All too often we’re hearing stories about war and violence, how this man killed that man, how this women screwed over that woman, how people are just generally horrible to one another in so many various ways. Too often we hear about the ‘bystander effect’, where someone in trouble on the street is ignored for the mere fact that the passerby doesn’t want to get involved in someone else’s problem. Sometimes it feels like we live in a dog-eat-dog world, where you can’t ever really rely on anyone but yourself.
But then you hear one story that cuts through all the rest, and for a second you actually believe that there will be someone there to help if you do fall down. Just a few days ago in Perth, in the morning peak hour commotion, a man slipped as he was boarding a busy train and his leg became trapped in the gap between the platform and the carriage. In an uplifting display of people power, the driver was alerted, the train was emptied of passengers and then a group of average commuters banded together to push the train away from the platform and allow the man enough space to wiggle free. He had no serious injuries, an everyone involved went away feeling like they actually achieved something on their way to work that day.
Sometimes, we fall down. Every now and then, we don’t ‘mind the gap’ and we get stuck in a situation that we’re not sure we’ll be able to get out of. Whether it be a dead-end job, a crappy relationship, or even just a state of mind, sometimes we all feel trapped, but we keep it to ourselves because we genuinely believe that no one will be able to, or will even want to, help us get free. I recently went through a period where I completely missed the gap, and got stuck in a situation I never wanted to be in. And for a long time, I didn’t tell anybody about it because I thought this was the kind of thing I needed to work out on my own. But it was like quicksand, the more I struggled to fight it by myself, the further down it pulled me, until eventually I was neck-deep and the only chance I had left was to call for help.
So, call I did. And I was amazed at the amount of people that rushed to my aid. Friends, family, even people I didn’t know all that well all gave me their take on what they thought I should do. One by one, they all laid their hands on the train carriage and started to push, until, low and behold, I was free.
There is this false perception that has become deeply ingrained in our society that asking for help somehow makes you weak, that by showing someone your vulnerabilities will only mean that they can exploit them. Well, I am here to tell you that asking for help is the very best thing you can do. Your family and friends have all had their own life experiences that they can draw on to give you a fresh perspective on what you’re going through. You never know, they may have been stuck in a situation just like yours. Even if they can’t offer you advice or experience, there is one thing they can provide in bucket loads: support. To hear just one person you trust say “I support you no matter what”, can be all the motivation you need to finally shake off those shackles and start moving forwards again.
If you’re not comfortable with that, then start somewhere totally anonymous: the internet. The web has become an incredible tool for connecting people with like minds, and with just a quick search and a few mouse clicks, you could be relating to someone else who understands exactly the kind of situation you’re in. You’d be surprised how many people out there are struggling with the same thing you are, and how far the listening ear of a stranger can take you.
Believe it or not, there are actually people who are trained to deal with situations just like yours. Guidance counselors, careers and financial advisers, doctors, psychologists – all of these people are there to help when times get tough. There is professional help for almost every kind of difficult issue you could be faced with, and despite what you may have heard, they really do work. There isn’t much to lose in seeking assistance from someone who knows what they’re doing, and if you’re one who believes that their ‘pride’ or ‘dignity’ is on the line, then buddy, you need to get over it. There is absolutely no shame in getting professional help – ask your friends, they’ll probably tell you to go for it.
Although you might not realise it, you have a readily available support system all around you, all the time. I can guarantee that, just like the Perth commuter, there is an army of everyday people who are willing to take the time of day to push whatever is holding you down away, even just a little bit so you have enough room to free yourself. All you have to do is ask for some help, and there will be someone there to lend a hand, if just to let you know that you’re not alone.