Sometimes I Need Help (And I’m Learning That’s Okay)
I’ve never been good at asking for help.
I’ve never been good at asking for help.
I think even as a child, I was fairly independent. Never too clingy to my parents. This could partly be due to my family dynamic, or because of my perfectionist attitude that’s stuck with me since day 1. Or both. Either way, I wanted to do everything *right*, and I wanted to do it myself.
While this self-sufficiency can be beneficial on some fronts, it can very easily swing to the harmful side of the help-hurt scale.
For example, when I was depressed and suicidal my sophomore year of high school, I was so determined to get better on my own that I practically abandoned all of my friends for four months until I finally caved and sent a essay-long text message to our group chat in the midst of an anxiety attack/breakdown.
At this point, I was confronted with the surprising reality that my friends were, in fact, supportive and understanding. I had yet to disclose any of my struggles to my parents, but even then, confiding in my friends was a huge step for me.
Maybe it was because I was terrified of disappointing my parents, or maybe asking for help from my parents was such an unknown, abstract concept that it pushed a little too far outside of my comfort zone.
Either way, the only reason my parents eventually found out about my depression was (unwillingly) through my school counselor — who I realize now was simply doing her duty of alerting them for my own protection, not because she had a personal vendetta towards sabotaging my entire life, as I was so assuredly convinced back then.
While my recovery back in high school was the beginning of self-awareness of my mental health and helped me take a few practical steps towards maintaining my sanity, I was unable to shake this feeling of shame when it came to asking for help.
Whether it was post-breakup or post-panic attack, I hesitated to reach out.
I always felt too pushy, too needy, too much of a burden. And while my friends reassured me that was far from the case, I couldn’t shake the feeling of being “too much”.
In the meantime, I continued to struggle in school, through high school and into college. It wasn’t because the classes were hard. I just couldn’t concentrate during them because I would be too preoccupied shaking my leg and trying to keep myself from falling into the bottomless pit of anxiety.
I would space out for hours after school, overcome by waves of sadness that numbed me from all emotion and prevented me from even getting out of bed to take a shower.
As much as I hated to admit it, I needed help.
Last fall, I finally took the first step and signed up for the therapy services offered by my college.
This was huge for me. It was largely because of the recommendation by a few friends, but I eventually admitted that simultaneously processing a major switch, sports injury, and long-distance relationship (all while balancing 17 credits and a job) was too much for just me to handle.
It started out slow. I was used to scribbling my thoughts down in a journal or sweating them out through a run. Not talking to them with a stranger.
Why would I tell this stranger the hardest parts of my life? I didn’t understand it at first, but I complied, though it terrified the crap out of me.
My first session, we talked about my innate desire to have a strong mother-figure, and I cried. A lot. In front of this unfamiliar woman I had never met before.
Over time, I began opening up more and the dynamic became more comfortable. She gave me small, practical steps to take throughout each week and they were helping. I was surprised.
“This is what it’s like to actually feel in control of your own life,” I thought countless times to myself. It was..relieving.
By the spring, I had successfully switched my major, made the decision to let go of competitive running, and gotten over and grown from my broken relationship. I was moving forward.
Everything was supposed to be looking up, but I still felt empty.
I didn’t understand. I brought it up to my therapist one week. Within one minute of me sitting down, she said, “You don’t seem happy.”
“I’m not,” I told her begrudgingly, “I haven’t been. And I don’t know why.”
Even with all the progress I had made that year, I was still struggling to find happiness in my daily life — a life that, to the unsuspecting stranger, should be happy.
Nothing was wrong. I had figured out all the change. I was content with life and no longer drowning in my schoolwork. So why was it still so hard?
As much as I didn’t want to accept it, I had to reach out yet again. Making simple mindful alterations to my daily routine wasn’t enough to “fix” my depression. So at the start of the summer, I began taking antidepressants. I hated every step of it: making the appointment, having to talk to a new doctor about how I was feeling sad all the time, and crying to another stranger.
Slowly but surely, I began to feel better. My hour-long “sad attacks” were less and less frequent. Mundane, simple parts of life began to make me smile again. I hadn’t felt that in a long time.
I began to adjust to the idea of needing a little extra help to give my brain the opportunity to feel a little more emotion. Maybe it wasn’t all that bad.
Of course, each time I begin to accept a change, life seems to throw a new curveball right back in my face.
I’ve been back at college for a month now. There’s always a period of adjustment, but this semester’s been particularly difficult.
Even with the reinstatement of therapy and the continuation of meds, I keep finding myself drowning: overcome with anxiety in and out of class, a lack of motivation and energy towards, well, anything, and just a lot of sadness.
Not what I expected, especially after pushing so far out of my comfort zone to ask for help the past year.
But after a 30-minute panic attack the second week of school, I was left with the sinking realization that I can’t do it on my own right now.
I’m going to keep having to ask for help. Hopefully not forever, but for the time being, I need to reach out.
As much as a feeling of shame arises in my throat each time I say it, telling my boss, professors, and friends that I need a little extra support will help me.
The logical part of my brain knows that. So does the emotional part, the part that’s so worn out from balancing all these burdens on its own. The only part putting up any resistance is my pride.
I don’t want to admit I’m struggling already. I don’t want to admit that all the steps I’ve taken aren’t enough. I don’t want to admit that I can’t handle it, as much as I desperately want to.
But I have to.
I need to humble myself and remember that asking for help is not a sign of incompetence or uselessness. It’s an indication of self-awareness and will ultimately be beneficial towards my education and overall health.
I will be okay, and it will be okay if I need other people to help me get there.
Student at George Fox University. More of her writing can be found at medium.com/@helenaducusin