How Being Strong Almost Destroyed Me

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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.

10 responses

  1. Asking for help can be one of the most difficult things a person can do … in fact, some find it nearly impossible. I especially liked what you said about “ropes and chains” and how seeking help for mental health treatment was “admitting that your faith was weak”. Even though we like to be independent, and strong, we can also be strong, and ask for help when needed.

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  2. Reblogged this on Ramblings of My BPD and Recovery and commented:
    Yes.

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  3. Amen, Cathy. I don’t like that quote, either. I envy people who cry easily.

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  4. Hi Cathy! I found your post via Hawkruh’s blog and read it with my breath held back. It makes me so sad – the pain that parents give to their children by making them believe they have to be “strong”. My ED works by the same logic. Unlike you, I wasn’t raised religiously, so asking for help wasn’t loaded with fear of God but only seemed like being a complete failure as a person, but still I needed many years to finally do. Thank you for sharing this! I wish you all the best, and I’m happy you can ask for help when you need it now.

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  5. Long ago I decided that if I were to give one sermon, it would be entitled “Asking for Help”, generously sprinkled with stories of people who did, or did not, do so and the outcomes. It would have both theological and humanistic discussions and some rather funny anecdotes about the power of prayer. If not too long, it would include a section about the power of both giving and receiving help gracefully. So, I’m with you, gal.

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  6. This is a powerful message! I am glad that you are a work in progress and that you don’t want to be “strong” anymore. Pain that is hidden reappears in all kinds of destructive ways.

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  7. St. Paul says that: “when I am weak, then I am strong”…relying on the Lord. I hear you! And agree!!!

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  8. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:
    SOMEONE WHO TRIES TO BE STRONG ALL THE TIME….IS AN IDIOT!—J.E.C.

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  9. I can relate to this particular blog entry quite a bit. Alcohol has not really been an issue with me, but I can understand it, have abused it enough times to understand what it can do. I was raised a Christian, raised to be strong (thankfully, though, by parents who understand about the strength in showing your weakness), married someone who has that same strong mentality in the way that wants to hide weakness (to the point where it has likely destroyed our relationship).

    Something you said, though, makes me want to say something to you — the best sermons are from the people in the pews, not the preacher. You seem to have a gift that God can use. Do not be afraid of that gift. This one I know also. My college degree is a preacher’s degree from a Bible college. I was a preacher at one point in my life. I listen a lot more when someone speaks who is not a preacher because their message comes from what they have experienced from the Gospel rather than the necessity to preach because it’s a job. I listen to preacher’s too, but relate to them less.

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  10. You talk a lot of sense and I hope that a lot of people (including myself!) can really learn from what you have been through and to where you have gotten now.

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