Monday, April 8, 2013

It is so hard to ask for help…

{Photo courtesy of Craig Borchers;)}
...but it is OK to ask for help.
I feel bad burdening people with my problems.  Everyone has their own struggles and their own worries.  There are many people a lot worse off than me.  My friends and family don’t need me to add my troubles to the mix.

Since I don’t want to be a burden to other people, I especially have a hard time asking for help when I need it.  I am afraid that I’ll be viewed as complaining.  I am afraid no one will want to be around me anymore.  I am afraid to cause needless worry.

If I would listen to these fears, most likely, I’d risk a relapse before taking the risk to lose my friends.

In reality, most of my friends and loved ones would beg me to allow them to help.

In order for me to ask for help, however, I have to set some ground rules to “make sure that no one will get hurt”.  Before I can let anyone in, I have to make sure they will be OK.

If I knew that I was bothering someone with my problems, it would be a long time before I opened up again.  So, to stop that from happening, I’ve figured out how to help myself ask for help.

It is absolutely imperative to ask for help when struggling to find mental health and healing.  Even if you don’t think that you are “bad enough” to get help.  You are allowed to ask for help.

You are NOT meant to pull yourself up by your own boot straps.  God made us communal beings.  Even Jesus had friends on earth; He did not do everything on His own.  Heck, even God, the Trinity, is essentially communal – Three persons, one God.  (Deep Theological thought of the day)

It is OK to ask for help.  Let me say that again in bold, underline, and italics, “It is OK to ask for help”.

There is no such thing as a one man militia.  You need an army to fight a battle.

Still, if I did not acknowledge this inherent truth, I could live in my own world and never reach out to another person ever again.  I fear that I am “taking” too much.  I am already taking up too much space.  I’ve already used too many resources in this world.  I am already taking more than my share…

You see, the very nature of mental illness is isolating.  Even when all the facts are laid out, you can help but want to be alone.  When you are struggling with a mental illness, you are tempted to think that no one else wants to help or even can help.  And if you do ask for help, it will be at great cost to the other person.  If that was the truth, then no one would ask for help.  Personally, I know that I just can’t do that to someone I love.  Most people who suffer from depression have guilt issues.  To include someone else in the recovery plan could cause extra guilty feelings, hence inhibiting them from reaching out when helped is needed.

I have found that there are a few simple things that I can do to ease my anxieties about being a burden.  I discovered that if I follow these five guidelines, I am more likely to use my support system and reach out to other people to help me with my problems – which always works out for the better for both parties involved.

(Now, I understand that there are varying degrees of mental illness.  And if you know someone struggling with mental health, they might not be able to do these things yet, or even, ever at all.)

5 ways to support a loved one, when YOU are struggling from depression:

1.     Have a support system that consists of more than just one person.  That way, you won’t feel like you are putting all the pressure on just one person.

2.     Accept help if it is offered to you.  Let your friends, family, and support system do stuff for you.  They wouldn’t offer if they didn’t want to.  You don’t have to be superhuman and do everything yourself, even the stuff that you think you “should” be doing on your own.  In the beginning, having help to do the little things can make a big difference.

3.     Allow your loved ones to take a break from you and re-energize regularly, even if it is just for a few hours.  This is especially important for those people who live with you.  Everyone needs to recharge their batteries from time to time.  It doesn’t mean that they are sick of you or sick of being your friend.  Dealing with depression can be very emotionally draining for everyone involved.  We are all human, we all have limitations.  (In their absence, make sure to have a back-up emergency contact.)

4.     Talking through your problems is a tremendous help, but from time to time, switch it up and do different and fun activities.  This will help both people involved.  Laughter is wonderful medicine, so if you can do funny things together it is an added bonus.

5.     If you are worried about being misunderstood, give them things to read that would help them better understand your illness.  Show them the 10 things NOT to say to someone with depression LINK if you struggle with depression.  Show them eating disorder stats if you struggle with keeping a positive body image.  Knowledge is power, and your loved ones will be able to help you better if they know more facts about what you are going through.

If you have a loved one struggling with mental health, do these rules work for you?  Is there anything else we can do to help you help us?

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