Hurdles: Asking for Help

One of the most terrifying things for depressed folks is asking for help. There’s a funny thing about depression, it tends to convince you that you’re somehow an incomplete person. I don’t know how it applies to other people so this post will probably be pretty personal, but if it helps someone that is what I’m here for.

One of the hardest things to accept for me was that I actually have a disease, not just a set of idiosyncrasies that make life a little harder. Even writing it down now, I’m tempted to erase that sentence because it sounds weirdly attention grabbing. But think about it for a second. If someone you knew had a chronic illness like diabetes or Crohn’s disease and couldn’t function properly some days because of that, would you think less of them? No, they have a disease - its not something they can control. Would you say they are “just trying to get attention”? Hopefully not. Depression and other mental health issues don’t have much in the way of external signs, which is one of the reasons so many people (myself included) resort to self-harming practices. For me it would get to the point where I couldn’t stand feeling so awful internally with no external evidence of it. I wanted proof that something was wrong. If that’s not a sickness, I really don’t know what is. So first you have to try and accept that you’re sick, and sick people need help. Its natural and nothing to be ashamed of.

Yeah yeah, I get it, you might say. Depression is a disease, but so what? What if the thoughts and feelings swirling around in your head are just too dark and you don’t want to freak people out? Or you’re afraid of wearing others out with your needy ways? Both of these are very tough and I know make me want to isolate myself but a little perspective can go a long way. Depression is one of the most common mental health issues in the country. Chances are one of those people that you might be thinking about reaching out to has the same exact problems you do and are also too afraid to say anything. Also, I try to remember that people are generally good. I know that sounds super saccharine and optimistic, but I don’t think I’ve yet to meet a genuinely bad person. Sure, many are flawed, unstable, or self-centered but I believe the norm is positive. How would so many non-profits and charities continue to exist in this world if that wasn’t the case? Given those two things, think about yourself and the friends that you have and follow a conversation to what you think is its logical conclusion. Its hard for us to be logical in these situations - we get something of an “Except Me” syndrome to fool ourselves out of trusting empirical data.

What do I mean by that? I can know a person that is as kind and selfless and willing to help others, but sometimes I still think “well, they’ll do that for anyone Except Me.” Because I think that deep down I don’t deserve help, or friends, or happiness. But I do, and you do, and everyone does. But eventually all the thinking in the world will only get you so far, you have to reach out. It can be phrased as vaguely as you want but you have to eventually do it. You don’t have to outline every horrible thing you’re thinking about yourself right then. You can say you’re sad for no reason and could use a hug. If someone asks why, that gives you the chance to explain that you are struggling with depression and sometimes your brain makes you sad for no reason. Or you can shrug and continue to demand hugs with no explanation - only go into the detail you’re comfortable with. It can also help to say the things you want to say out loud to yourself when you’re alone before trying it on other people. I’ve found that speaking my feelings aloud, even if there’s no one around, takes away some of their power.

So here’s the hardest thing for me, so you’ve asked for help once or twice but we all know well-being is an ongoing process and once or twice is not the sum total of times you’re going to need other people. What if they get tired of you? What if you use up all your friend tokens and are left with nothing? Gaining perspective can help with that too. What is it you’re exactly asking from other people? Mostly just to listen and be sympathetic. Most of the time I don’t even want anyone to try to fix what’s wrong, because that’s not exactly possible. I just need a friendly ear for a little while. Objectively speaking, that isn’t so hard. You’re not asking anyone to move your apartment for you without the promise of pizza or beer. I’ll say it up front, this is the hardest thing for me to get over because I hate sounding whiny and I further hate talking about my feelings, but its important.

Everyone deserves help. There are people willing to give it. Finding those people and getting the words out of one’s mouth is pretty damn hard, but not impossible. It takes a little practice, and you might trust the wrong person once or twice, but its worth it.

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Comments

Hi! Dr. Glenn J. Morris, one of my favorite authors, once explained some interesting things about human psychology.
One of them is a psychological fallacy he called the "Love is Pie Syndrome". Meaning that if someone loves person "A", then there is that much less love available for person "B". For my part, I feel that experiencing emotions toward someone else isn't like donating blood; you can love as many people as you can meet or know, and it never really runs out, as long as you aren't being hurt in response.
Which brings us to Dr. Morris' second idea, about math. For any of the Abrahamaic faiths, it's fairly simple:
Point the first: Yaweh/God/Allah is love.
Point the second: Y/G/A is infinite.
Conclusion: Love is infinite.
And even if you aren't particularly religious, I agree with your point: humans have managed to create good things, like the concepts of 'freedom' and 'equality' and Beethoven's "Ode to Joy".
Another quote from Dr. Morris: "Keep going, keep playing, study on this!"

What I've encountered most of the time isn't that people don't care, it's that they only care so much. Care is love in action, and there are only so many hours in the day to devote to X number of people in life. This alone sets the precedent that people are "flawed, unstable or self-centered" because, quite frankly, they are. The hurdle is a human being's limited lifespan and a mind that can only process so much. We've built tools that give access to every citizen in the world and can barely muster a hello to our neighbors. Into the 21st century mental illness will continue to be an unsolvable problem, not because people don't care, but because love isn't enough to help them live in society.

I really appreciate you taking the time to write this. Reading it helps.

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