The importance of asking for help in times of need.
Living with mental illness can be lonely and terrifying. Anorexia, in particular, pushes you to isolate yourself due to the fixations around weight, food intake, and stigma surrounding the disorder. When you finally decide (if you decide) that enough is enough it can hit you really hard. It’s only then that you find out you’re missing some key ingredients; your support network. One day you wake up and find that you’ve pushed everyone away, and it leaves you feeling like a complete failure. Suddenly it becomes harder to ask for help than ever before.
Numerous people had reassured me that I deserved help and that maybe it was time to ask for it. I mean really ask for it. Despite their concerns, I carried on, under the strict illusion that I was coping and I would continue to do so until I was better. Everything was under control; The job, the treatment, the family issues. I didn’t need anything else.
“I was superwoman.“
Except I really wasn’t.
There are so many reasons that I stopped myself from asking for help.
I approached S after a particularly bad week, one in which I had just found out about my grandmother’s terminal cancer diagnosis. It all came to a head the previous night when I realised that I was completely unable to continue on the way I had been. With that in mind, I approached S the next morning with the intention of a quick chat about my options. That quick chat quickly changed into confessional, tears and all.
“Chloe, you’re brave for asking for help. It takes a lot of strength to be able to admit when they need some support.”
Having this conversation, although embarrassing, helped give me the strength to ask for the time I needed to recover, and without it, I honestly don’t know where I would be now.
I don’t want to digress from the subject, but although my parents are wonderful people I don’t think they really set me up with the best self-esteem in the world. We are a family of doing things for other people, with the quiet opinion that anything for yourself is selfish.
Having such a low sense of self-worth throughout my life has led me to do everything for others and almost nothing for myself. This ultimately led to a sense of burnout and a downward spiral into depression and a loss of self. As cliche as it sounds, I’m not only recovering from anorexia but I’m also learning who I am, what I feel, and that I’m a decent human being and I deserve to feel happy.
It hasn’t been easy for me, but since speaking with S on that fateful day, I’ve been taking all the help I can get from others and from the National Health Service. I’m coming to learn that it’s okay to ask for help when you need it.
What stops us from reaching out?
There are many things that can stop people from asking for the help that they need at work and at home, especially when it comes to mental illness.
- Our Pride.
- The fear of being a burden on others.
- Not wanting to cause a ‘fuss’.
- The fear of rejection, being ignored, or being stigmatised.
- The fear of feeling vulnerable.
- Feeling too anxious or shy to ask for help.
- Not having the right information, or not knowing where to go for help.
- Fear that admitting your thoughts or feelings might mean you are put under inpatient care or admitted to a mental health ward.
- Feeling like everyone else is able to cope, so you should be able to as well.
- The fear of what other people might think of you.
- The thought of ‘Other people are far worse off, it’s selfish of me to feel like this.’
- Just hoping it will all blow over on its own.
Why is it important to ask for help?
I’m the first to admit that I’m terrible at asking for help for a variety of the above reasons, not least of all the fear of what others might think. Even now during my journey of self-discovery, I still find it difficult to ask for what I need. But asking for help in regard to our mental health is so, so important for many reasons.
- By speaking to someone and confiding in them, additional help can be offered by way of therapy, sick leave from work, support from family and friends, and any medications that might be needed.
- Starting to talk about your issues can open so many doors in regard to counselling or alternative therapies that can help you learn to cope with your mental illness.
- Finally, there is the communication aspect of opening up about your struggles. No one can keep things bottled up all the time. It’s normal for some of us to shut ourselves behind an unhealthy coping mechanism or complete isolation, but it does nothing to help us deal with what we are going through internally. Opening your struggles allows you to talk through what you are feeling/experiencing, which can often release some of the stress.
One important thing to remember is that you deserve help just like everyone else. It’s taken me longer than I care to admit to actually realise that and occasionally I still have to convince myself that I have a right to take up space in this world.
“A problem shared is a problem halved.”
Do you ask for help when you need it? Or do you stay quiet and wait it out? What is your opinion on asking for help?
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