THERE'S NO SHAME IN ASKING FOR HELP...OR IS THERE?
PREFACE: I SPEAK FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE, AND I UNDERSTAND THAT MANY PEOPLE EXPERIENCE THINGS DIFFERENTLY. IF YOU STRUGGLE WITH MENTAL ILLNESS, THIS MAY BE INCREDIBLY PERSONAL TO YOU, AND MAY BE COMPLETELY INACCURATE TO HOW YOU FEEL. BEAR WITH ME AS I SPEAK TO WHAT I KNOW AND UNDERSTAND, WITH THE HOPES OF ENCOURAGING SOMEONE ELSE ALONG THE WAY.
"THERE IS NO SHAME IN ASKING FOR HELP."
WE SEE THIS SAYING ALL THE TIME, WE HEAR IT ALL THE TIME.
I'll be real honest with you guys. I began my personal journey of struggling with depression and anxiety in January of 2017. I was thrown into a world of uncertainty, confusion, and shame.
If I had to pick one word to describe what I feel most often when it comes to my mental health, I would choose shame.
It's a word that I have struggled with and fought with for 8 months now, and I am only beginning to understand the power of such a little word.
Just recently I was talking on the phone with my boyfriend, having and oh-so-familiar conversation.
I wake up, feeling icky (i.e. depressed).
But I hate admitting that.
We talk and go through typical conversation.
I try to come across as normal.
Half of me fights to be real and honest with him.
Half of me fights to be happy and "normal."
He mentions I seem a little off, in a concerned way.
I realize I'm being an idiot for not just being honest in the first place.
WE HAVE HAD THIS CONVERSATION 100 TIMES.
And eventually, I end up being honest and telling him where I'm at.
What I feel.
And guess what?
He responds graciously, kindly, and ever-understanding.
Every single time. And yet, every single time shame creeps and tries to tell me how to feel. To be scared, to feel shame.
There is so much shame to be found in being mentally unhealthy. Mental health...it seems like this thing we should be able to control. Like a mood.
I was listening to a podcast the other day, and the speaker talked about how depression and moods are two verydifferent things. Here's a snapshot of some notes from the podcast:
Depression used to be categorized as a "mood disorder" and moods are known as feelings and emotions, things we can control at a given time. "Oh you're just in a bad mood, you need to change your attitude." Moods are signified by feelings. But what's the trademark of depression? Numbness. DEPRESSION IS NOT A MOOD. It is a diagnosable mental condition.
Okay, that was my little rant on depression and moods.
But back to this whole shame thing.
"THERE'S NO SHAME IN ASKING FOR HELP."
ACTUALLY, there is.
You're telling me that I do need to be ashamed when I ask for help?
I'm not telling you that you need to be, or feel anything.
But what I am telling you, is that more often than not, the average human will experience shame when asking for help. It happens. So don't say that it doesn’t exist, or even worse, that it shouldn’t.
If you tell me I shouldn’t feel shame in what I feel, but I can’t control that, and then I do feel shame…I end up feeling twice as ashamed for it. Shame over the shame. Make sense?
What I have found:
Shame, when it comes to mental health, often doesn’t make sense. Even recounting this conversation with my boyfriend allows me to view it in a different light. I'm sitting here thinking, "of course, there's no need to feel shame in that moment. You've been through this before, he's there every time, it always goes well. Come on, Courtney. Remember this next time."
But there is still shame that comes along in these moments. As much as we'd like to think that we have control of our minds, thoughts, and actions…sometimes we don't. And I think that shame is one of the hardest emotions to control. It's often illogical, its nasty, it's sneaky; its the greatest lie I have ever found.
How many times have you felt something that you know you're not "supposed" to? Or that your friends would counteract? Emotions are hard, hard stuff. If you haven't heard it before, let me be the first to tell you that you are allowed to feel what you are feeling. I'm more than happy to just sit with you in that emotion and be still.
Don't get me wrong, all you fixers and productive peeps want to keep moving, move past the hurt and the bad and begin the healing. I'm all for that too! But sometimes, we just need to be told that its okay to feel all the feels, and to sit with what we feel to be true in a moment.
So, yes. There is shame in asking for help. Not because others place it on me, but because I can't help but place in on myself. So please don't tell me that I can't feel that, because I will no matter what, and I'd rather not feel bad about what I'm feeling. Ya feel? ;)
THIS IS NOT AN EASY THING TO TALK ABOUT. AND I PROMISE YOU, I WROTE THIS FAR BEFORE I POSTED HERE ON THE INTERNET FOR ALL TO SEE.
These thoughts just sat on an unpublished webpage for quite a while before I found the courage to let you in. So please, be gentle. Like I said in the beginning - I am only capable of speaking from personal experience. But I also know that I can't be the only one in this boat. And so for the sake of others out there who are confused by being told what they should and should not feel, I'll just leave this here with the greatest hopes that it may encourage, and shine light on a sticky, confusing, and seemingly dark situation.
End Note: For those of you who are sweetly concerned, I'm doing just fine. I've come along way. But it was this lesson on shame that allowed me to break through some strongholds and begin healing in so many new ways.