One of the hardest things for me to do is ask for help. I even have a hard time accepting it when it’s offered. This is especially true when it’s related to my mental health.
It’s really silly when you think about it. If I sprained a wrist or became very ill, I wouldn’t have a problem going to the doctor or asking my husband to pick up more of the household chores.
But when it comes to my mental health, it’s different. I don’t feel like I can ask for help on a day when I’m feeling really depressed or anxious. I think it’s because I can still physically do things around the house, despite feeling exhausted, or whatever other symptoms I’m feeling.
You can’t see depression the way you can see on an x-ray that a bone is broken. Anxiety isn’t detectable like a cold or pneumonia is, just by listening to a patient’s lungs.
For the longest time, before finally seeing my doctor about my mental health, I felt it would be stupid to go in for something that I should have control over. I would be taking up a time slot that my doctor could be using to see someone who is actually hurt or sick. And even though I have now seen my doctor about my mental health, and am taking medications. I still wouldn’t want to go in if I was having a bad week. I wouldn’t want to take up my doctor’s time. I have regularly scheduled follow-ups, so that’s good enough.
Meanwhile, if I was going in for regular checkups for an injury, I can totally see myself making an appointment in between checkups if I was having more pain than normal.
Feeling like a burden on your friends or family is a big reason why a lot of people don’t ask for help with their mental illness. I can think of a reason for each person I’m close to, why I shouldn’t bother them with my problems. They are stressed with work, just had a baby, having relationship issues, or have been sick. Logically, I know that if I called up my best friend and said I’m in trouble and need her right now, she would be there for me. I know I can ask my husband to stop whatever he is doing so I can talk to him, and he would. I would also do the same for them.
Maybe part of the reason is that there is nothing or no one to blame. If I have a bad cold and need my husband to do more around the house, it’s because someone gave me a cold. If I trip on an uneven sidewalk and break my ankle, it’s an accident with an explanation of how it happened that I can tell my doctor.
There is no one to blame for my depression but myself. My anxiety doesn’t come from anyone but me. So what right do I have to ask for help?
Another reason I and many others have a hard time asking for help is that we have asked for help before, and it didn’t go so well. People mean well, I’m sure, but if they don’t fully understand what you’re dealing with, the advice they give is sometimes not helpful at all. “Think positive!” or “just don’t worry about it!” are common things people will say, but it’s just not that simple.
When people do try to help you and they aren’t successful, it can be frustrating for them. There isn’t a quick fix to any mental illness, so when they don’t get the satisfaction of seeing you “all better,” it can leave you feeling worse for bothering them.
In a depressive episode, many of us will stay convinced by the voice in our head saying that there’s no one who can help you, or who wants to help you. But this voice isn’t real.
This voice is my depression speaking. It’s from an illness that warps the reality I experience to make me feel weak and helpless. It leads me to believe that I am a burden on anyone I ask for help from.
So here is my reminder to myself and all others who feel the same way:
Nobody in the world will judge you as harshly as you judge yourself. Nobody sees you through your warped reality. And everybody needs help sometimes.
Asking for help is hard, but it is so important, and you deserve to have it. I know you’re worried about the reactions, about bothering people, and about being judged. If someone is too busy, or can’t help, try someone else. You will find someone willing to help, whether it’s a loved one or a medical professional. And as for worrying about being judged, well, you’re already doing it to yourself, worse than anyone else could.