“Ask for help. It’s not because you feel weak. But because you want to remain strong.” ~Les Brown
I sat in the doctor’s office, waiting—linen gown hanging off me, half exposed—while going through the checklist in my mind of what I needed help with. I felt my breathing go shallow as I mentally sorted through the aches and pains I couldn’t seem to control.
My particular trauma wounds stemming in part from my early childhood abandonment and neglect resulted in me learning independence and not being dependent on others. In times of stress and high levels of anxiety, I tend to be very distrustful.
I have never had a problem letting people in and asking them for their help.
It was not only painful, but it also proved to be dangerous. I’ve been given poor and damaging advice from people I assumed knew more than me. I’ve emotionally attached to people who disappeared when I least expected it. I’ve been lied to, betrayed, and left behind when my help was no longer useful.
I’ve been injured both physically and emotionally when relying on others to care for me and have been let down more times than I can possibly recall.
Many reasons exist to believe that I am alone and no one else can help. That I’m in this life all alone. Sometimes I feel exactly that.
Other days, I sit in my doctor’s office ready to make myself vulnerable one more time looking for support that I’ve been unable to give myself. Hoping, fingers crossed, that maybe this time I’ll be seen, heard, and cared for.
The doctor came in and I was already writing on my depression screening form a note explaining why some days I am sad. I know it’s normal to feel sad doing the work I do as a mental health therapist. Working with people’s sad can be sad. It was important for me to speak up.
And also, I’ve been focusing on healing the trauma in my body that injured my nervous system starting in infancy. To allow my body to release its pain and to regulate it to normal, I have to actively invite them. Except I don’t know what normal feels like.
Her very first questions to me: “Are you getting back what you put into your work? Is it worth it?”
She blinks, and I am unsure if she is correct.
“Are you asking me if the work I’m doing is more depleting than rewarding? Am I receiving as much as I’m giving?” I ask.
“Yes,” she responds assuredly.
I am her. She sees me. This is a question I constantly ask myself.
I am blown away by this one question. It’s clear that I have complete faith in her.
I hear words pouring out of my mouth explaining the work I’ve been doing with myself. My intention to heal my nervous system and my body, how hard it’s been to feel all the emotional pain that’s come up and the subsequent physical pain that comes and goes to remind me just how deep all this stuff runs.
I shared with her my most recent discovery—my earliest known physical trauma at nine months old, when my mother gagged me to make me throw up to “protect” me.
Her behavior was discovered and she was sent to hospital where she received psychiatric care for over a year. My brother and me were put in the care of any person who could watch us.
It is the best time to develop healthy trust and attachment. My parents taught me that survival means staying away from those who were supposed to guard you. They could hurt you. They can also hurt you.
I would have many more experiences that reinforced this belief. My body spent years trying to protect me by tensing up, shaking, or wanting to flee when I sensed any kind of danger—being trapped, pressured, controlled, or trusting authority figures was high on my list of subconscious nos.
My body’s reaction to even the slightest threat was absurd to me. I felt ashamed for this.
I couldn’t understand why driving on the highway put me in an instant state of hypervigilance. It was why I was unable to breath in the middle night. The bright lights in the grocery shop made it so difficult for me to breathe. Perceived conflict caused me to want to either curl up in my arms or bail out.
All I knew was I was not “normal,” and I felt like I had no control over it.
It was during my first twenties, when I was on a long trip and had no sleep at night, that I remember the first infomercial I saw. The television was always on when I slept, to drown out any thoughts that were occurring in the night. An elderly woman shared her experience with anxiety and the impact it had on her life. Instantly, I tuned in.
I was the subject of her conversation. Her conversation was about many others. I couldn’t believe someone understood what I desperately tried to hide and despised about myself.
That was just the beginning of many programs, books, methods, and practices that I would attempt. This was my first experience of feeling seen. I sought out help.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want help. I just didn’t trust it, nor was I comfortable with being vulnerable enough to ask for it. Particularly since I knew that people could be manipulated or leave me if I trusted them.
And then there was the cultural push to just “suck it up” or accept that “it is what it is.” Key words to encourage us to abandon ourselves.
Sucking it up is exhausting, and it doesn’t help. It doesn’t change what’s hard, and from what I can tell, years of sucking it up never made me stronger. This made me even more convinced that I wasn’t the only one in this mess.
Even though I work for people, that is not my main focus. I amWhen I mentioned the assistance I urge people to seek I didn’t realize that I could also ask for help.
It meant that I needed to be able to relax and let go of my fears. Let go of my fear of adding another burden. Remember that everyone has their hardships and each of us is human. wantTo be helpful and needed when there is space
It’s why we are here as humans. To love. AndReceive it. It gives me the possibility to show my appreciation to someone who has given me the chance to support them or love on their behalf. It is a feeling of being loved and appreciated by me, and to feel valued and needed. This is also a solid reminder to us both that we’re never alone.
Our mutual dependence is crucial.
For me, it is an ongoing practice to remind myself of this. It’s also a practice to remind myself that I have been cared for far more often than I’ve been hurt. It is important to remember that those who hurt me and left me with their burdens were not my responsibility. And that every time I do ask for help, like in my doctor’s office, and receive it wholeheartedly, I am able to keep myself filled and balanced to be able to help the people I care about even more.
My doctor confirmed my identity and I let out a deep breath. While I knew that it was safe to allow her in, I still choked on my tears. My challenge was validated by her, which felt like comfort. I also needed the additional oxygen from her support. Although I didn’t know how important support was, it made it much easier to do so.
We are encouraged as humans to give. But it is just as important to be able to accept. To feel the love that we long for, we need to have both. Giving is powerful, but receiving can be a bit vulnerable. That’s okay. You will get more help the more you have courage to ask.
Ask yourself why you feel resistant to getting help. Do you have a past or current fear? Do you feel uneasy about vulnerability? Are you afraid of being judged, or do you feel like you are a burden? Or do you feel it’s hard for you to let your guard down and trust another?
When resistance lingers, choose people who’ve been loyal and consistently supportive in the past. If you don’t have any relationships like that, or if involving your personal relationships feels too uncomfortable, consider professional support. If money is a problem, there are many affordable or even free resources.
It is important to recognize that you too deserve a safe place where you can be yourself and to allow others to help you when you need it. You can let go of all your worries and carry more weight. You will have the power to support others as well as yourself.
When feeling weighed Down, ask for help—whatever that looks or feels like for you. The past may have taught you what you don’t want, but you have the power to choose what you do The present is all you need. You can count on people who are trustworthy and willing to help you. These people are just waiting to be asked.
You can let them in, so go ahead. This wild and unpredictable life is not for one person. Not even you.
Lynn Reilly is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Master Energy Therapist and Author of the self help book, 30 Days to Me and the children’s book, The Secret to Beating the Dragon. You can subscribe to her blog and listen to her podcasts on livingwithserendipity.com as well as follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
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