We have all been through a lot this past year and a half. There have been a lot of unknowns. A lot of isolation. A lot of wondering what is going to happen next. I think we have all had new challenges to face and obstacles to overcome and in turn days where we have felt like everything is under control and then days where we have felt completely overwhelmed with how much is not in our control.
I started this blog with every intention of it being a positive, encouraging, and motivating space and I hope for the most part it has been! As it has evolved though, I have realized that what is even more important to me than being positive all the time is being real and transparent. I don’t think I would be doing my journey justice if I only ever talked about my wins and accomplishments because let’s face it, real life isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. It is comprised of ups and downs, wins and losses and while the wins are fun and exciting to share with you all, I think the struggles and hard times have so much to offer in terms of learning and growing that I would be remiss if I didn’t also share those experiences.
The past couple of months for me have been challenging. I won’t go into specifics mostly because it is nothing crazy or really out of the ordinary. I have just been facing some life changes and tough decisions that honestly most people probably end up face once or twice in a lifetime as well. While I thought I was managing it all pretty well, turns out I wasn’t doing such a great job of it after all. About a month ago life caught up to me, my ulcerative colitis flared up, my anxiety hit me like a ton of bricks, and I was forced to take a step back and acknowledge I wasn’t ok after all.
If you have been following my blog for a little bit you know that about three years ago, I decided to change my life, get healthy and take back control. I started doing at-home workouts, eating much healthier than I had been, and being proactive instead of reactive about my mental health. The extra weight that I had gained soon came off, I was able to stop taking the anxiety medication I had been on and off of for years and hadn’t had a UC flare-up in over three years which is the longest time I had gone between flare-ups since I was diagnosed. In short, I was happier and healthier than I had been in years!
Unfortunately, last month, that winning streak ended abruptly. While I haven’t let up on consistently doing the at-home workouts I still love so much and am still eating healthily, drinking plenty of water, and getting enough sleep, the stress that was building up over the past several months overtook even my best efforts to power through and forced me to stop and deal with what was going on in my life and my head.
Y’all, I crashed and burned hard. I have since jumped back on the steroids to help my UC go back into remission and renewed my prescription for anxiety medication to get my mind and body right and through this little rough patch. But even more importantly, I forced myself to open up, admit I was in over my head, and finally asked for help.
As I am starting to come out the other side of this little road bump in my life, I have been thinking about how I let myself get to the point I did and why when I finally did realize I needed some help was I so apprehensive about opening up and asking for it? Here are a few realizations I came to from this recent self-reflection…hope they help!
Why is asking for help sometimes so uncomfortable?
- There is a fear of being seen as “less than”. This is a very big and very real fear of mine, no matter how many times I go to the same, very accepting and sympathetic people in my life when I am struggling. I know that it is hard for anyone who doesn’t suffer from anxiety or any other mental health issue for that matter to understand what it is really like. I know because I get the questions, and the raised eyebrows, and the confused looks even from those people who are very open-minded, eager to help, and supportive of me no matter what I tell them. Before, during, and even after the conversations I have with them, no matter how much better I feel there is always a small part of me that wonders and even worries a bit that they won’t be able to help but judge me even just a little. Do they see me as a weaker person? Do they not understand why I just can’t stop worrying? Does me being open and honest about my struggles change how they see me at all? This leads me to the next point about why it is sometimes so hard to open up and ask for help…
- It involves letting our guard down. I like to think that I am a strong person. A person who can handle adversity, who has it all figured out. A person who doesn’t need to cry or wallow in self-pity or go to other people to get me through rough patches in my own life. Feeling overwhelmed and like you can’t control what is going on around you and even worse what is going on in your own head is one of the toughest things to deal with, let alone admit to out loud to another person. But real growth and healing starts when we are vulnerable enough to open up and admit we are not ok. For me, this is particularly hard because I sometimes feel like if I keep everything to myself and try to fix it all on my own I can retain some level of control over what is happening. What I have realized over the years, however, is that feeling is really a false sense of control. There is no reason in the world to have to be strong every second of every day. It is ok not to be ok all the time.
- It might feel like we are complaining. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t recognize how lucky I am to have the life I do and feel grateful for all the wonderful people I have been blessed with. So, for me, when things don’t go exactly right or I have obstacles put in front of me, I almost feel ashamed to complain about them or even bring them up because in the grand scheme of the very big universe we all live in my problems really aren’t that serious. The last thing I want to do is feel foolish about struggling with problems that someone else might view as minuscule or unimportant. I tend to also worry that people will think “Why is this even a thing for her? She should just suck it up and deal with it like everyone else has to”. But the truth is, if you are struggling with anything at all, big or small, all that matters is you are struggling. Put aside your preconceived notions about how someone might react or feel about what you have to say and ask for the help you need.
What can make asking for help easier?
- Find the person or people you feel the most comfortable with to go to first. For me, my best friend usually can tell when I need support even before I know it. I am beyond lucky to have someone like this in my life, but I also know there are a handful of other people I feel comfortable opening up to when things get really tough. Oftentimes, it makes a big difference just to finally be able to tell someone that I am not ok and have them reassure me that things will get better and that no matter what they will be there for me through it all. Sometimes just speaking my issues out loud somehow to one of these people diminishes the hold the problems have over me. It is almost as if now that I have acknowledged it, gotten it out in the open and someone else knows what is going on I have a partner in the fight, and the power shifts more in my favor.
- Put your pride aside. Don’t worry so much about what other people think…because believe it or not, everyone struggles at some point in their lives no matter how it may appear from the outside. I know this one is sometimes easier said than done but, in my experience, people are far less judgmental if they are even at all, than I think they will be. Every time I have needed to open up to one of my “safe” people there is still a small part of me that feels ashamed that I even need to do so and cringe a bit right before I make the call or have the conversation. I like to be the person that other people come to for support, not the one needing to reach out for the help myself. It is always hard for me to be vulnerable and admit when I am not feeling as strong on the inside as I am projecting to be on the outside but the feeling of support and reassurance I get after I am open and honest about it is far more important to me than hanging on to the pride that is standing in the way.
- Shift your thinking regarding how people feel about being approached for help. If you put yourself in the place of being on the receiving end of a request for help, how do you honestly feel? I know that every time either a friend or family member had the courage to reach out to me when they have been going through something I have been more than open to doing whatever I could to be there for them. I think all too often we get it in our minds that we will be burdening a friend or loved one if we unload on them. In reality, though, I think most people want to help if they can. I know I never feel burdened or put out when someone I care about asks for a helping hand. To be honest, I feel honored that that person thought enough of me to ask in the first place. I also recognize how hard it probably was to come to me and open up which only makes me want to help in any way and as much as I possibly can.
Asking for help Is not a sign of weakness, rather a sign that first, you are human, and second you are smart enough to know when relying on someone else’s strength, knowledge and life experience might help you get through something that would otherwise be difficult to go through alone. It is a sure sign of not only strength but also of a high level of self-awareness that should be seen and thought of as courageous and commendable rather than shameful or something to be looked down on. Talking to my loved ones and asking for their advice and help through the difficult time I just went through made all the difference in the world to me. I gained the support system I needed to get myself on track to healing and feeling better. If you are struggling, going through something that is becoming too much to handle on your own, or just feel like someone who isn’t directly involved in your situation might have a more objective idea of how to handle it, put your pride aside, and reach out. You may find you end up not only getting the help you need but also forming even closer, more meaningful relationships with those you chosen to open up to!