As I am going through one of the darkest struggles of depression and PTSD in my life, I am reminded of something Fred Rogers said about times of trouble. “There was something my mother did that I’ve always remembered: “Always look for the helpers,” she’d tell me. “There’s always someone who is trying to help.” I did, and I came to see that the world is full of doctors and nurses, police and firemen, volunteers, neighbors and friends who are ready to jump in to help when things go wrong.”
Concentric Circles Of Helpers
While I am having a hard time recognizing my self worth in the chasm between my head and my heart, I recognize the helpers all about me. First and foremost is my family. You have seen their pictures and read their stories in the pages of this column. What you do not know is how they have stood with me and given me unconditional love in this time that I do not feel I deserve. They were the first helpers to stand by my side.
The second set of helpers are those who I call my supports. These are Ryan Bell, Gretta Vosper, and Jeff Straka. Many of you in the atheist community probably recognize the first two names. The other may as well be the best kept secret weapon in skepticism. These three have been dear friends for a few years. But these last few weeks, they have been there for me daily in ways that boggle the imagination. In their busy lives, at least one of them is there to hear about how I am doing and ensure that I am getting what I need. They offer friendship, perspective, love and support.
Beyond the core are other circles. I recently got a care package in the mail the other day. It is from another parent of a trans kiddo that I know. She sent me a box full of goodies with two intentions. To keep me warm and to make me smile. Three other parents have mailed me cards and gifts as did a friend I have known since high school.
The next ring are the friends and the people who know me and my circumstances and are rooting for me and trying to help in any way they can. The range of association is diverse and they are a thing of beauty.
A surprising ring are the other authors in the Patheos NonReligious Chanel. In private conversations they have been very supportive of me. Two stories just to showcase the support. Kevin Davis, author of Secular Voices, wrote a moving piece about me and invited others to be a tangible part in my journey. Katie Paulson, author of Without a Crystal Ball, wrote a great piece on the teacher who got fired for refusing to use a transgender students correct pronouns. She told me she was thinking of me and my child when she wrote it and wanted to fill in the gap a little since I am out of commission. Two writers of amazing calibre honoring me in very touching ways. One tells my story, another honors the story I tell for the people I love.
The readers here are the next ring of helpers. Over the last few entries more of you have been coming out of the wood work as first time commenters and long time readers to say some of the most beautiful and kind things. Of course, there are my regular commenters who have been here holding the fort down in the comments section since day one.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the helpers in my new psychiatric community. From the nurse who did my initial intake, to the entire staff of counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists who are helping me get past this crisis time in this full day program I am in. They push me, they challenge me, and they help me understand this with not only compassion, but science.
Lastly in my circles are the complete strangers who have just heard about me, my struggles, and my stories and have helped out. Most have been atheists and humanists. Some have been progressive christians, and as these are strangers, I do not know the backgrounds of those who have been reaching out to me.
The Helpers Are There
Mister Rogers’ mother was right. The helpers are there. We are seeing them rise up in the darkness of this Evangelical Trump supporting climate that has been endangering the rights of my child, women, refugees, minorities and people with disabilities. The helpers are standing with those who are fighting for financial survival in an economic world that seems to have gone mad. The helpers are there. We could use some more in all these battles. Intersectionality matters so very much. But we can see them and we need to be grateful for them. Who are your helpers in your time of crisis? Be sure to thank them. They made scary things a little less scary.
Know Where the Helpers Aren’t
There is a darker side to this time for me. There have been voices that have been disturbingly quiet. I’ve given cries for help in the night with texts, emails, phone calls or smoke signals that were never replied to. I’ll not name them here, that is not my place. We all have our reasons and I know not the stories of everyone I cried out to. Some hurt worse than others, however. Some people won’t help or even encourage. The ones that are there only when things are good are not your friends. They are just there for the party.
In life we make mistakes or go through things. We do not have to expect others to be there for us. But I need you to remember, when we get through our storms, remember where the helpers were not. There will come a time to laugh again. This dark chapter is not the end. When it does get better, you dance with the ones that brung ya. Keep the helpers close. These are your friends, your family, and your concentric circles of symbiotic support.
Wanna Be A Helper To This Work?
There are three ways you can support me as a helper.
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