We all also know that reaching out is not easy.
For starters, we don’t always realize we need to reach out. And even if we do realize it, we don’t always know how to reach out. Or even worse, the very nature of the illness prevents us from doing so.
And as if this weren’t difficult enough, some of us face a whole different level of difficultness when it comes to reaching out: Cultural differences.
As an immigrant, cultural differences often make my life trying at its best and down right miserable at its worse.
I come from a culture where you don’t have to apologize for opening up. Where you don’t have to feel bad for telling your friends -and I use the term friend loosely here to include non-close ones or even acquaintances*, over coffee that your boyfriend just broke up with you. Where your friends don’t feel uncomfortable if you cry in their presence. When your friends don’t hesitate to hug you if they sense you need a hug. Moreover, where your friends don’t hesitate to ask if there’s something wrong when they see that… well, something is not quite right with you.
Here it’s very different.
I’ve had a lot of people apologize for “dumping” their problems on me. To me, it was only a friend telling me of a particular difficult situation they were dealing with at the moment and yet they felt they had to apologize like they had done something wrong. In Colombia it would be considered just a normal conversation between friends.
Here, people often don’t feel comfortable asking other people if they’re OK because they are afraid that it might be taken as an intrusion.
Moreover, I’ve heard a lot of people complain about other people “dumping” their problems on them. How dare them! I’ve heard people say, when the had someone talk about a problem in their lives.
For those reasons, I’ve learned to be very careful who I mention my problems to.
For those reasons, I’ve learned to apologize too, if I ever forget and end up talking about something personal. I think it’s wrong to have to do that but if those are the cultural rules of this society, I have to comply.
For those reasons, I find myself between a rock and a hard place.
Say, I know that I need to reach out if feel I’m about to fall down the rabbit hole. But how do I do so, when I know that most people here won’t be comfortable with me doing so? That even some of them are going to think I’m unjustly dumping my problems on them?
Now imagine that for some reason, I’m slipping and I don’t realize I need to reach out. I have been told by close friends that they won’t intervene unless they are asked to do so. But how am I supposed to ask for help if I am not able to? If my Colombian friends were here, they wouldn’t think twice to intervene if they see something is not quite right.
And by intervening, I don’t necessarily mean rushing me to the hospital. I mean, talking to me over a cup of coffee. I mean asking how I’m doing and not expect a polite “not too bad, thanks” but truly asking for an honest answer.
It is quite the conundrum, methinks.
How does one reach out? I honestly don’t know how. Not here in Canada, anyway.
* I am sure that is also the case here for close friends
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