I took a course from a life coach several years ago, and one of the weekly lessons was “Learning to Trust Others”. Among the activities that week was “Asking Someone for Help” with something you needed. I have to admit, this was one of the hardest activities of the entire course for me.
After being raised by independent, Republican, “we-don’t-need-anyone’s handouts” parents, the concept of asking for help seemed foreign to me. Especially as a teenager after watching my recently widowed mother shun offers for help numerous times. Eventually people quit offering.
Is this because she really *didn’t* need help? Because those 8 kids under the age of 18 were super duper easy to raise all on her own? Because she *could* Do It All Herself? That she was getting by quite beautifully, thank you? Heavens no. She could have used the help. The companionship of friends to talk to. The convenience of having someone else run errands and get groceries so she could spend more time comforting her children in their time of grief. The reliance on having other male family members step in to mentor young children suddenly growing up without a father. But she didn’t. Because you don’t ask for help when you can – feasibly, whatever the internal and emotional struggle – Do It Yourself.
Now, I don’t blame my mother. She was only operating on autopilot, the only way she knew how and believed to be the mature thing to do. Asking for help meant revealing her own vulnerabilities and perhaps having to be “beholden” to another person. She had lost her parents young as well, and there was no one there to help her cope with those losses then; why on earth would she need anyone to help her through her loss now?
As an adult, I vowed that I would not follow that same path. I would ask for help if I needed it. And especially after dealing with debilitating rounds of depression that left me hospitalized, it was a fact that I needed help in order to get better. So I enlisted my husband, my friends, and my sisters to be my Help Squad. And, by the grace of God, I have gotten through those episodes, not quite unscathed, but certainly wiser and more in control of my diagnoses. Without their help I would, most certainly, no longer be alive.
I am doing much better these days. But I still have little hiccups. And I need to ask for help. I need help with the kids so they don’t overwhelm me with their needs. I need help with the housework so I can focus on my own needs. I need help from someone who will listen to me free from judgment. And I find it very, very, difficult to ask for help in those times. Because I should be capable. Because I am not a danger to myself or others at this point, just feeling a little stressed and down. Because I *should* be able to Do It All Myself. Because I don’t want to be a burden.
Sensing a hereditary pattern here?
Deep breath. I remind myself of that and make a plan. Number one: Call Hubby and ask to have an afternoon “off”, where I can go sit at a coffee house and read a book. Number two: Call my good friend just to chat. Number three: Pay another friend’s school-age daughter to come in for a few hours to act as Mother’s Helper so I can get some chores done.
See? I can ask for help. There is no shame in needing the assistance of others sometimes. It doesn’t automatically mean you are “taking advantage” of anyone’s generosity or are willing to lazily accept “handouts” from hard-working individuals. It means you are taking care of yourself. And by taking care of yourself, it means you are better able to take care of others.
Who might, in turn, need your help some day.