Crying was the norm in my support group, but I was crying for the wrong reason. It was my second time attending the Survivors of Suicide Loss Support Group. The ninety-minute group was ten minutes from finishing, and the group leader headed toward wrapping it up. The other three group members had been called on to talk about their issues, and the therapist asked me to begin the ending ritual of saying something positive. Instead, I started crying. A moment before the waterworks began, I considered keeping my feelings to myself. But in a flash, I decided to tell the truth. I’d come there for support, had not been called on, and now the group was over. I felt like an idiot, but an honest one. This is what happens when we’re sick or suffering. We can be silent, or we can speak up. I chose to speak up, albeit whimpering and tearful. The group leader apologized, and the other three members agreed to stay late so I could receive much needed support. They gave me kind advice, and I felt I had not wasted my time. More important, I was proud of myself for asking for what I needed instead of leaving disappointed.
Living with chronic illness requires self-advocating. Speaking up when we don’t get what we need is hard. It means disrupting the current equilibrium of our environment. Sometimes, however, it’s important not to go with the flow in order to get what we need, the way I did that day.