March 22nd, 2021 by Alexi Leimbach
My birthday is coming up this week. The big 31…not so big I know, but it’s got me thinking back.
I think about my 20’s and man were they a doozy. I’m sure most people can say that about their 20’s.
For me, I think about the amazing experiences…and the heart-breaking ones.
I think about the five surgeries I had, including one that was one of the most traumatic experiences in my life. I think about my very public struggle with health, both physical and mental.
I think about the wonderful, amazing friends I made and the ones I lost along the way.
I think about falling in love and getting my heart broken.
I think about the people who lifted me up and the people who tore me down.
I think about losing my faith in God and everything I believed in; and then finding my way back to a relationship with God, stronger than I ever could have fathomed.
And so we keep going down the rabbit hole…
The thing that I realize is, as happy and blessed as I feel when thinking about my incredible family and friends, I can’t help but still feel that pit in my stomach thinking about the friends that weren’t there; the friends that bailed when the going got tough.
I have to say, I cherish and adore the family and friends who stuck around with me during the hardest times. I don’t know how I would have gotten through the aftermath of certain traumas if it wasn’t for them and my faith in God.
Because it’s already lonely and painful when you are going through something traumatic.
Add on people who you thought were your friends who actually abandon you while you’re going through your difficult times, and it only makes it lonelier and more painful.
It deepens the suffering you’re already going through.
And as forgiving as you may be, it’s very hard to forget the pain of being abandoned; adding onto the pain you were already feeling.
I actually lost a best friend after my most traumatic surgery because that person “couldn’t handle my life anymore since too many bad things happen to me.”
It took me many years to forgive that person.
But there’s the flip side to this story where blessings were abounding.
I was so blessed with a mother who dropped everything to come live with me in college for 4 months to help me rehab and be my at-home nurse after my surgery. (And I was not fun to be around at that time).
Two of my best friends that I lived with were there with me as well every step of the way. And they were kind enough to welcome “a mom” into the apartment to live with us during their college years.
In addition, my sister surprised me with a special trip to New York City for New Years near the end of my rehab.
I had never been before and I had always dreamed of going. She even learned how to do the “doctoring” I needed since I was a few weeks away from being completely healed. She was shocked to see what my mom had been doing for me twice a day to help me heal, but she willingly stepped up and helped out while we were in New York.
Through it all, my friends at school didn’t bat an eye as they hung out with a girl that had to carry a butt donut around campus to sit on. That weird kid who was never seen without sweatpants and a butt donut around her arm.
(One of my fashion-conscious friends celebrated the first day he saw me in jeans instead of sweatpants. My mom said no one would notice that I only wore sweatpants for 4 months. Not!)
Seriously though, that butt donut could be pretty darn embarrassing because it made the most realistic farting noises when I sat on it, especially any time I moved.
Think I’m exaggerating?
One of my professors stopped mid-lecture because it sounded like I made one rip in class when I moved on my butt donut. Another time a boy in the library, who I didn’t even know, asked to me to go to the bathroom already.
Ahh, the memories I had with my butt donut. We were quite a pair on campus. I even named him because we were inseparable.
Can you think of a time of hardship when you were just amazed by the people who stuck with you?
Who encouraged you?
Who lifted you up?
I’m still amazed at my people.
They are God’s lifeline when you feel like you’re drowning.
I finally stopped holding grudges towards the people who weren’t there. The people who ghosted me and were nowhere to be seen. The people who thought being a friend with a sick person was just too hard.
This is why.
I have been that person once or twice.
And the reason is not because I was avoiding hard times, or I didn’t want to help the person in need.
The reason is because, sometimes, it’s just such a hard thing they are going through, and I have no idea what I can possibly say to make it better.
So, I get scared.
I get scared that I’ll say the wrong thing. I get scared that it won’t be enough. That it won’t be good enough.
I think so long and hard for the perfect words, and then so much time goes by, that now it’s just awkward for me to say anything.
Because it’s been too long, and I feel like I’m too late.
My heart is in the right place, but I can’t get my actions in motion.
And because of that, I have made that person feel lonelier in their time of need. I made the situation worse for them than it already was.
And I always regret that, and it tears me up.
The truth is, sometimes there is no right thing to say. There are no magic words. There is no way you can fix their situation.
But that doesn’t mean being there and showing you care doesn’t help. The support and love you show for someone in their time of hardship will definitely help them get through it.
If it’s with love and grace and empathy that you come to them, then don’t worry about saying or doing the wrong thing.
Just do it. Just be there.
This past year has been a long year; tiring and trying for everyone. And it’s certainly been extremely traumatic for many.
It’s not too late to show your support and love to people you meant to be there for.
And if you know someone going through something hard right now, don’t avoid it. Don’t be scared.
Lean into it. Lean into them. It can be as simple as a text.
A little bit goes a long way for someone who is grasping at straws. Give them a straw to grasp.
I used to ask my mom that, if I have done good works for God and helped so many people for God, why did he let bad things happen to me? Why didn’t he protect me?
I realized once I got on the other side of those bad things that God never said bad things wouldn’t happen to me. That I wouldn’t suffer or go through trauma.
But I saw clear as day every single person he put beside me along the way to get me through it all. He put an army around me to strengthen me when I was too weak myself.
I can see where he was every second of the way. He never left me. He was there in every person who supported me in the smallest and biggest ways. Every little bit mattered to help get me one inch closer to healing and peace.
God will use you in big and small ways. You never know. Reaching out to that person when they need love and support may just be God’s way of getting them through what they are going through at that moment.
He’s ready for you to be part of his army of support.
Don’t worry about doing it perfectly. He will take care of that.
Just show up.
Has someone been there for you in a tough time? Let me know in the comments below.
Do you need support right now?