Frustration can be overwhelming and is often difficult to communicate to those who may be trying to help.
Today I saw a young man, probably 18 years old, sitting in a wheelchair. He had suffered a traumatic brain injury and was unable to take care of himself. The doctors had told the family that he was likely to make a full recovery but that the going would be slow and very difficult for this young man.
Watching the family interact with him and with each other was interesting. They encouraged every small thing he was able to do, even the younger sister spoke words of encouragement to her brother. It was not hard to see the obvious look of embarrassment on his face when someone would congratulate him for using the right words as he spoke. I am sure he understood that this was an important part of his recovery process, but an 18 year old wants to be a man, not a little boy and I am certain that he felt at times like a little boy as his family doted on him.
I was trying not to watch him as I sat across the aisle but there was not a whole lot going on and he was right in my line of sight so I continued to find my eyes fixed on him and his family. At one point I found myself silently cheering him on as he clumsily reached out for the book that was resting on the edge of the ledge next to him. In my head I found myself talking him through the act, “okay, slowly, you can do it, grab hold, don’t let go, don’t let go, don’t let go….YES!” I quickly realized that my facial expressions may have been communicating my inner dialogue so with a shake of my head my face again became impassive. This motivated young man brought the book to his lap and with a small amount of difficulty flipped open some pages. He sat staring at the pages looking confused and a little dizzy. He closed his eyes tightly and opened them again, only to stare dizzily at the pages again. His face went from determined to frustrated in a flash and he flipped the book closed and pushed it off his legs onto the floor. His mother, likely used to moments like this, looked at him for a moment and then silently retrieved the book patting his leg as she leaned over.
He looked as though he was going to cry. I can only imagine that what he saw on the pages in the book was a blur of letters he did not recognize, or perhaps he was not even able to focus enough to see the letters. Either way, the situation brought about a defeated frustration that stole his confidence, at least in that moment.
Frustration is something we all experience, how do you handle frustration? Do you let hardship roll off your shoulders? Or do you react and project that frustration for the world to see? Perhaps it depends on the situation. The thing about being frustrated is, it is difficult to put frustration into words, so when someone reaches out to help it can make that moment even more frustrating.
Remember, frustration is a challenge not a defeat.