When it comes to asking other people for help, I am admittedly a little out of my element. For example: I got new license plates for my car this year, only to find the old one rusted and stuck to my car. I tried my best to change it myself with no luck, and then I spent six months avoiding it before finally asking someone for help. By this point, the rusted license plate stuck on my car was six months expired – a ticketable offense – and had I been stopped by a police officer, I am fairly certain the “it’s stuck” excuse wouldn’t have gotten me very far. When I finally did get around to asking for help, one friend gave me a tool to do it, two other friends helped me try and take care of it, and yet another gave me a different and more effective tool. When my license plate was finally replaced, no less than 5 people had been involved in the process.
It’s a funny story that will likely make my friends chuckle and roll their eyes, teasingly saying, “Typical!” But the reality is that it was only by luck that I didn’t get pulled over in those six months. Every time I drove my car during that time, I was putting myself at risk of a ticket, all because I didn’t want to ask for help. Unfortunately, this struggle carries over into my more personal difficulties in life, too. When I’m going through difficult times, when I’m struggling with my depression, it’s very hard for me to reach out and ask for the help I need.
“I don’t want to bother anyone or be a burden.”
“She has enough on her plate already.”
“He doesn’t have time for my problems.”
“They’re sick of helping me.”
“I don’t deserve help.”
“I can do this on my own.”
These thoughts cycle through my mind over and over, holding me back from reaching out, even in times of my greatest need. But the truth is that we aren’t meant to go through life alone. We’re stronger as a community and when we help each other out. Asking for help does not make us a burden or a bother. The truth is that people want to support you. Depression and anxiety will try to convince you that you don’t need or deserve help. The truth is that you deserve just as much love and care and support and help as anyone else.
A friend of mine often reminds me, “If you could do this on your own, you would have already.” If I’m honest, I have to admit it frustrates me when he says this, but not because he’s wrong. It frustrates me because I know he’s right, even when my pride won’t let me admit it.
I live with both depression and anxiety, and I am a sexual assault survivor. As I’ve dealt with these things, I’ve been learning how to open up and invite people into my support system. It’s not easy. I’m far better acquainted with the role of the supporter than the role of the supported. There have been many times when I’ve reached out to someone for support, only to push them away when they try to help.
But as I continue to learn how to accept this love and support, I’ve also been learning that just as these people invite me to support them in their lives, they want to support me in mine – not out of obligation or burden but out of love. I’ve also been learning the different forms that support and care can take. Some of the people in my circle of care surprised me, and some have filled roles I didn’t even know I needed. I have a friend who I know will drop everything and grab a cup of coffee with me any time I need to talk. An old professor of mine still emails me every once in a while to check in. My physician helps make sure I have access to the medications I need in order to effectively manage my mental health. Another friend proclaimed himself the one who tells me what I don’t want to (but need to) hear. Even though their roles are different, they are still all crucial parts of my support system, even when it takes me some time to work up the courage to reach out to them.
If you are struggling, I implore you to reach out. Ask for support. I know it can be hard, and I know it can be scary. But it’s worth it because you are worth it. Maybe it’s a hotline; maybe it’s an online crisis chat. Maybe it’s a text message to a friend; maybe it’s a phone call to a family member. Maybe it’s a conversation with a pastor, a teacher, a boss, or a mentor. Maybe it’s an appointment with a counselor or a doctor. Maybe it’s attending a support group. I invite you to find whatever option you feel most comfortable with and reach out. You do not need to struggle alone. There are people who love and care about you and are ready to walk through this journey with you.
Part of the vision for TWLOHA says, “You are not alone in the places you feel stuck.” I invite you to remind yourself of this and take a step – however small – towards the happy, healthy life you deserve. Ask someone to walk with you. Then ask some more people to walk with you. As you invite more people to join you on your journey, you’ll find that your steps get lighter. As people help you carry your struggle, your feet will drag less. It may never be “easy,” but it will get better. Because people need other people. Because we’re in this together. Because you are worth fighting for.
So take a deep breath and take that first step.