Tell People When You Fall

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Self-Care Tip #171 – Tell people when you fall.

Driving today, I was slowed by a driver ahead of me.  I started to get irritated, (I know, “I can’t control this“), but then I noticed the car had bumper stickers supporting breast cancer.  In less than a moment my mind grabbed memories of faces, feelings, conversations, stories and personal experiences in my memory relating to breast cancer and I suddenly felt a sense of empathy and some sadness.  It left me a bit surprised and I reminded myself I was irritated at this driver.  While trying to tease apart these seemingly opposing reactions, I realized I didn’t care much any more about the slowness.  Mainly I wondered how there was breast cancer connected and I cared.

Providentially, Erin posted today on her blog-site, Healthy, Unwealthy, and Becoming Wise,

Falling finds friends.

I remembered the driver and you readers and thought, “It sure does.  Especially when we let others know.

My Ecuadorian sister, Joana Johnson, often tells me one of the biggest contrasts she see’s between our cultures,


I spent some time in Ecuador doing some clinical work and learning more Spanish between my second and third year of medical school.  I was rarely alone, which frankly creeped me out a little.  Being westernized, I was used to a huge amount of independence and anonymity.  I wonder who I would be if I had grown up knowing someone was always involved in my life.

You might have heard the proverb asking,

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?


Water, water everywhere and nothing to drink.

I don’t want to be surrounded but not witnessed, connected or heard.

Telling people about our “falls,” cancer, depression, assault or what not, can feel creepy too, just like I felt loosing some of my anonymity in Ecuador.  However, I now tell myself, “It’s just culture and I can grow.  And I want to.”  Culturally in the “West,” we think of telling about our falls as whining.  That’s a misperception however and a disservice to all of us.  Telling people when we fall is not whining.  The act of telling and the act of whining aren’t contiguous unless we design them to be.

This morning when I saw those bumper stickers, it brought me into the drivers life and connected us.  We are both a little less alone than we were.  These last six months for me have been about taking down boundaries in my well defended life, and I am growing into the difference.  Thank you readers and commenters for that.

Questions:  What has telling others about your “falls” done for you?  How has your culture influenced you in finding friends?  Please tell me your story.

14 thoughts on “Tell People When You Fall

  1. It’s late and I really would like to respond to this with a personal comment, but, for now, I just want to share that we just got home from an evening with friends during which time we watched Driving Miss Daisy for the first time in probably 20 years. We’d seen it when it first came out. Talk about culture and connection! If you have never seen it, may I suggest…..

  2. Often taught the lowest level kids in high school. The type that the worst teacher gets or the one’s insubordinate teachers get for punishment. But I was a good teacher and they deserved to have a half way decent teacher for a change. It took me five years to finish college to finally get that 2.0 and when I told them I failed a year as may of these kids had(how about 17 year old in 9th grade) I became the most wonderful teacher they ever had. Sharing failure gave me stature and a profound level of intimacy and connection. PS Re college: they were flunking us out left and right to lose student deferment and become 1A for draft pool and Vietnam.

      • They went to the lottery system and June 18 was #340 or so. In large cities quotas were filled by birth dates 1-20 or so and in small towns quotas were filled at around #60 so I was not drafted. I did have 2 years of Army ROTC which was required at my college. I was one of 600 chosen nation wide for a full college scholarship by the army in 1968 but I turned it down,I would have gone directly to OCS(officer candidate school) and would have served 4 years active duty and 6 years reserve duty. I watched those jets every night on TV napalming the villages and I did not think God put the United States here as part of His plan to drop fire on starving rice farmers on the other side of the world. I was lucky. I had a choice, As I entered the work force at 22 enough 18 year olds were selected and I was untouched. Re college I was able to hook in with a small group that was able to secure most mid terms and finals a week before the test by various means . With 7 of us researching the best we could find was 80% of answers. How could anyone pass these things? Some test curves were set at 85% a D. In one class the pre test and final post test were the same. I got a 12% on the pretest and a 68% on the post test and still got an F because I did not make 70%. In world history I got the second highest grade out of 500 hundred freshman but my 92% still got a B because it was not a 93%. I had no moral conflict about cheating under those circumstances because I believe they were flunking us out because of some kind of belief they were supposed to provide cannon fodder with those dropping below a 2.0. I served my country for 34 years in an inner city, violent, drug invested, minority school system as an 11th grade American history teacher. Three of my graduating high school class of 1967 were killed. They were just 18. Old men move chess pieces on global maps and young men men die as the result.

  3. Took me 5 years to finished undergrad. When I told students I too had failed a year, I became the most bestest teacher they ever had in their estimation. Failure brought me statue because they knew I understood how hard it was for them.

  4. It took an extra year to finish undergrad. When I told students in my very low level classes that school is hard and that I failed a year, my stature in their eyes grew immensely. Not because of honesty, but because they knew I understood their plight and helped them believe they could still succeed in spite of past failures.

  5. Telling about my “falls” have made me see I am not alone in this. There are other people out there who have the same issues I do.
    I no longer keep things bottled up inside. I now know sometimes I cannot do things on my own and need the help or just an ear to listen to me and not judge.
    It has taken me years to not feel like a failure if I adk for help…I am not completely over that issue yet but I am getting better at it.

  6. Telling people about my “fall” – my emotional breakdown – pretty much alienated almost anyone I talked with. People were afraid of me and afraid to be anywhere near me. Not until this blog found me 🙂 have I been comfortable sharing my thoughts and feelings. Might have been the culture I live with. It seems to be beneath anyone to whom I talked to admit that it was okay to have emotional problems. Certainly, that was true with my mother. I was a horrible embarrassment. That would be why I am so grateful for this blog site.

    Telling people, then, about the ensueing fibromyalgia is just frustrating. No one – including many in the medical profession – understands the disease (if, indeed, they are even willing to call it that). The result is that I had given up trying…until I met a group of 80-something bridge players who, maybe because of their own aches and pains or maybe because of their own life experiences, seem to care very much. Their concern, their comforting support, their acceptance over the last two years has done wonders for my healing process. I couldn’t be more grateful and, maybe even more importantly, I have found myself helping them…and feeling better, physically and emotionally, as I do so.

    You’re right, Sana. Connection is wonderful.

    • this is of course the unfortunate lesson many of us have learned. thank u for sharing w us nancy. the bridge club is the other side of the coin, u described so well. the better side of the same coin. keep on woman of courage

  7. i allways tell people when i fall but people get sick i had a friend the other day and she has the same thoughts as me it like calling wolf you can only do it so many times no funny enuff before someone says it i dont have the anser to that one thats probably a first for me i will learn some way round that and a anser for it you know culture been form the uk we really dont talk about it i remeber a while back newcastle going for capital of culture we didnt get it suprise but maybe we dont have a culture over here i think culture over here i think of pubs for some reason the best way i have found friends isnt threw my culture but threw me being me

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