When the shutters come down
The mighty Blurt Foundation have produced a fabulous piece today on the importance of asking people how they are doing, but not having hurt feelings if they aren’t able to share or when the emotional shutters come down.
So we begin by asking, have you ever experienced the ‘shutters’ coming down on you?
Perhaps as you ask someone how they are and they respond with ‘I’m fine’ but you’re not convinced they really are.
Maybe when someone clams up on you mid-conversation.
Those times you know someone needs a helping hand so you offer and it’s not accepted.
The times you reach out via WhatsApp / Instagram / Twitter / Facebook / Email / phone / letter and you don’t receive a response.
Or, those multiple times you invited someone to do something and they were always too busy, too this, too that.
It’s actually quite difficult to not take it personally, right?!
‘What have I done?’s
‘Why don’t they like me / trust me / want to spend time with me?’s
‘Gosh, they’ve changed’s
Worry, worry, worry
If you sense that the shutters have come down because your friend / loved one / person you care about is going through a really grotty time, then it’s likely, they:
• don’t want to burden you
• need some space
• don’t have the bandwidth
• have their own ways of coping alone
• aren’t used to accepting help
• don’t feel deserving of care / love / attention
In these instances, it’s really hard feeling so shut out but there are things you can still do to reach-in, in a non-boundary-busting way.
• send regular but not too regular messages with the prefix ‘no need to reply to this’ so that you can show you care without them feeling they have to reply – they mightn’t have the emotional bandwidth to do so
• bake a cake and leave it on the doorstep / send flowers / send a care package / bake meals for the freezer / send cards / make a playlist
• do thoughtful things if you live with them: make up a hot water bottle, be extra-helpful with chores, buy their favourite foods, offer hugs, make space for them to talk and listen when they do
• ask ‘how are you, really?’ and ask ‘are you sure?’ if they say ‘I’m fine’
• respect boundaries, sometimes people really do need to hunker down and withdraw to get through things
• offer to sit with us in the darkness, sometimes your steady presence is more valuable than anything you could say or do
• let them know you’re in this together, that getting through whatever it is, is a team sport and you’re very much Team [their name]
And if, you’re the one pulling down the shutters at the moment – please don’t be afraid to take what you need. Whether that’s those frozen freezer meals to stop you having to exert the energy of making endless food decisions, shopping and then making, or it’s someone to sit with you, or it’s someone to talk to, or it’s just space.
Take what you need to help find your way back to you.
UKSA Welfare Officer