Awful. Awful, awful awful.
When I woke up this morning, I thought, hmm. Still anxious, but less. Maybe today will be ok.
Fast forward a few hours to lunchtime when two of my students walked in on me sobbing at my desk, and then a few hours later to me leaving work early, which is something I’ve never done before.
This journey is so hard. It is also rewarding, but that can be really hard to see on days like today. On days like today I feel like the rug has been pulled out from under me, like all of the work I’ve been doing for over a year has gotten me exactly nowhere. It makes me feel like I’m lost and no one can help me and I’m never going to be ok and everything is awful and I can’t do this.
On days like today, I forget that there are other people like me in the world. I forget that there are people who are compassionate and kind, people who are helpful and have huge reserves of empathy. I forget that most people have the attitude that I do when I’m not feeling like this. I forget that most people would respond exactly the way I would: how can I help you, support you, or make things easier for you right now? I want you to know that you are loved, that you are cared for and about, that all you have to do is say the word and I will do whatever you need.
For me, asking for help is hardest when I most need the help. Even reaching out to people I know and who have helped me time and time again – my sister, the dude – even this is difficult. Every time, I write the text asking for encouragement or expressing what’s going on with me, and then I let it sit for a minute, two minutes, seven. Sometimes I don’t send it at all, but that’s more rare these days, and I’m glad about that. I always feel like asking for help automatically means I’m inconveniencing someone, like the two are mutually inclusive. It also makes me feel like I can’t handle things myself, which is a feeling I absolutely abhor. I have worked so hard to build the kind of life I want, to be who I want, to earn the right to make my own decisions for my own reasons. When the anxiety gets really bad, I feel like all of that is taken away from me and I’m powerless to stop it. And so in some ways I don’t want to reach out, because not reaching out is a way for me to assert control, to regain my independence by making the choice myself.
Here’s the rub: not reaching out reinforces the feelings of aloneness and powerlessness, and it makes the anxiety worse. It also means that the people I love and care for don’t get to love and care for me back when I need them to. By not reaching out, I’m taking away from them the opportunity to help. I’m cutting off an expression of their compassion for me, and I’m taking choices away from them. It’s a lose/lose situation.
But it takes a lot of work for me to ask for help. Like, active, convince myself to do it work. Asking for help requires me to admit that I’m not ok, to give myself permission to not be ok, and to admit that I can’t do it by myself. These things are all very, very difficult for me. I do not like them. I do not give myself permission not to be ok. I would rather suffer quietly(or not so quietly) and assert that I have my shit together than admit to someone who’s not my sister or the dude that I’m not ok.
What it really comes down to is vulnerability. For a long time, I thought of myself as a person who was ready and willing to be vulnerable because I told a lot of funny stories that were sort of embarrassing to me. Nope. This is not true. Evidence for this includes a date once asking me why I always acted so tough, the experience of sitting on a strange bathroom floor crying and not even telling my boyfriend about it, and this very blog: I’m writing about this on the internet where I don’t have to have the hard, vulnerable conversation with people who actually care about me. I don’t have to see the empathy and the compassion on their faces while I describe what the last couple of years of my life has been like. I don’t have to acknowledge that what I’ve always feared is not true is in fact very true: that I am loved even when I feel broken. That I am worthy of love even when my brain has hijacked my body and is making it hard for me to function. I’ve always been afraid that no one can love me at my worst, but seeing that people can and do is, in its own way, even scarier.
Needing help is big and scary and difficult. It is also courageous. And sometimes letting people see you be broken is the best thing you can do.