“I’m here if you want to talk”
It was a rough weekend – one that I thought could become a defining moment in my life.
I was on my way to Montreal to visit my parents when my sister called to tell me that my 90-year-old father had been rushed to the hospital. He was coughing hard and his breathing was labored.
My dad had endured three debilitating strokes over the past three years. This time though, the doctors diagnosed him with a lung infection that a strong dose of antibiotics should have easily addressed. Unfortunately, it didn’t go quite as planned.
The antibiotics did not kick into effect fast enough, causing a dramatic strain on his lungs and leaving him completely unresponsive. As the doctors explained it, he was taking in oxygen (O2) but not properly expelling carbon dioxide (CO2). His lungs were not doing their job and his CO2 levels were off the charts.
He needed to wear a special mask that pumps in strong gusts of oxygen, forcing the CO2 to be expelled. Each time he received oxygen, his mouth flared up like he was jumping out of a plane.
He had to keep the mask on for nearly two days straight with very few and very short breaks in between. He was uncomfortable and unconsciously attempted to rip off the mask every few minutes. We needed to make sure he kept it on because his life depended on it.
My siblings and I took turns sitting by his side until his CO2 levels balanced out. It was scary. My mind went to all kinds of bleak places, imagining, just briefly, what would happen if he was unable to regain the capacity to breathe on his own.
While I was in the hospital, I had to cancel some of my appointments and commitments for the week. I explained to everyone what was going on and why I needed to reschedule.
Each person I reached out to was extremely understanding and super compassionate. On more than one occasion, I was offered an olive branch with the statement, “I am here for you if you want to talk.” I appreciated it. It felt like a warm, cozy blanket that I could wrap myself in, even if for only a minute.
Sitting in the hospital gives you a lot of time to think. While it was comforting to know that there were people out there who cared, it occurred to me that I would probably never take them up on their offer. It just didn’t feel like a natural thing for me to do. I could not imagine myself picking up the phone to say, “Hi, I need to talk. Can you please just listen?”
It’s not that I didn’t want to talk or that I didn’t need to talk. But asking for it seemed foreign and uncomfortable to me.
People often have trouble asking for help. They find it difficult to reach out, even when a kind and willing person is happy to offer their support. They don’t want to bother anyone. They don’t want to be a burden. They don’t want to whine and complain. It’s a funny thing − even I get trapped in this type of thinking.
So how might you help someone like me? Simply take action.
Rather than saying, “I’m here for you if you want to talk,” just pick up the phone and say, “Hi, how are you? How’s the situation?”
It’s a perfect opening for desperately needed conversation, and the best part is that it doesn’t require any effort from the person in crisis.
Sometimes, supporting someone means just jumping in to take action without waiting to be asked.