I saw this picture/statement on a facebook post from an organization that works with families and individuals facing challenges of mental illness. Often, we read these simple statements, smile and say, “Oh, isn’t that sweet,” without really thinking about the message. What I read in this statement is, “Suffer in silence, don’t ask for help, and God forbid, don’t tell anyone!”
I was raised with that philosophy. Tears and fears indicated lack of faith in God. Accepting help was a sign of weakness and asking for help was a sign of a failure. Accepting help made you a slave to the one who gave the help. In my family, there were definitely strings attached to accepting help and in some cases ropes or chains.
Fighting battles no one knows about was a way of life as a child. I learned to cry in private or not cry at all. I learned that God didn’t like little girls who were afraid. Adults who abuse children make sure the children don’t tell anyone or ask for help. Depression, anxiety, fear were all from the devil, so there was no help other than perfect obedience and faith. Seeking mental health help was admitting that your faith was weak.
I grew up strong…according to the definition in the quote here. I learned to always put myself last. I almost died because I was so strong. I was 35 years old before I learned to ask for help. Walking into a room of people when you are disheveled, hung over, and smelling like alcohol (not because you were drinking right then, but the smell coming from your pores and breath), and looking at people through squinted red eyes makes it difficult not to ask for help. Yet, I didn’t ask for help or want help from anyone. A wonderful therapist and 12 step programs taught me to ask and accept help. I am 62 now and still find asking or accepting help a challenge.
I also know that friends and family who love and care about you want to help. It gives them joy and pleasure. When I offer help to someone, I get so much from the experience. At the same time, when I offer help to someone and they refuse it, I feel as if they don’t trust me or feel connected enough to accept what I offer. When I don’t ask for help or refuse to accept help, I do that same thing to others.
PAUSE…I was going to go into a rather lengthy theological and philosophical discussion, however, I think I will leave that to the philosophers and preachers.
The past year has put me in a place where I have needed help. At times, I reached out and asked for it and in other cases, it was offered without petition. It is still a challenge to admit that I need help sometimes. Pride and ego are powerful adversaries. I am a work in progress. I do not want to “smile through the pain, cry all alone, and fight in silence.” I don’t want to be “strong” any more.