companions

Although traversing the wasteland is essentially a solitary experience a small number of people may serve as companions.  These are friends but not in the usual sense, as friendship is more commonly based on mutual sharing and support which is likely to be impossible at such a time.  Part of how they help will be by being 'normal' with you - you can relax with them in a way your can't with others because you don't have to pretend to be okay and because you know you are safe.  They are like the tent pegs which hold up the tent, just by being themselves and continuing to be in touch.  They will try to understand.  They may not do so, but they will try.  Don't be angry when they don't - they are at any rate on your side.   They have a vital role to play so treat them well and recognise that they, like you, have needs.

There may be up to four such people.  More than that is likely to be too many, and fewer may result in too much pressure on too few.

People who go through traumatic experiences often say: "I found out who my real friends were" with the implication that not many continued to be in touch.  When I was most unwell this certainly seemed to be the case; I was upset at what seemed like the indifference and defection of those I thought I had been close to and could count on.  I now see this differently: it's the nature of such situations.  This doesn't mean that others drop our friendship, but rather that they can't be our companions at this time, just as we might not be the right companions for them if they were the ones in crisis.  It's important to recognise this so that we don't break off connections with good people who are simply not accompanying us on this part of our journey.  Time will tell if they are there for you in the long run, and those who stick around may not be the ones you expect.  Others will drift away, which is natural.  In any case you will be a different person when you emerge back into a more normal world, and may be looking for different qualities in those around you.

Ideally there are some professionals who can also provide help:
A doctor: In any extreme situation we need to know we have a doctor who can contribute their expertise and advice.   I left a superb doctor behind when I moved cities, and not knowing or being known by anyone comparable in my home town almost crushed me.

A legal person: lawyer/solicitor: When distressed and unwell it's not a good time to make big decisions yet often we have to.
     At such a time one can so easily be parted from considerable chunks of savings, investments and valuables, if only because in our crisis we are unable to think clearly about these sorts of issues.
     It's often easier to walk away than to stand up for our rights.  I encourage you to at least find out what these are.  For example, if you've had workplace issues you may have the right to legal redress.  In New Zealand, employers now have a level of responsibility for the well-being of staff.  I suggest you hold onto your end of the scales and resist the temptation to enter into these sorts of discussions without proper legal advice and support.  It also makes sense not to talk too much about any other difficulties you may be having elsewhere as this can cloud the issue and put you at a disadvantage; when we are in a state of crisis we easily lose perspective and in hindsight may see things quite differently.
     Decisions made at these times can have a huge impact on our lives for many years to come, so it can be really helpful to have a good legal person on your side.  A knowledgeable lawyer or solicitor should be able to advise you and act for you if you wish.  If you are unable to afford the cost you may be able to apply for free legal aid.
      Again, I didn't have this support, and so created additional handicaps for myself.

A therapist, counsellor, or spiritual adviser: indispensable.  I now have one who is just right for me.  When things were at their worst I did not.  There were good reasons why I didn't seek one out sooner, and now that I have this support it's an immense help.  If you are looking for one and make a choice of helper who turns out not to feel right don't give up - try someone else!  Even the best therapist may not be the right match for you, and finding that right match is the essence of a good working relationship in this exceptionally sensitive area.  I didn't get it right the first time, and it was a great relief to stop what wasn't working and look further.  If you can't afford the expense you may find you can get funding for it from a government agency.

An advocate: someone to go with you to any or all of these people or any others you may have to engage with, such as welfare agencies and the like, to act as a support person, to hear what is said, to take your part, and to see you through the process.  A friend or family member may be able to do this for you, or a local support group or welfare agency may provide one.  Don't be afraid to ask.
     The Health and Disability Advocacy service has recently been brought to my attention.  I wish I had known of it sooner.  This document about your rights as a consumer of health and or disability services is useful information.  If you are looking for the original link or want to read it in a different language this document is posted here.

Getting help through agencies when we are in crisis can be a seriously upsetting and humiliating business.  Don't do it alone if you can help it. And do persevere in getting what you need.  It won't come to you on a platter but it is important to get every scrap of support you can.  I can't emphasise this enough! It may not seem like it at the time, but every little bit helps and in the long run it may make a much greater difference than you expect, especially if your recovery turns out to take a lot of time, as mine has.  Good luck.

To go to the next article click this link:
Staying safe and setting boundaries

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