As a psychologist, the physical hazards of my occupation are few. I’m a little spacier since I’ve been ill, so I just need to make sure I don’t walk into office furniture that has been in the same place for years, spill food on myself unknowingly over lunch, or forget to do up my fly before I see a client.
But there are other intangible hazards of psychology, the most serious of which is that other people talk to me fairly easily. That’s both because I ask a lot of questions and because I’d rather talk about you than me. The sharers include clients, friends and strangers.
I don’t experience this occupational hazard as much as I used to. Not only am I working less, but my many supportive friends may be more hesitant to tell me what’s troubling them because they don’t want to “burden me”. People are funny that way: they compare themselves and think others’ challenges are greater. I fall prey to that way of thinking sometimes myself, even though I don’t think life really works that way. Something that is a small challenge for me could be a huge challenge for you.
This issue arose this morning during a visit with a friend. This friend is, like me, someone who spends a lot more time supporting other people than allowing others to support her. That’s just her nature, and I can relate. She’s been very supportive of me through my illness, but she did most of the talking today, bless her soul. I relish the opportunity to support other people even more now that I have leukemia. So many people are supporting me that I worry I’m going to lose my caring-for-others gene if I don’t use it enough.
This friend was talking about a difficult period in her life, and I was glad she felt she could share her thoughts with me. But as we parted, she spoiled the moment: she apologized for “getting depressing on me”. She’s done this before, shared openly and then apologized for “dumping on me”. I got mad at her both times. (Proof that I’m no psychologist with my friends.) So I’ve decided to write this open letter to my friend, just in case any of you ever worry you might be burdening someone with your openness:
Thank you for what you shared with me this morning. You were not dumping on me or depressing me in any way. Rather, you were helping me understand what you had been dealing with this past while. I’m honoured you felt you could trust me enough to be open with me, and it means a lot to me that you of all people would let me in. Maybe next time you could share without the apology after? You of all people know how much I dislike overapologizers like myself. Also, do you realize that by sharing with me, at some point I may feel more comfortable sharing with you in some venue other than my very public blog? Wouldn’t that be novel?
Your Private Friend Annie