I need help

Asking for help is an act of bravery. Of this I am convinced. Asking for help makes me exposed. Vulnerable. At the mercy of another. Its uncomfortable. An unwelcome feeling that I shy away from. I just don’t like the way it feels, so wherever possible I’ll avoid doing it. Avoid opening myself up to the potential hurt or disappointment if the help that you hope for doesn’t materialise. This has caused me to hang on to a flawed notion that self sufficiency is a virtue of sorts, something to be applauded. Which it isn’t.

I’d never given a great deal of thought to be honest, which is a little short sighted given that I’ve worked in a ‘helping’ profession for over a decade. But there it is. Maybe that’s a sign of how much I don’t like doing it.

This TED talk, however, made me think about it. And think about it differently.

As something brave, daring, positive with the potential for amazing results. Another moment (and there’s been a lot of those lately!) when my world view has been a bit more turned on its head. Because up until now, in my mind, I have only got as far as thinking what a difficult process asking for help can be.

I will never forget myself as a new mother, feeling exhausted, wretched and desperate, and being visited by the Health Visitor (back in the days when that used to happen). And she asked me how I was. And I nearly told her. I nearly spewed out how shocked, frightened and utterly overwhelmed I was by this little person I had created. But I didn’t do that.

I still remember the moment. The gross understatement that came out of my mouth, in spite of my inner turmoil.  How I squeaked that motherhood was a “little harder” than I had expected, was “quite tiring” (ha ha) but that I was basically “ok”. Which was BS on a huge scale. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t let myself “be seen”, couldn’t reach out, because in my fragile state, the odds felt too high. The messages around me were about how happy I should be, how, despite the fact that I was traumatised by my baby’s difficult birth, I should be grateful (which I was) that he was strong, huge and healthy, when there had been a real possibility that it could all have gone horribly wrong.

The risks felt too great in that moment. What if the help I needed wasn’t forthcoming? What if it made me feel worse? What if I was seen for the person soup that I was? And so I didn’t. I said I was fine. And in time, I was fine. But I imagine at some cost to myself – to my experience of new motherhood.

And then I get to thinking about the times I have asked for help since becoming a parent. When I’ve been brave enough to say I need help, that I haven’t got all the answers and can’t do this by myself or be self sufficient any more. And I see my husband’s flexible work-life that makes it possible for him to be much more present in our family life, the pleasure my dad took in having a regular role in the lives of his grandkids during my commuting days, the wonderful “mother’s help” who made family life possible when baby number 3 officially “outnumbered” us.

And then I get it. I get why its good, not weak, to ask for the help you need, to take the risk, to put yourself out there. Because, hard as it can be, the results can be special, powerful, affirming.

I’d love to hear your experiences with asking for help. What does it feel like? What makes you hold back from doing it?

4 thoughts on “I need help

  1. This resonates on a huge scale with me. I find asking for help excruciating. But eventually motherhood taught me (kicking and screaming) that I’m not an island, and I’d better bloody learn how to reach out! And that building community amongst other parents, and helping each other out, is a wonderful feeling. The gratitude I have felt when my neighbour did the school run when I have been so sick I couldn’t manage it, or other friends not standing in judgement when I have been clearly not coping, and allowed that vulnerability to show.

    I still have some twisted innate feeling that I should be able to do everything by myself, but clearly I can’t. Actually it has been times of ill-health that finally humbled me into asking for help. There are times you simply can’t physically juggle the plates, and need extra hands to stop them smashing everywhere. This is not to say I am now a jedi master of it. I still will always opt for not asking for help, if that is an option. I have some warped sense of ‘owing’ people, and in a world where I often feel that I’ve given out more energy than I have, the thought of ‘owing’ people time and favours is sometimes more stressful than just struggling through and doing things myself.

    But community is key here. I think we’re trying to recreate it in our own little enclaves of parenthood, and it’s great! This is one of the great gifts of motherhood that would have no doubt otherwise always been anathema to me.

    • Yes!I think you’re so right about the value of having a community to call on. I’ve been doing it this week. I think it’s so important to have people who you have a reciprocal helping relationship with. It’s beyond valuable. But asking for help takes practice and sometimes a deep breath to get brave before you do it. Love your comment. Glad it resonated. 🙂

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