In terms of my mental health, there have been 3 instances where I've struggled so much that I've needed to reach out for help from a professional:
- Once for depression in my final year of university.
- Twice for OCD, the most recent time being last year.
Asking for help on these different occasions proved to be a difficult task. Not because of other people making things difficult for me or because I felt judged, discriminated against or laughed at, it was because I was judging myself. I beat myself up and told myself I was a failure. I had been in charge of my own mental health and now I had lost this control. I felt embarrassed. Ashamed. Guilty.
In society, asking for help can often be associated with being weak, of not being able to manage ourselves and even giving up. And this isn't just the case with mental health, the same "rules" can apply in any situation. For example, starting a new job and having to ask for help; you don't know where the toilets are or how to work the photocopier (true story). I know that when I am in these sorts of situations I feel embarrassed and like I'm in the spotlight, people sitting at their desks, eavesdropping, rolling their eyes and whispering to one another: "Can't she figure that out herself?" My fear of asking for help all comes down to the fear of being judged and not living up to other people's expectations. The worst case of all being not living up to my own high expectations.
I often blame OCD for my need to ask for help. I tell myself it's a symptom and that it's embarrassingly obvious. Every time I ask for help, I pity myself and so wait for others to do the same. And this is mostly because when I have told people I have OCD, I assume that they are joining me in this blame game. Reassurance seeking is a "symptom" of OCD and I automatically presume that the people I am asking for help from think I am just behaving in this classic way. This feeds into the vicious loop of feeling ashamed for needing to ask for help and blaming my OCD for making me do it. And so, it goes round and round and round and round...
Recently I've been easing up on myself, especially as a trainee counsellor still in the very early stages of my career where asking for help is both incredibly useful and absolutely essential.
We should allow ourselves the acceptance to ask for help when we need it. Sometimes we don't have all the answers. Sometimes we need more support than we normally do and that's ok. Finding the courage to ask for help is a brave and admirable thing to do, especially if it is to do with our mental health. To find a voice, approach someone and say: "I'm struggling, can I have your help please?" shows that we are strong, not weak. We know when something is up and that the most important thing we can do in that moment is to tell someone.
We are not weak for asking for help. Asking for help, reaching out, identifying that there is something not quite right is the sign of an incredibly strong person if you ask me. Despite our own judgement. Despite our shame. Guilt. Embarrassment. Despite our view that we are being feeble. Weak. We rise above this and we ask for that help anyway.
We know we deserve it.