The Problem with Asking for Help

On Monday at 4:48 PM I am crying in my boss’s office. I am intentionally dressed professionally, with the exception of my Hello Kitty underwear due to the lack of adequate time to do laundry without being one of those dillholes who leaves their belongings in the machine way after they’re dry — but, as flashing was not part of my plan, I digress. The snot wiping, mascara clumping, sporadic hiccuping bit wasn’t part of the plan, either. “The Plan,” which consisted of five deep breaths and a well-written speech starting with, “I am overwhelmed,” and ending in, “uhhh,” practiced in the handicapped stall, was, admittedly, not fool proof. At 5:02 I am handed a wad of paper towels and gently told to go home to rest.

Always the overachiever, I do not, in fact, rest. On Tuesday I am screaming at my can opener for being so goddamn resistant to my desire for black beans. Wednesday and someone has the audacity to drive the speed limit when I’m running late. Thursday and I’m three glasses in, slumped on the couch staining my teeth and thinking about my first love, sobbing and praying no one ever loves me so carelessly again. By week’s end I’m not sure it’s possible to feel more defeated, but I daren’t ask, lest the universe opens up and instead of swallowing me whole decides to vom all over my already craptastic attitude. No stranger to the manic episode, it’s quite clear I need help.

Admitting this is not necessarily difficult. Parading my ineptitude has always been one of my tried and true pastimes, right up there with eating too much at Indian buffet and spending too much money on flimsy dresses in the dead of winter. Recognizing while also resenting the fact that I am not a busty, golden bustier clad superhero icon makes a really healthy foundation for body dysmorphia and general self-loathing, and it’s sort of become my shtick. My favorite kind of exercise is running myself into the ground and feigning surprise when emotional exhaustion doesn’t get any easier after the twentieth or thirtieth or ten millionth breakdown. My diet is comprised of stretching myself thin and being delusional enough to think it’ll be reflected in my waistline. These charming habits have become so ingrained in my “self-care” routine I have no problem sharing them with anyone sadistic enough to listen.

If this were a 12-step program, I’d have owned the shit out of step one, reveled in my early success, and conveniently ignored the rest of the process. Because what comes next is the actually difficult part. What comes next involves telling the people around you maybe you aren’t as capable as they keep insisting you are. Maybe you can’t take their advice not because it’s bad but because it requires you to make proactive choices that lift you up rather than tear you down, and that feels so foreign, and so daunting, you can’t wrap your tired mind around it. The guilt of causing loved ones grief swells within you as you remind yourself their worry over your worries could’ve all been avoided if you just kept quiet. Just kept trudging. And everyone is telling you wonderful things — about yourself, about your future, how they know you’ll get through this — and though your heart gets fuller, with that comes a different heaviness.

Because the problem with asking for help isn’t so much admitting you can’t do it alone, and it’s not really in the act of asking. It’s the aftermath. Facing the people you have so much respect and care for and knowing you’re unintentionally hurting them each time you defy their affirmations. Secretly calling them liars. Shrinking in embarrassment when weeks later they check in on you, sheepish if they happen to catch you in a brief moment of contentment. Now you’re the liar. But, you wanted the attention, didn’t you? The thinly veiled texts of concern, the not so random hallway hugs. You opened yourself up looking for affection only to realize you’re an ungrateful recipient. It’s a cycle of getting exactly what you needed but not knowing how to handle it because you’d gone without for so long.

There have been very few moments in my life when I have felt completely helpless. More often than not, I had the support system. I had the solutions. Happiness, or, whatever the name for “not so fucking miserable” might be, was accessible. And yet I refused to reach out because I was so concerned with burdening anyone else with my problems. I didn’t want to take on the failure of not being able to turn my life around on top of the other ways I already thought I was failing. Sometimes I even think my depression is the most interesting part of me, which makes the hurdle of changing my mental outlook all the more arduous to conquer. And though I know — I know my mood will eventually change; I know it is cruel to keep tormenting myself this way; I know friends and family will always try to build me up — I also know there are only so many brief moments of contentment standing between now and the next inevitable fit of inappropriate crying. Try as I might, sometimes I can’t help but be terrified by that. You know?

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