When help is not helpful
August 17, 2010Posted by on
About a month ago I went to the doctor for the first time in over six years. In fact, when I tried to book the appointment I discovered that I had been de-registered from that particular practice through lack of contact on my part so I decided to register with another doctor closer to where I live now.
The event that convinced me that perhaps it was a good time to get help was breaking down in front of my boss during a performance review, which at first felt extremely embarrassing followed then by being told off by my inner critic for being weak and to toughen up and get on with it.
The performance review, as a result of my sobbing nature, took a different turn and thankfully she was very understanding and I got the feeling she wanted to help. As part of my employment benefits I have access to what is often known as employee care programs through which I have access to various advice and helplines. One of these is confidential counseling. She told me that I was not the only one within her team to have experienced difficulties and that two other people in my team had taken advantage of the counseling service. I did call them a few months prior to this event and was told to first consult a doctor (which I failed to do – largely due to procrastinating on it). The woman I spoke to did say that she would call back a week later to and a telephone appointment was scheduled but never happened so I lost a little faith in that service. However, since I didn’t stick to my end of the bargain I am holding no one to ransom!
She then proceeded to tell me some of the help my other two colleagues (She obviously didn’t tell me who) had received through this service, all of which sounded mostly like some of the self help stuff I had already read through before without much success. The one thing that made me lose all faith in that particular service was when she told me that one of my colleagues had been advised to go and buy a copy of………..are you sitting down???……….If not please do……
I nearly fell off my chair at this point! The initial shock of that comment did, however, change my state from an anxious mess to a slightly more controlled person, which is the only positive effect “The Secret” has ever had on me!!!
My boss had never heard of it at which point I decided to give her some background information on some of the people featured in what can best be described as nothing other than a massive marketing exercise with no value for anyone other than the people featured. I am not convinced that any of that registered in her mind though.
At this point she remains determined to try to help, for which I was grateful, but this is where someone else’s idea of help may not prove very helpful to the recipient of it. I am not questioning her motives to want to help nor do I want to seem ungrateful. However, her approach to helping was listing down a number of practical steps and actions I could take to help me make my life at work a little easier. I am beginning to see it more as a growing to do list with more tasks for me to do, although in fairness there were some good ideas and tweaks in there.
The diagnosis at the Doctor was Anxiety & Depression, which did not come as a surprise at all. I do respect the fact that he did not try to just force anti depressant down my throat and when I explained my reluctance to medication he instead referred me to a counseling service covered by the National Health Service.
Anyway, the reason why I feel that help from people close to you can sometimes be less than helpful is because of their idea of what might be helpful. I am very fortunate to have friends with whom I can explain what “normal” people will refer to as irrational thinking or behaviour and know that I will not be misunderstood or judged in anyway because they have experienced similar feelings or thoughts.
The problem I sometimes have with help offered by friends and family that have not experienced these feelings is the fact that when all I need is someone to listen or simply say a kind word they attack it from a very practical point of view with endless suggestions and advice all of which is perceived by me as more tasks to do and more pressure on me to again become “normal”.
I know that they are desperate to help and perhaps the endless advice and suggestions is a way of alleviating their own frustration of not fully knowing how they can help in the first place.
Sometimes all it takes is to listen and try to understand without the need to come up with a solution.