It’s Not Enough to Want Help

I wrote about how difficult it is to ask for help recently, so this may be a bit repetitive, but this is my blog and I’ll write what I please.

The teenager in me hasn’t completely gone.

We beat it into people’s heads endlessly that they should get help and that it’s okay to ask for it. Heck, we even make them feel badly for not being more active about finding an outlet.

Before I moved to a new state, I was able not only to call friends for support, but there were several nearby whom I had known for years and could hang out or stay with for the night. I almost always left with a drastically improved mood and the strength I needed to get me through the next few days. I wasn’t solely dependent on friends for my mental well-being, but environment matters, and grad school isn’t exactly Chuck E. Cheese’s for grown-ups (if you’re wondering, that’s Dave and Buster’s).

Grad school was hard, but during that time I knew which of my friends I could cry to, which friends would always leave me laughing, and which friends would be happy to engage casually to distract me from my current state- we could talk about Carolina basketball (although that’s often a big stressor on its own), our recent baking fails, how much we hate the never-ending Olivia/Fitz drama. You get the idea.

Geography was never my thing, so moving just 3 states up and 1 to the left felt like I was leaving the planet. I can call people “back home” now, sure, but there’s just something different about physically surrounding yourself with people who know and understand details of your situation that, sometimes, you just don’t have the energy to repeatedly explain. Even having just one other person in the room who really “gets it” and has a decent amount of detail can be a source of relief.

So, it became difficult to reach out for help. To find someone I could get to know in person. And who could get to know me.

My anxiety is urging me to take a break here and point out that I in no way take my friends for granted, nor do I think that they exist just to be there for me whenever I need them. My friends and I understand that we love each other and will always be there for one another. That includes being understanding when the other is busy and doesn’t reach out to us for a while. We’ve done, I think, a pretty good job of trying to understand each others’ feelings, current life events, and the way that we each respond to stress and change. That goes for friends home in North Carolina, as well as the wonderful people I’ve met here, in Southern Indiana.

Back to reaching out for help. It isn’t enough to realize that something is wrong and that you might want a lending ear. You have to take that first step and ask for that active listening, advice, or whatever it is that you need. You have to know how to find help.

I’m not talking about the need for more qualified professionals who can aptly help their clients deal with specific problems (there is a huge need for that too, but that’s an issue for another post). I’m just talking about having someone in your corner who you see on a semi-regular basis and who might be able to handle what you need to say. A friend.

Finding the right people to talk to takes a lot of trial and error, and that can be scary. So many of us who go through painful experiences already feel like we’re a burden to other people. And seeking help multiple times from the SAME person is terrifying. It’s like the emotional version of overstaying your welcome.

On the other hand, the best feeling in the world is when you find someone who understands you and who you feel like you could speak with again if you needed to. Then the reality hits- there’s a quota. And you don’t know how soon you’ll reach it.

People insist that they’ll always be there for you. I have never, and will never, question that intention. Every person who has ever told me that has meant it. I’ve meant it when I’ve said it to them. But everyone has their limits. We have our own lives, our own issues to deal with, and it’s just not possible to be there for someone else all the time, in exactly the way that they need. That’s why we have professionals, support groups, and other coping mechanisms…not to replace the time spent with loved ones, but to supplement when we can’t have those experiences.

If you’re struggling, be careful who you trust with personal information, but also be brave. That’s what it takes to get help. Persistent, painful, bravery.

Many times, I’ve had to venture way, way outside my comfort zone to send that first text, press dial, or walk up to a friend and ask them if they have time to talk. It never really seems to get easier. Even the people I’ve known for years and have a relationship with outside of all of…this- I still don’t yet know how to transition from “hey, how’s your day going” to “I’m struggling”…other than just to say it.

If you’re reading this and have people in your life who you care about, take a second and shoot them a message. Even if you don’t know for sure that they’re struggling with something, check in on them anyways. If you’re already talking to them, pause and let them know that you care.

Even if you don’t know them very well. Even if they’ve hurt you in the past.

All you have to do is ask how they’re doing. Or, just wish them well. Maybe let them know that you’re thinking of them.

It’s that simple.

You could save a life.

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