Why is it so hard to ask for help? And I’m not just talking about asking friends and family for favors and support. I mean actually going to a professional to ask for help working through emotional and psychological distress. Or even just asking for pharmacological aid in making it through a tough period.
I have friends who are seeing a therapist on a regular basis. I have friends who are or have been on antidepressants. I have friends who are or have been in support groups. I have been on anti-anxiety medications.
None of use volunteer that information easily. None of us discuss it openly. And none of us approached the decision to ask for help as an easy one.
A few months ago I had this conversation with a few friends, over a catch-up lunch.
One of my friends was just beginning the process of a divorce, ending her 15-year marriage. Though she was confident in her decision to proceed, she was having trouble sleeping and found herself having panic attacks whenever she stood still and thought about the future. A perfectly reasonable reaction, I thought.
Another friend asked her (as a continuation on a previous conversation) if sheâ€™d given any thought to going to her doctor to ask for some medication. And thus began a lively conversation on the merits of â€œgetting help.â€ At the end of it came out the real reason she was hesitatingâ€¦ her soon-to-be ex-husband told her that â€œonly crazy people did that.â€ And, ultimately, she didnâ€™t want to deal with that reaction from others. Because, truthfully, she believed it a little bit.
I guess we all believe that, just a little. Otherwise, I wouldnâ€™t be hesitating in asking my friends for the name of their therapists (because I know that I need to start seeing one). Otherwise, I wouldnâ€™t still be putting off going to my primary care physician and asking for some anti-anxiety medication (for the first time in over three years). Otherwise, I wouldnâ€™t be keeping my recent behavior so close to the vest.
And here I am, outing it for everyone to see. My little way of committing myself to addressing this crap.
To my friends I need to confess that Iâ€™ve been falling asleep on the couch, with all the lights on and the TV blaring. This happens almost every night. I havenâ€™t been to the gym in months. I havenâ€™t been working on my personal projects. Iâ€™ve been overspending and overeating. Iâ€™ve abandoned all my organizational/clean-up projects in my apartment. I havenâ€™t been keeping up with my friends. I havenâ€™t been going outâ€¦ almost at all. Iâ€™m exhausted, all the time. Iâ€™m distracted. I forget things, a lot.
Thereâ€™s family crap going on. Thereâ€™s economy crap affecting work, on top of the regular stress factors. Iâ€™m obsessing over my next birthday, and itâ€™s nine months away. Iâ€™m obsessing over where I am in my life and the goals I havenâ€™t reached and the road not travelled. Iâ€™m feeling my solitary life in a way I hadnâ€™t before.
And thatâ€™s just the stuff thatâ€™s made it to the front of my brain.
I havenâ€™t asked for help. I need to. I willâ€¦ probably.