Verb: CHECK ON your ‘Strong Friends’

2020 has taken its name way too seriously. And not in a good way. CHECK ON YOUR STRONG FRIENDS.

The isolation of COVID-19 + the fears of racism + the constant barrage of devastating headlines = A broken and weary spirit. CHECK ON YOUR STRONG FRIENDS.

I, for one, struggle with depression and have recently become overwhelmed by everything. I have had to dust off my accountability list of trusted people I reach out to when I am feeling the weight and darkness of depression. CHECK ON YOUR STRONG FRIENDS.

I can’t imagine the fear, rage, and frustrations that my people are feeling at the front lines of protests/hospital beds/family households, the mood shifts if/when they go home, the energy drought when they have to do it all over again. CHECK ON YOUR STRONG FRIENDS.

So what does that look like? Well it’s definitely not “OuR ThoUgHts AnD pRayERs”. Everyone’s needs, experiences, and reactions are different so it could look like a number of things. Based on my own personal experiences with people trying to check on me, I have definitely found out what it doesn’t look like. I don’t want to speak for anyone else, so I have written a short list of guardrails from my perspective that may help you decide how to CHECK ON YOUR STRONG FRIENDS.

Here’s my short list of what NOT to do … with some suggestions on what you might do.

  1. Don’t tell me to pray … if you haven’t volunteered to pray with and for me.

I’m typically a prayerful person and have most likely already cycled through prayers. If I have ceased praying, it’s because I am TIRED. Don’t advise me to do what is normal because even ‘normal’ things are HEAVY. Instead show up and help carry the load. Pray for me outloud so I can hear.

  1. Don’t ask me if I have talked to other people … if you haven’t just listened and collected my tears.

Make no mistake about this: I chose YOU to feel safe. I CHOSE to let the pieces fall in front of you. Don’t abandon me or pass me off to be someone else’s problem.

  1. Don’t tell me I’m not alone … if you haven’t showed up to give me a hug, hold my hand, let your presence protect me in my vulnerability.

I know COVID-19 has really put a damper on this one, but it’s worth the risk and can be done safely. Healing touch provides signals to the brain that counter the stress that is being pumped throughout the body. As a scientist, I say it all the time: stress is PHYSICAL. Hugging releases a hormone called oxytocin that can lower stress and anxiety. Holding hands can reduce pain through synchronized brain waves.

  1. Don’t as me a bunch of questions “just trying to understand” … if you haven’t just let me vent uninterrupted.

This makes me feel like I have to justify and defend my emotions, which only serves the negative feedback loop of “There’s something wrong with me“. This also adds the pressure that I have to protect you from my mess. This burden isn’t always linear, logical, or rational. You may not be able to fully understand or you may just want to fix it as quickly as possible. If that’s the case, send a card or care package instead.

  1. Don’t react defensively if I don’t immediately take your advice … if you haven’t volunteered to show up and do it with me.

Accountability is huge determinant of breaking free from the burden. I am too tired, too scared, too broken to do whatever it is you’re asking of me. You also don’t know that the expected outcome will be the actual outcome. If I can’t answer your call for the 3rd time, I certainly can’t dial someone else. If I can dial someone else, what if no one picks up? Or what if they do and they give me “OuR ThoUgHts AnD pRayERs”. If I can’t get out of my bed, I certainly can’t go for a walk. Show up for me and lead by example. Come sit with me, take me on a walk, bring me food or cook with me, brave those phone calls with me, spend the night to make sure I get to sleep or get myself up.

Your strong friend wants to be tender too.

Just for a moment.