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A Helping Hand

I’m not a very good friend I’m afraid and not a very good relative either.  It confuses me why that should be so but it’s the truth.

The co-worker who arranged my 50th birthday celebrations had her birthday last week and she wanted me to come help her celebrate it but I let her down.

I was working that night so she suggested I just drop by before work and not stay.  I hate doing things before work though and I hate driving in the city.  The celebrations were being held in the city at some drinking venue and I knew I’d have trouble finding a parking spot for starters.  I don’t drink at the best of times and certainly not before work and I plain just didn’t want to go so I didn’t.

I’ve hurt her feelings and I know it.  She’s gone all reserved and cold towards me and I don’t blame her but I’m a lousy friend so there is no point trying to make it up to her.  I will only let her down again some time in the future because that’s the way I am.

My niece gave birth last week.  I found out through my brother as nobody bothered to notify me and why would they?  I show no real interest in any of my family and never have.

My brother’s birthday came and went without me wishing him a happy birthday and my other brother’s birthday is this month some time.  I don’t even know what date so it’s unlikely I will wish him a happy birthday either.

It’s a paradox really.  I do care about these people and yet I act as if I don’t.  Does that mean I don’t care and I am just lying to myself when I say I do care?

My compassion fatigue reached a point where my supervisor had to call me to task over my attitude to a client last week and I took the issue to my counselling supervisor.

I told her I am almost completely empty of emotional resources for giving to others.  I said it’s as if compassion and understanding and patience were a kind of “milk of human kindness” and I usually have plenty of “milk” but I am running low.

Some of the clients are bottomless pits who drink and drink and drink and still scream for more.  They are insatiable and I have learned I cannot give them enough no matter how much I give them.

When my “milk” is in abundant supply I can handle these greedy ones but, when I am low, I tend to cut them off and save what is left for those who can actually be helped by it.

My supervisor asked me where I get my “milk” from and how I top up my emotional reserves.  She wanted to know who nurtures me.  I said I pretty much do it for myself.

In the past year or so I have learned to turn to my kids when I am in really dire straights but, on a day to day basis, I nurture myself as best I can.

My supervisor pointed out that this is the equivalent of running on empty and having to pull fuel out of thin air to keep myself going.

She said it is not surprising that I start running out when it comes to giving fuel to anyone else.

I said I can do it.  I can pull as much psychic fuel out of thin air as I need for people whom I believe will benefit from it.  For those I sense will not just throw it on the ground or otherwise waste it I can instantly become an endless supply of psychic “milk” no matter how depleted I may feel.  It’s as if their need creates “milk” in me somehow.

My supervisor wanted to know how I replenish my supplies if I don’t seek nurturing from outside myself.  I said I spend time alone and, if I get enough time alone, my supply replenishes itself.  I said I have arranged to get four days straight off each fortnight and that is when I replenish my supplies.  I said the problem is, after about four months, four days is no longer enough time.

She leaned forward and looked me in the eye then asked me;

“Who gives to you?”

“My kids do,” I said, “If I need them they are there for me.”

“Who else?” she asked.

“Nobody,” I said, “I won’t let anyone else give to me.”

She asked me why and I started crying.  I told her I learned very early not to ask for anything from anyone because asking just got me into trouble.

As a child, any time I ever sought nurture from adults in my life I got one of two things, cold rejection or sexual abuse.  I learned to stop asking and make do with whatever I could find inside myself.

Now that self-sufficiency cuts me off from other people.  I can’t take from others.  I can’t let anyone be there for me because I am no longer able to need others.  There is a wall between me and the rest of humanity.  I can reach out to others from behind that wall and nurture them for a living but I can’t let them into my life.

I can give but I can’t take.  That means I must conserve myself.  I can’t let anyone in because they deplete me if I do.  Not because they won’t or can’t give to me – because I won’t let them give to me.  I don’t know how to let them.

I can only accept what is forced on me.  The birthday celebration for my 50th was forced on me – I wasn’t given a choice.  If I had been given a choice I would have said no.  Not because I didn’t want it or didn’t enjoy it.  Because I prefer not to owe anyone anything.

I can’t take because, sooner or later, I will have to pay the dues and then I will be hurt or someone else will be.  It’s been a very long time since the hurt came my way.  I have shut people out.  They can’t hurt me any more.

Now I hurt them.  I don’t want to, I don’t mean to, I just do.  I care but, I guess, not enough and that hurts people.  I hurt them with my lack of interest in things like their birthdays.  They give but they can’t get through to me and that hurts them and, in the long run, it hurts me too because it keeps me isolated and alone.

I don’t know how to change that.  I don’t know how to stop viewing other people as a source of depletion and start seeing them as a source of comfort or aid.

It has only been a couple of years since I was able to bring myself to view my own children as a source of support!  Even now I don’t call on them for support any more than I absolutely have to just in case something goes wrong and they reject me.



  • lyn

    Hello Kim

    It’s me again, Lyn. I could SO relate to what you have written above, particularly recently as I have had time with all of my sons (it is as a parent I get that depleted empty feeling) as fortunately my work is not demanding in that way, even though I am dealing with people. The last thing I want to do is to sound preachy, however this is truly where I have found real healing and nourishment, and small miracles! Through the support of 2 women in the church I attend who are involved in prayer ministry. A little while ago, one of them lent me the book “Hiding from Love : How to Change the Withdrawal Patterns that Isolate and Imprison You” by John Townsend. It is on the website of, and even though I’ve studied psychology units and read heaps of pop psychology books in the past, I found this one really easy to relate to in my life. It incorporates a Christian perspective into the psychological theories and concepts which the author is conveying. I would never have considered such a book in the past, or that prayer ministry could work, but Kim I have seen God’s might and experienced such love and tenderness. I realised yesterday how I’ve lost the ability to make REAL connections and friends, yet when I rang one of the women in a state of emotional fog with an issues with my son, what my “self” had been telling me was affirmed and I was able to go forward and reclaim myself with him. I thought when we reached an impasse that our relationship would never work, when 5 minutes later my son came out of his room and apologized to me! It was clear that he could see where I was coming from and indeed loves and appreciates ME. I know this area is not a problem in your life, but the being drained feeling is what I am talking about. And in my life, it is only God through Christ and his true followers that I have finally found healing. A scripture the vicar in England who showed me that Christ loved me and forgives me, shared this scripture at a particularly low time. I remind myself of it at times and now share it with you : Isaiah 49:14-16. God loves you. Remember that and live in the light of it. You are precious to him and he will keep you.
    Take care, Lyn

  • Kim

    Hi Lyn,
    Thank you for your comment. I think the only reason I am able to give anything at all is because, when I am alone, God replenishes me. He is the only source of nourishment I have and it is usually enough but this does not address the human side of things.

    It is people I cannot take from and it is human companions I lack.

    I am never truly alone because God is with me at all times but I am always alone on a physical level because I will not, cannot, let other people in.

    Thank you for the tip about the book. I will try to get hold of it and read it. It sounds like just what I need

    Cheers – Kim

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