Why Is It So Hard For Us To Ask For Help?

So here’s the thing:

I’m struggling.

I’m not okay.

I don’t have all my shit together.

Recently I’ve been questioning wtf I’m doing every damn day and I’m carrying around this heavy sadness I just can’t shake off.

I know I look fine, great in fact. Like I’m doing amazing things. Like I’m this strong, successful, independent, confident, intelligent woman who is always so great at giving advice and being there for people, and better understanding herself. Who owns the fact she isn’t following a conventional path…

And those things aren’t necessarily false.

But what you don’t see is what’s underneath all that…

This horribly hidden part of me who worries about the silliest things, who feels so alone, who is exhausted of trying to continue to be all these things she and others seem to expect of her, but who HATES asking for help or being vulnerable, who actually really craves to have just one of those conventional life milestones but who then feels guilty for not appreciating what she does have, and who is embarrassed and terrified of expressing how she really feels to anyone close to her. Because, if she does, she’s not sure she’s going to be able to stop crying for a very long time.

It’s not any one thing.

It’s: not feeling at home in the place I live. Not having clarity on the ‘how’ to bring my ideas about what I want to get paid to do into reality. Not being able to date a guy for longer than three months before it disintegrates in front of my face. Not feeling connected to my parents since they told me I “was making myself ill and should really just snap out of it” when I was experiencing depression in January this year. Not being certain of anything.

I mean there’s a lot going on.

So why is it so fucking hard for me to ask my friends for help? (other than the crying, of course…)

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently — because I was able to ask for help more generally — in finding a therapist. And yet I still don’t feel I can be honest with the people in my life about what’s going on for me.

I think it’s because of (at least) two things:

  1. Who am I if I’m not the person giving the support and care?
    I’ve always been this person who gives and supports and listens. It’s become so closely entwined with my identity, I’m not sure I know who I am or what my value is if I’m not playing that role. And what happens to our relationship dynamic: will they reject me, or what will they think if I’m no longer fulfilling that role?
  2. I actually don’t know what I need
    I know I would like help, I know I don’t want to keep struggling. But I just don’t know what I do need. So how do I even begin to ask for help when I can’t even articulate what that might look like?

With therapy it’s different. My therapist is someone whose job it is to help me know what I need, and to help me reconnect with and understand my value within myself regardless of what I’m providing for others.

And that’s great. But it’s one hour a week. And unfortunately the sadness doesn’t have an off switch I can flick when I leave after that one hour a week.

I doubt I’m alone.

I know I speak to so many people who struggle to ask for help, to be vulnerable, to let people in.

But I think what I’m realising is: we need to — we need to ask for help. Not only for ourselves, but to give others permission to do the same. It’s where we can connect most deeply with ourselves and with others.

So I’m open to help in any form (because, well I’ve already said I’m not sure what I need) and I’d love to hear from you whether you can offer help, or just resonate with anything I’ve said.

Steph Slack