By Ariane Kamdoum

It was past midnight and I couldn’t think of anyone I could call that would get what I was going through. At that moment I never felt so alone and misunderstood. The situation at hand was a dire one and I desperately needed someone who would be my light in the midst of this darkness. I have God but when confusion seems to be the only thing you’ve been experiencing for the last 6 months or so, trust me you need someone to lean on; someone who, because she/he is not so emotionally linked to the issue, will have enough clarity to help you take a step back and start figuring things out.

So it was past midnight, I was strolling through my long – very long – list of contacts and, well, I just couldn’t find anyone. Don’t get me wrong, I have people I can count on; I have my family and genuine friends, in fact some of them are family to me. My issue was something else: see, I never quite learned how to lean on someone. I never learned how to ask for help, heck I didn’t even know how to graciously accept any kind of help and to this day it’s still a process.

Back to my story, it was past midnight and I couldn’t call anyone, I did not want to disturb. I’m usually the one that gets called and I still wonder why, especially with the way sarcasm seems to run out of my mouth like water from a clear stream.  I couldn’t (ok, let’s just be honest) I wouldn’t call anyone. So I did what I always do: I sucked it up and laid awake the whole night trying to figure something out, and I did figure something out – just not what I was expecting.

After staring into nothingness it finally came to me. I was a fairly good friend (I’m trying to be modest here in case you missed it) but I did not give others the chance to be a good friend to me. I would shower those I call my friends and family with (tough) love but I keep them at arms length when they try to get too close to me. I am the person who is always fine even when it’s the farthest thing from the truth.

I found that I did not have a support system of any kind. Even though, on the outside, it seems like I’m always surrounded, the truth is I’m still a loner. And that day at way past midnight (at this point it surely was 5 AM) I found out why everything was starting to get too heavy for me, and why I felt more like a hamster wildly running but not getting anywhere. I was tired – and not just because I did not sleep that night, I was tired of being my sole support system.

But what exactly do I mean by support system, you might ask? I am talking about that circle of persons who you can run to not only for some shopping, spa treatments and other stuff; but a circle of people who will catch you when you fall, who will challenge you to be better, who will not hesitate to fall on their knees to pray with and for you. I’m talking about the kind of person who will hold you accountable, remember that promise you made? The kind of friend who will not be afraid to tell you the truth even if it hurts, friends who will look you square in the eyes and call out all your nonsensical actions. Friends who will not let you wallow in pity and who will know what you mean by I’m fine. Wouldn’t it be great?

Well it sure sounds appealing to me! The thing is: are you ready for that? It’s a two way road: you have to be ready to give and to receive. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This sums up the giving part. You want someone to be there for you at midnight? Be there for others. You want someone to challenge you? Challenge them. You want someone to encourage you, to be your cheerleader? Be that for others. Be the kind of friend and/or family member you would LOVE to have.  There is no assurance that you won’t be disappointed down the road. In fact, I can assure you that you WILL BE disappointed by some, thanks to human nature. Yet you can (and should) turn those disappointments to something bigger, do not let bitterness get the best of you.

Now let’s get into the hardest part (at least for me): be ready to receive. Be ready to eat your share of humble pie. That would be how I would sum up this part. For years I’ve been doing my best to practice the giving part, in fact it was kind of easy. I felt good about giving, but I was and still am really uncomfortable about receiving. Even though I would like to convince myself that I’m a giver out of mere generosity, my sleepless nights helped me discover that I was a giver because of the positive feelings and good vibes I got from my actions. Ouch!

So I felt good about giving but felt uncomfortable about receiving. Growing up I learned how to say please and thank you like any child but I never quite liked those words. It’s hard to admit but pride runs deep in my veins and high in me. I hated asking for help or a favor, I hated it so much I would develop ways to get things done by myself; and don’t even bother asking me if I liked something – my answer would be NO (sorry daddy and mommy for all the frustrations). My lack of patience and stubborn streak did not help the matter. To this day, I will only ask for help if I’m 300% sure that I can’t do it by myself, just ask anyone who knows me – it used to be worse. I am an extreme DIY (Do It Yourself) kind of person.

You can be in someone’s support system, but if you are not ready to receive no one will ever be in your support system. How is someone supposed to give you what you need if you don’t ask?  To receive, I learned that I had to be humble enough to ask. I also had to accept that people really cared about me as a person and not just because of what I could give them. I had to accept that I was worthy to be on the receiving end without having done anything.

Right now I am in a transition, I’m learning how to ask for help for small matters even though I can do it by myself. I now have a friend who calls me and starts every conversation with,  “How are you really?” He won’t quit until he hears the truth. I don’t know how he does that but it helps me a lot when it comes to expressing my feelings or talking about what’s going on in my life. I will seek the advice of people I trust before taking any decision (I don’t always follow the advice but having a second opinion is always good). This has helped me to slowly build a support system, I am not yet where I want to be but I’m getting there. And it has helped me remove some of the weight I used to carry around.

Being someone who people can lean on is good, having people who you can also lean on is achieving a good balance. Life is a journey with it’s ups and downs, it’s not a journey you would want to undertake alone so what better way to travel than having people who will make the journey worth it? It’s a new year you might want to work on those relationships .