Pamela asked, “What do you do when help runs dry?”
Whoof. That’s a hard question and a harder situation.
The first thing that comes to mind is that help means different things to different people. And the meaning can change, depending on the situation. So a helpful suggestion for one person, at a given time, would be totally useless to another person.
I’m going to break “help” down into categories, to organize my thinking. First, there are material resources. Money, shelter, food, the means to go to a different location to be safer. In America, at least, there usually is a way to locate needed resources. Make a list, brainstorm, put even silly ideas on the list — just to loosen up your thinking. The local women’s center is probably a good place to start looking for places to turn. The Internet comes in a close second.
The biggest obstacle in locating and using these resources is anxiety. Fear (and anxiety is just free-floating fear) constricts our thinking and makes every solution feel like it’s blocked by an insurmountable barrier. Just knowing this helps. “It’s fear talking, it’s not necessarily reality.” If you have a person you can trust on-line or in “real” life, you can ask them to help you brainstorm. If you don’t, pick an imaginary person and get them to brainstorm for you. A kindly teacher from your past, a public figure or fictional person you admire, Wonder Woman. This will help get you going.
Then there is psychological help. You may feel that nobody can understand you, nobody will believe you, nobody will know what to do with you. Most of us have felt that way, sometimes for long periods of time. There is some truth in this belief, but it is not entirely true.
It’s hard for somebody who has not been through what you have to understand your experience and many people are not able to handle what they hear, especially if they are told a great deal at once. Try testing the waters by sharing a very small piece of your history. See what the reaction is. Are you believed? Does the person withdraw from you, or seem empathetic? Does the person seem safe — e.g., does this person react the way somebody in the cult might? Is this person likely to gossip or use information against you? If all goes well, wait a little while and share some more. Try not to flood them!
This advice also applies to choosing a therapist to work with and for assessing people on-line.
I think Pamela phrased her question in an interesting way. It sounds like she used to have help, and then it disappeared. Perhaps a trusted person became unavailable, or an organization closed, or she moved. Perhaps the help she had is still there, but her needs have changed or grown. Different situations call for different approaches.
She is ahead of the game, though, because she has experienced what it is like to receive help — and she will remember what that is like. She also has been able to trust enough to be open to help. Both these things are huge accomplishments and will stand her in good stead in the future. But remember, there was a first time for her, and there was a first time for everybody. It isn’t hopeless if you are facing this for the first time – you can do it!
My final thought may sound Pollyanna-ish, but I have found it to be true. I believe that the bottom line is that helps resides inside myself. If I reach down deep inside, I will find a part of me that is wise enough to know what to do and strong enough to help the rest of me do it. When I feel weak, I remind myself of the things I did all alone, without advice, without anybody standing beside me cheering me on. I am still scared silly, but I know that, in the past, I have found everything I needed inside me and chances are I can do it again. This is a very reassuring thought.