Getting the Support You Need
As an occasional offering, I invite you to write with your questions or topic suggestions. I will answer all either privately or in this space. It’s my intention that my words will bring hope and new clarity. Here’s one…
I could use some perspective on how to reach out for support when that isn’t my usual M.O., without freaking out the people I am reaching out to.
Generally speaking, I am mostly level-headed and together and don’t typically ask for moral support from my friends or family.
They will either freak out that I am “not completely fine and normal” or won’t have any perspective that would actually help me.
How do I overcome my resistance to asking for help because I’m fearful of upsetting the people that I would reach out to or I’m already predicting their reactions as not helpful.
For instance, I wouldn’t want to call my mom and be like “I’m not dealing very well” cause that would burden her for weeks that somehow the possibly most together person in her life isn’t “okay”. I can’t call my BFF cause his reaction would be “that sucks.” Knowing that my husband is managing enough with his current struggles and burdens, I cannot turn to him.
Need It, But How Do I Get It?
Dear Need It,
I relate very well to your resistance and struggle reaching out for help, all too well! It ain’t easy!
Especially if over the years, you’ve owned the title of “The Strong One,” because the Strong One handles it all herself. The Strong One needs no support, and is the one doing the supporting. The Strong One has her shit together, carries on with valor and courage and is Teflon tough and ugh… being the Strong One is exhausting.
I used to joke, and actually still do, that one day, I will start hosting clandestine meetings for the “Secret Society of Strong Ones.”
We will meet monthly to cry.
It’s actually not a bad idea.
Some of the best advice I ever got was from my therapist, Bob, many years ago. It happened like this. I was in trouble, but I couldn’t fathom turning to anyone for support, not even my husband at the time, Johnny…
Bob: How would it feel to you if Johnny came to you and said “Look, I’m not doing so well. I’m struggling and really need your support right now.”
Me: It would touch me deeply. I would feel honored. And I would do everything I could to support hin in the way he needed. It would feel like a gift, to be able to show up for him during a difficult time.
Bob: Right. So when you hold back asking for help, you deny others the gift of being able to show up for you, you cheat them of the opportunity of being there for you.
BAM. Changed my perspective, instantly, completely.
I’m not going to say it suddenly became easy to reach out for help when I needed it. It’s still incredibly difficult.
But I trust my needs for support as part of this beautiful cosmic dance of intimacy we get to share with others.
We give. We receive. We need. We offer. We hurt. We help. We heal. We heal each other.
And this dance relies on vulnerability for its rhythm.
I’m going to suggest three things to you.
1.Resign your position as Director of Protecting Others from What is Really Going On. It’s an unfulfilling, lonely gig, and you deserve to be supported in the same way you support others. I repeat: You deserve to be supported in the same way you support others.
2. Get clear on what type of support you are needing. Let your intimates know, very specifically, what you are needing. That right now, you need a compassionate ear or a shoulder to cry on or a place to vent or a safe space to be real with what is current without their advice or fixing. Or maybe with their advice or fixing. You decide.
Sounds scary because it is and it requires vulnerability, but like a muscle, when you practice, it gets stronger.
3. Broaden your circle of support. I love the saying “Stop going to the hardware store for milk.” It sounds like you already have determined that the type of support they will offer may not be helpful. There is support all around. Make a list of other people you know truly care about you– even if you’ve never “gone there” with them– this could be a perfect opportunity to deepen those relationships.
If that doesn’t work, check out 7 Cups of Tea. They offer free, confidential and professional counseling online.
We are wired to need one another.
Sure, you could “get by” without reaching out. But by risking your own reputation of being the Strong One, by deciding that you will no longer shoulder these burdens alone, by opening your heart to telling the truth about what is current and real for you now, you become more YOU, more authentic. You will experience deeper intimacy in your relationships, and you will gift others with the opportunity to show up for you in a new way.
You can find the support you need.
It’s there. It rarely comes knocking.
We ourselves must do the knocking.
So start knocking, sweet sister.
I wish you courage and send you love,