I remember many years ago, when I had skin cancer that required complicated facial surgery. It took a number of years before it could be resolved. In my life I had realised that I had to be responsible for myself and in so doing I took control, but it never occurred to me that it was okay for me to ask for help or share my feelings. Towards the end of the sickness when it was time to prepare to get back into life and start to work again I had to go in front of this medical board, which would assess exactly where I was. One of the board members said: “We believe that you now are ready to get back into life, but first we feel you should consult a psychologist.” I can remember my reaction, it was strong. In my head I was saying there is nothing psychologically wrong with me, so I told the board clearly I did not need help. I could fix things myself! In part I did. I found a job that did not demand too much to get back into a work routine. Having been in an out of hospital for such a long time I had become somewhat institutionalised.
The doctors had told me that they believed I was on the road to recovery, which gave me the tremendous feeling of relief. I was met by an overpowering avalanche of emotions. This process went on for two years, it was not pleasant, but of course I did not need help. That was something for other people, only crazy people went to psychologists.
In hindsight I wished I had taken the help that was offered. I wish I had shared my vulnerability with somebody, as to how my face looked to the world. I realised that no one has the skill to fix everything for themselves. It is not weakness to ask for help. That was when I realised that the feeling of shame, to say “I do not know”, “I cannot handle this”, was what I was carrying without realising.
It took some time for me to realise that I should not see my feelings as a weakness. They are important. Every time I spoke to a therapist they were skilfully able to show me how to give myself permission how to feel, without feeling ashamed or humiliated.
I now allow myself to say: “I do not know.” I can reach out and ask for help. When I have done that I have often received the help I have needed to leave my confusion, and put my feelings back into balance. I am still learning to ask for help, it is an ongoing process. Ironically it has also abled me to dispel another perception people have on me – that I can fix everybody else’s problems.
When we allow ourselves to ask for help, without playing victim, very often people offer a hand to help us discover for ourselves who we really are.
I am interested to hear your comments.