Suck it up buttercup! How often have you heard that phrase? How often have you dished it out? Or something like it? If I’m whining about a hill climb, or that I’m tired or just generally whining; then absolutely, tell me to suck it up! If I tell you I’m anxious or worried; don’t, just don’t. Don’t say, you’re fine, suck it up.
I’ve heard from several friends over the summer the inappropriate responses they have received from others while trying to explain their anxieties. If you have never experienced anxiety to the degree that many of us have then you probably have a hard time understanding. I get this. I think I was one of you before having a traumatic experience that changed my life.
I know that it makes some people uncomfortable. I know that you often don’t know what to say or how to respond, so your immediate reaction is flippant. I know you don’t mean to be hurtful or dismissive. But you are.
So what do you do?
Listen. Listen. Listen. You don’t have to talk. Just listen.
Take your friend for a walk, bring a pet over to visit, learn what helps them re-focus and calm. Most of you know that for me, it’s a bike ride, a hike, an animal or simply being outside.
Ask, how can I help you? Lots of times we don’t know the answer to this, but it sure helps to be asked.
Send a text message that says, how is today? Want to go for a walk? You are loved. I am here.
Things not to say:
Suck it up buttercup! Fake it till you make it! You’re fine!
It was inevitable, bound to happen. Only a matter of time. I told you so.
And yes, I did get this response when Sherry died. It added to my guilt that I was alive and she wasn’t. It furthered my belief that I did something wrong, that we were at fault, that I should have been able to stop it. So, please, just don’t say this to anyone.
It is hard to understand the depth of anxiety that some of us live with. Anxiety comes in all shapes and sizes. On Saturday I started having nightmares about my family dying while they are away. Adam and the boys are heading to West Virginia for a week and I’m terrified. Irrational? To some, maybe. You have to remember, I watched one of my best friends die, so to me it’s not irrational or implausible. In my mind it’s possible. It’s possible that a horrendeous thing can happen in an instant. I will struggle all week while they are gone and will be so relieved when they return.
So the next time you are tempted to say something like, suck it up buttercup, remember, some of us have scars that run deep and are easily re-opened.
“I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it.”