Today I had to ask for help.
I HATE asking for help.
I get uncomfortable. I start to sweat. I do everything I can to avoid it. I make excuses. I am overcome with fear. Sometimes I even cry about it. Seriously. I cry like a sobbing, red-faced, squealing baby.
I went for a walk today because I was so damn stressed out about having to ask for help, and as I walked I thought to myself, “You need to write about this, Katherine. Every day you tell your readers to ask for help, and you are practically incapable of doing it yourself.”
Somewhere along the line I convinced myself that asking for help is a bad thing. It doesn’t matter whether it’s with my nonprofit, or for postpartum depression, or mothering, or anything else; it scares me to death. What the hell is that about?!
I mentioned this on Twitter and was very grateful to hear from other women who feel the same way. I’m not the only one with this social phobia.
1) Fear of rejection
@postpartumprog (that’s me!) tweeted: “What if they say no? It will feel like an indictment of me and my worth.”
@mama_strick tweeted: “One time 2 years ago I called 3 people asking for help with something. No one would. That still stings. A lot.”
2) Fear of seeming weak or incapable
@alisonpalmer79 tweeted: “I think it’s because women fear being weak, especially mums. You have so much in life to balance & don’t want to be judged as a bad mother.”
@christinaRTS tweeted: “For me, saying it out loud is admitting failure.”
@mommasgonecity tweeted: “I’ll go to every extreme before asking for help. I think I fear admitting failure.”
@freelanceliz tweeted: “I hate it. Think it’s an admission of failure. Everyone else copes.”
@sassyladyj tweeted: “I fear acknowledging my own weakness and vulnerability. It’s hard to accept that asking for help is a sign of strength.”
3) Fear of being a burden
@birthingkristen tweeted: “I always worry that I’m being a burden on others … even though I’m always one to jump in and OFFER help happily to others.”
@verybadcat13 tweeted: “I don’t want to be resented, feel like I should be able to do everything alone, hate burdening folks.”
@designhermomma tweeted: “I think we fear ‘putting people out’, but in reality, people love to feel needed.”
4) Belief that we shouldn’t have to ask for help
@judypackrat tweeted that we also don’t ask for help: “Because it’s so painfully obvious we need help, we think someone will pick up on it!”
5) Fear of losing control
@atlantamom tweeted: “My issue is control. Letting someone else help makes me feel guilty, out of control & like I’m not as efficient as I should be.”
Check all of the above. Guilty as charged on all counts. When I have to say “help me please”, it feels as though it means I can’t do something on my own that I guess I thought I should be able to do. Then I live in fear that I’ll be rejected, that I might put myself in the most vulnerable place possible and have someone say I’m not worthy of their help, or not care that I need help, or be annoyed by my request.
Today I made myself do it. I asked for help on a project I’m doing. I didn’t do it with joy and great courage. Nope. I waited until the last minute. I agonized. I held my nose. But I did it. And I’m not dead, so it must not have killed me.
There is certain to be some percentage of rejection of my request, and I have got to learn to make myself be okay with that. Maybe you can do the same with me. Maybe today or tomorrow you can make the request you’ve been avoiding. We can stew in our discomfort together.
Sometimes in life we must bite down on the proverbial leather strap and do what we cannot stand. Because it’s good for us. Because we really can’t do it all on our own. Because at least 70% of the time when we ask for help people probably will help, right? Maybe a little more, maybe a little less, but we’re missing the 70 to avoid the 30. (That doesn’t seem like smart math.) We shouldn’t be turning people down before they have the chance to step in.
Many of them will want to help because they care. And when they do help, most of the time they’ll make things better, not worse.
Still, asking for help does suck.
Here's another thing I realized about asking for help. In the past, my main experience with someone who was supposed to love and care for me was not good. She was supposed to help me. But every time she had to she acted put out and irritated and always always let me know she was really too busy for helping. Many women are like that…so I make the mistake of "putting that on" other people. People who probably do genuinely want to help. I fear they don't really mean it.
And always…I'd be happy to help you.
Great point Heather. If you have a history of being made to feel small, or not getting the support you need, or living in an unstable environment in which you become convinced you must rely on yourself to survive, I imagine it becomes that much harder to ask for help.
And you know you can call me any time!
@Heather of the EO- I totally understand and relate so well to your experience. I was always a very kind, enthusiastic loving giving person. I was afraid to stay in the hospital alone when I had my baby (single mom) so I asked my mom if she would stay with me. She acted soo put out. "Why??? Nobody stayed with me." She still tries to put it on me and say I had some psychological issues because I couldn't/didn't want to stay alone! (I still don't understand her reaction; if you love your daughter, wouldn't you want her to have a better experience than you had? I know I would if it were my daughter! That is how I lived my life.)
My mom almost always gave me a guilt trip when I asked her for help. Which is such a joke. Because all during my pregnancy and after my daughter was born, she constantly controlled and told me what to do. "Oh no!! Don't get her up yet! Let her wake up happy. Do this…." or gave me the evil eye and interrogated why I was holding my daughter while she napped instead of having her lay down and on and on. I remember how my daughter cried every night for hours. My mom said it was colic. I sincerely and genuinely asked her how she knew it was colic. She gave me this look like I was dumb and arrogantly said that she had a baby with colic. (I didn't know me trying to be a mom was a competition with my mom?!)
My mom thrived on being needed even if it hurt me in the process. So then when I don't have much confidence in myself as a mom as a result of her taking over (which I wasn't even aware of at the time) and asked her for help, she got irritated! (When she did help, she didn't help for my well-being. My boyfriend had a lot of insight; he said she helped to feed her needs/ boost her own ego.)
I lived my own life was very happy, yet parents constantly tried to interfere, sabatoge and control.
Then when I'm in a place where I really do need help, she tried to make me feel bad. (I had not slept for days in the postpartum period and needed help calling drs, etc) Clearly, this really put her out! "Oh, can't it wait til after Christmas?? I need to finish making these blankets." (My mother actually said this) Giving ME a guilt trip because I'm asking for help because I had not slept in days and didn't know where to go or what to do!!
Yes, I had a history of being made small (emotional/verbal abuse from dad and control/emotional abuse from mom) and was living in an unstable environment.
When I had barely slept, my dad would not help me compose a simple letter. He got really angry and blew up that I asked him to help! I hadn't asked for help on those kinds of things in my life before- I was a professional writer. But when you are severely sleep deprived, it is impossible to think.
I think it is very sad that people are so selfish during the times we need them most. I was a very giving person who rarely asked for help. Then when I seriously need it, they reject me. I guess I should not have expected more from people who unconsciously tried to sabotage me when I was at a great place in my life. I've learned that you cannot depend on controlling people.. even if they have a good heart, they aren't capable of helping or caring about someone else! 🙁
My postpartum issues were hormonal and thyroid. But no matter what you're dealing with in the postpartum period, a HEALTHY support team is key. I've lost everything because of my lack of healthy support. Its so sad that you don't really know people's true character until you go through a crisis.
Wow! Sorry about my soap box. I apologize that I may sound cynical, but my entire situation could have been easily prevented and
I didn't have to lose anything. Now I'm in early menopause at 29 among other terrible things and about to lose my daughter.
Maybe sometime I can share my story on your blog.
I don't have a problem asking for help. I know if I hadn't asked for it when I truly needed it, it would have been detrimental to my kids and my family (and me emotionally), so yes, I asked for help. I could NOT navigate what I was doing between a new baby, new disease for the kids, and something like 12-15 therapy and doctor appointments a week.
You know what? The people that helped us often said it was them that got something life altering being a part of our life as that time. One friend grocery shopped for a year, one friend came over and did laundry while visiting. Years later a friend still walks into my home and matches socks from the big box above our washer.
As much as I needed the help, really needed the help, it was much better for me to have someone to witness our struggles and really know from the inside what we were going through.
To this day I think both sides of the help feel like they got the better deal.
Thanks for the comment Julia. I think you should teach lessons on this. – K
My main problem for asking for help is that no one around me seems dependable. Half the time I won't get the help I need, anyway, and it just adds more stress to my life. I have the mindset, "If you want something done right, do it yourself" for a very good reason. It's the only way anything gets done.
I, for one Dear Katherine, am honored that you asked for my help. It is a gift to me to be involved in your journey. It brings e great joy to be a part of your blog and even more joy to promote it. So, with that I say thank YOU. I could not do my job helping women well if you weren't doing yours as we are all undoubtedly connected in this larger endeavor.
Are you kidding?! I feel blessed to have you here. BELIEVE ME. I'm the lucky one.
thank you for writing this. I struggle with the first four points all the time. I'm not one for worrying about losing control, but that';s just my particular personality. The fear of seeming weak, being a burden, of rejection, those kept me from reaching out because I would try and get burned. People would seem put out, or exasperated at me for being disorganized and overwhelmed… my emotions were invalidated, all sorts of things like that. And I really couldnt do it on my own, and I had to anyway for a long time. I have such a burden, such a soft heart for women struggling with PPMDs, because I've been there, trying to function and survive, and it's so hard. I love the support and education and advocacy you provide, thank you so much.
I got here through a friends link "Baby Cafe" in El Paso Tx. I read your article and then the replies. Just wanted to share and say that it was a good eye opener & great help to me in a current relationship I am in with a woman. I think I have a better understanding into a few things now. Thank y'all for the insights.
I really needed to see and read this post today…as I am seriously struggling and have been this past month or so. Now, its just taking that next step and reach out and say, "I need help" and then actually ask for it.
Thank you so much
I know it's hard Nicole. Very hard. You can do it.
This piece really resonated with me, especially the comments about appearing "weak". That was my biggest problem in asking for help when experiencing PPD. How come everyone else could handle being a mom of a toddler and newborn while I was jumping out of my skin?
Thanks for writing this, Katherine, and good job in reaching out for help. NO ONE can do it alone.
The one person who I have asked for help couldn't or wouldn't help me at a time I didn't know how to help myself. I think all the time about how sad and disappointed I was and still am, and how I lost the belief of 'in sickness & in health."
Oh yes. Oh HELL yes. And it's not just the feeling of "being a burden" that makes me loathe asking for help–it's everything else that you've described here. (Again, and yet, I offer to help others, or take them up on their requests for help, *all* *the* *time*.)
Here's the thing: by describing how you made yourself ask for help–and by being so honest about how difficult it was for you–you've inspired me (and probably others) to be a little less afraid of asking for help next time I need it. So you HELPED me! And I didn't even have to ask for it! 😉
Well put Keep up the good work. I do enjoy the way you have presented this specific situation. Thanks.
People love to help.
I love to help.
What greater honor? Than for someone to think of you, when they need help.
For me, a reason that I hate asking for help, is that I've convinced myself that I am fine. If I wasn't so lazy I could handle it just fine. I'm just being dramatic. It's the same for reaching out to my dr. or therapist. I'm convinced that if I go in, I'll be told "you're fine, everyone feels this way, it's called life". Even though my therapist has helped me even with the most minor issues, in the back of my mind lurks this thought "I need to stop making this up, suck it up and stop trying to revolve everyone around me." I have received help, and it has been so wonderful. This is just the struggle of turning inward on the bad days, rather than outward.
I have always stuggled with asking for help and I cannot for the life of me understand why. I get the same pit in my stomach, fast heart beat, anxious feeling every time. Most of the time people will willingly help but I still hate it.
Another reason I find asking for help hard is because I don’t know what I can dare to ask, if it’s too much asking that or not. Also, there is so much TO do, I don’t know what to start asking for.
I would also think, ‘I can’t ask someone to do this, I should be able to do it, why am I not succeeding at doing this, it’s not a hard task”
Hey, I am a guy (19) and I have the same problem. I can identify with everything in this article…even the tears. But still asking for help sucks really bad, especially when I think I might be a burden and I’m not man enough.
Does anyone have any advice for me? I would warmly welcome it.
Yes to all of these points. I too have found it hard to reach out for help after being let down when I’ve made myself vulnerable. Especially when I am in the dregs. It feels like such a huge rejection when people don’t show up for you when you’ve finally mustered the courage to ask. There is one important aspect of getting help that is not mentioned which is often a huge barrier for me. Articulating what I even need help with. I keep practicing and asking as much as I can. In the meantime I try to do my best to show up for others as much as I hope for them to be there for me. Sometimes that means giving help before someone is able to ask.
Thanks so much for putting this into words.
When I “came out” to our family/friends about my PPD, they were full of offers to help. “Ask anytime” is familiar…. I don’t know how to even say “I need you to OFFER because I CANT ask right now. It’s just too hard.” I’m struggling a lot right now and desperately need help, and yet not one single person has offered. Not one of our hundreds of friends or family. This has really broken my heart even further. I asked a friend (who LOVES to play “auntie” to kids) recently to take the kids for a few hours, and never heard back. Worse than a rejection.
What about if you don’t have help to ask?! 🙁
You don’t have friends and family to ask, you mean? Or you can’t see a professional?
I’m happy to help you, and to answer your question. I just want to make sure I understand.