“You are never strong enough that you don’t need help.”
~ César Chávez
I had a long chat with a close friend yesterday. She’s been struggling for a while – I’ve heard it in her voice, I’ve seen it in the way her usual happy disposition had given way to a furrowed brow, a tight smile, and an inability to laugh things off the way she once had. I’ve felt it in her energy.
Are you okay? I’d been asking her this year.
Yep, she’d say, shutting down the conversation. Or ‘just a bit tired’ she’d say, before moving us on to talk about something else.
She was doing all the right things – exercising, eating a great diet, getting time out for herself. But at the same time she was spiralling down into a very flat place, where every day was an effort, a place where all the joy had been sucked out of life. Each day was just another day to endure. My friend was shrinking; becoming less visible in her life, and with her friends, and becoming less and less emotionally available to the people who loved her. She didn’t have the creative drive, or the enthusiasm, or the innovative and problem-solving ideas that were a normal part of her disposition. My friend was less like herself each day.
Her life is not so different to many. She has a family member who is in need of extra attention right now. She rarely gets an unbroken night’s sleep, and hasn’t had a decent break for a long time. They have financial pressures, and their household is dealing with changed circumstances. As well as all of life’s usual stress.
Having continuously elevated levels of stress hormones is never good. They rob us of sleep and mood enhancing hormones. They diminish our libido, paint every day grey and leave us as exhausted, miserable shells of ourselves. Our digestion becomes compromised, and our immune systems. It becomes impossible to feel happy, because we lack certain hormones and chemicals that allow us to relax and operate in our usual way.
Some of us can bring ourselves back with meditation, diet, and lifestyle changes. Sometimes a therapist or support services can help. But my friend was doing all of that, and she couldn’t just hand back her family, or walk away from her life. Changing her current circumstances is not an option.
My friend found herself looking forward to that glass of wine each night. In fact she was beginning to rely on that glass of wine. No, she didn’t have a drinking problem. But she had a sleep problem. An exhaustion problem. A ground-down by life problem. She was chronically over-tired, stressed and wired.
Crunch time came when she was at the doctor for something completely different, and the kind physician asked her how my friend was coping.
My friend burst into tears.
The doctor suggested a low-dose anti-depressant. My friend was so reluctant to say yes. But in the end, out of desperation and needing to try SOMETHING to help, she did.
And it HAS helped. Finally my friend has been able to sleep better, to unload some of the tension inside her, and to go from feeling cranky or numb to a place where there is some sunshine again.
We talked about it yesterday.
It was as if my friend had a terrible secret she needed to confess.
I was just grateful she had finally found something that was working, and that could help her cope better with her life right now.
Who would ever want their friend to suffer?
My friend summed it up so well. ‘I needed to do something to make life livable again,’ she said.
As a psychic, people ‘confess’ often to me that they are on medication for stress, or depression, or anxiety. For them it has often been a last resort, after they’d tried everything else and nothing had given them relief. They are all strong people. In that strength they’d often carried on for far too long without seeking help.
There is too often a shame, or an embarrassment with their ‘confession’. Some kind of stigma about how they may be perceived – because they weren’t ‘strong enough’ or because somehow they are flawed or weak compared to the rest of society.
They often feel that they need to get on and off the medication fast too. What if they become dependent? What if people find out?
Goodness. Why should mental health be different to any other kind of health? Some people take hormones to balance their thyroids, or to regulate ovulation. Some people take insulin to stabilise and regulate their blood sugar. Some people need blood transfusions or anti-virals or immuno-suppressants. No stigma there.
If you are stuck in a place where life isn’t working for you, you deserve to explore all of the options which could lead to a change in how you feel. Talking to someone can help. Changing your diet, exercising and using behaviour-based therapies can help. Changing your life circumstances might do the trick. And for some people, taking medications or supplements to help improve their brain chemistry and hormones works well too.
It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to seek solutions. It’s okay that one of those solutions may come in the form of a small pill which helps normalise your body’s functionality until you’re back in a place of being able to cope on your own.
You deserve to be well, to be happy and to be able to function in the world.
If you need to, ask for help.
Everybody needs help sometimes.
14 thoughts on “Seeking Help Is Not Failure”
Thank you for addressing this problem, for bringing to light that our own self-talk is often more caustic than what others will say. I have a nursing background and my husband is a pharmacist and we both advocate medication when exercise, dietary changes and support don’t seem to cut-it! We have to get over the stamina that HUMANS have given to supportive interventions that include medicine!
This is a great reminder. So often, there is so much shame in asking for help. Especially when it comes to mental health. I struggle with asking for help as I hate to appear weak, but as you said, there is not weakness in asking for help. It actually takes great strength to do so.
Another excellent post Nicole! It is also very timely. As mental health professionals, we are often confronted with the pressures placed on individuals during holiday seasons. Thank you for bringing it to our attention! Léa
Thank you for such a profound, honest and interesting post. xx
Why do we not realize that sickness of the mind is exactly the same as sickness of the body and can be treated …talking to someone is the first step to a cure .
Thank you Nicole. I have tried everything including the pills, and it hasn’t really helped. What helps me most is to talk to someone who cares to listen.
It takes strength to ask for help!
I just say— yes!
You say she said it to you like she was ashamed, that is exactly how it feels. Like a person has failed. Chemical imbalance in the brain cause all sorts of unwanted things, person can’t deal with cortisol – stress hormone etc. A pill is a way to get things to normal again, I don’t know why all of us have that shame but we do. I admit, I do. Even though I am at a place I am happy with my journey, i don’t tell. I shush and hush among people about topic that shouldn’t be hushed about at all. After all, I am living it, they are only hearing about it. But I guess that’s how it is now. We progressed as a society. We will even more… And I don’t even know from where it came the image of a person using medication like antidepressants like it’s fun, and doing it just because. I have never encountered a person who was on them with pride.
Good for your friend, and good luck to her, may she find stability and securitiy enough that she can dig her way out of this. <3
Reblogged this on Aging Abundantly | Women Over Fifty | Empty Nesters | Caregivers | Aging Gracefully and commented:
If you are suffering from excessive worry, sadness, despair, anxiety, sleeplessness, reach out for help. You do not need to suffer and as this article suggests,”seeking help is not a failure”.
Excellent article. Been down that road and have worked hard for the majority of my life to challenge stereotypes with regard to depression and other mental illnesses. Research is beginning to back up what many of us have known intuitively for years. Still, the stigma remains for many and often delays seeking treatment and also influencing the treatment given. Your friend was fortunate to have a physician who was sympathetic and paying attention. Many do not. Thanks for this post. I will be sharing it.
She is not alone! It’s almost impossible to explain to someone who has never felt this way how it feels. That only adds to the feeling of isolation. You can only be true to yourself in this situation. If you are empty there is nothing for anyone else (a very wise friend of mine once said ;))
Very well written and so true – Thanks Nicole
Reblogged this on Life of Sporky and commented:
I love this post! It’s so true – Seeking Help is not failure. I’m so glad you took the time to ask your friend if she was ok and took the time to listen to her concerns. It’s important to get the conversation started on Mental Health and in doing so, hopefully it’s one less person who suffers in silence. Thank you 😀