Shifting From Guilt to Gratitude

By Madilynn BrothersJanuary 8, 2024

I don’t know how to accept help. I never have. My face twists outwardly at the offer of having someone’s hand to hold. I’ve always been this way, not knowing how to accept compliments, not knowing how to accept the fact that there are actually people who care about me.

Because here’s the thing—on the outside, I’ve made it look like I’m the person who doesn’t need anything. I’m the person who has it all together. I’ve worked tirelessly to build up this facade, brick by brick.

There has always been a disconnect between the longing I have for a deeper connection and the action it requires to make that connection. When you’re hurting, you desperately want someone to see you. But it’s nearly impossible for someone to see your pain when all you’ve ever known is how to “hold your own.”

I think somewhere along the way I inadvertently convinced myself that I didn’t need anyone.

It was after the times I reached out as a young teenager for my self-harming tendencies and was scrutinized. It was after the multiple days inside of a psych ward I spent waiting for the phone to ring and hearing nothing, and then eventually giving up hope that they would call me. It was after repeatedly being told, whether through words or actions, that I was the only one I could ever count on.

I know it wasn’t my fault, but I still blame myself for not having the willpower to fight against my circumstances. For not having the strength to see beyond the hurt, that it wasn’t that I was unlovable. It was only that the people around me weren’t capable of giving me what I needed. They weren’t capable of loving me the way I needed to be loved.

But I always felt guilty. I hurt myself daily for years. I thought I deserved every red line that I made on my skin. I thought I didn’t deserve to get better, and would subconsciously sabotage my progress when I started making strides in therapy. My walls were continuously built higher and higher, to the point that it hurt more to break them down than to keep them standing.

I don’t know how to react when I hear the words “I’ve been thinking about you” or “I’m here if you need anything” or “I’m worried about you.”

I don’t know how to sit with the feeling that overwhelms me when I look into someone’s eyes and can tell that they truly care about me. Pushing people away is all I’ve ever known how to do.

I desperately want to lean into their gentle touch without going into fight or flight. I desperately want to speak my mind to someone, and I desperately want to have someone understand who I really am, and what my mind is actually like.

At the present moment, I am on the brink of one of the toughest things I have ever endured—an undiagnosed neurological condition. Accepting help at this point in my life is inevitable. I can’t drive myself to the store, sometimes I can’t hold my own drink, and I find myself needing to lean on people. Literally and figuratively.

It wasn’t until I heard the words “I don’t mind worrying about you” from someone I had come to trust and feel safe with, that I unraveled. The guilt I had felt my entire life, the crushing feeling that I was always a burden to everyone, started to dissipate.

Because I realized that, yes, I’ve gotten through some of the toughest moments of my life completely alone, but I don’t need to.

People care if you would just let them in. 

It’s not easy shifting from saying, “I’m sorry for burdening you with this” to “Thank you for helping me carry this.” But it makes all the difference.

Ask for help. Someone will listen.

People need other people. You are not weak for wanting or needing support. If you’re seeking professional help, we encourage you to use TWLOHA’s FIND HELP Tool. If you reside outside of the US, please browse our growing International Resources database. You can also text TWLOHA to 741741 to be connected for free, 24/7 to a trained Crisis Text Line counselor. If it’s encouragement or a listening ear that you need, email our team at [email protected]

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Comments (7)

  1. Allison

    I know how big this was for you- and I am so, so, so proud of you!! Love you so much!! And I am always here for you whenever you need anything.

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  2. Cindy

    This resonates so much with me. I’m at the point that I’m willing to accept that I would like to be seen and understood.and.cared about. I’m trying to get to the point where I can even admit this to my therapist. I’m hoping I will eventually get to the point where I’m willing to accept it. Thank you for sharing this part of your life, I feel less alone.

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  3. Cami

    It was fortunate that I found this email in my box yesterday, just at a time when I don’t know where to turn or what to do for my daughter. But I did right away send her your words about shifting thoughts from being a burden to feeling thankful. Maybe it helped me more than it helped her, but it gave me some hope at a time when it all seems hopeless. Thank you for sharing!

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  4. Diane

    Thank you for expressing your emotions so honestly and true. I personally have been afraid to ask for help. I think my son tried to carry to much so he wouldn’t be a burden. We all are afraid of asking and being rejected. It is, however, worse to be alone than it is being vulenerable and asking for friendship. May you alway feel the comfort of friends as you work through your health issues. Wishing you much health and success.

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  5. Stephanie Jacobs

    Thank you for helping me carry this… I like it. It’s a beautiful way to put the old sentence we were using for so long. If we could just change our old thoughts and resolve our past traumas, life opens up to us in a way we can control. A happier, more peaceful future. With US in the drivers seat.

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  6. Michell

    This feels so unbelievably relatable for me. I self harmed and was in more than one abusive relationship as a teenager because I literally was always the kid that no one thought needed help I got good grades, stayed outta trouble, did chores around the house, etc. Anytime I tried to say something about needing help for mental health issues I was told I was being dramatic or trying to get attention and it wasn’t that bad. I believed for years that it was a thousand percent my fault because I could never actually communicate any important details of why I needed help. I was just deemed as being overly sensitive and at 18 was put on an antidepressant at my mom’s request to help me be less emotional. We never as a family discussed or acknowledged the various forms of abuse we endured or the mental health issues we seemed to pass along to the next generation. It wasn’t until years after my grandmother’s death that I actually learned that she was on medication for being depressed and the several car wrecks she was in when I was a child were actually suicide attempts. It has always been the whole we tried and it wasn’t that bad others have it way worse. I’m now into my 30s and finally in therapy trying to undo the years of damage and unlearn that it’s ok not to do everything on your own. My physical health has declined and required many changes to my life and seeking accommodation for something physical has gotten me to the point of realizing that it can be the same for mental health.

    Reply  |  
  7. Natalie

    Thank you for this. <3

    Reply  |  
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