It's Okay to Ask for Help.
BY CLAIRE MILLER
Sunny Saturday afternoons in April can be the loveliest days of the year. In Atlanta, we rush to spend time outside on days like that — before summer’s impressive (and oppressive) heat and humidity set in.
But one such Saturday this year, I found myself physically and mentally overwhelmed. I was in the midst of our busy season at work, spending my free time mediating a debate between my neighbors about our condo association’s next big project, and my washing machine felt the need to stop working a quarter of the way through its cycle.
As I was rinsing my wet clothes in my bathtub and praying the internet would offer a simple, cost-effective (read: free) solution to my laundry problem, I realized that I needed more than a properly-functioning washing machine. I needed help.
I needed to vent my frustrations to a kind, listening ear and find ways to relieve my stress that didn’t involve spending every weeknight alone, binge-watching old episodes of Veronica Mars to distract myself from my problems.
But asking for help has always given me pause. It’s meant showing vulnerability and potentially burdening my wonderful, thoughtful friends and family with my stresses. I’m always afraid that asking for help will make their lives more difficult or expand their list of worries to incorporate mine.
I came across an Instagram post from Allyson Dinneen, a Massachusetts-based therapist who runs the @notesfromyourtherapist Instagram account, a few weeks later that stuck with me:
“Feeling shame for needing others means living in a constant stress state. The human brain is extremely evolved to depend on emotional safety and relationships — it doesn’t care about the myth of self-reliance, and it doesn’t even care if we don’t want to need others. It demands connection.”
As easy as it is to criticize the social internet, it certainly has its moments. Allyson’s post succinctly explained exactly why I should have taken five minutes that Saturday in April to ask a friend to go on an ice cream run or take a walk around Piedmont Park.
Study after study has shown that humans need one another and our social ties help us live healthier, happier, and longer lives. So, that means I should imagine Bill Nye saying, “It’s science!” the next time I hesitate to reach out to someone, right?
As Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation reminds us, “No one achieves anything alone.” Leslie couldn’t have planned the Harvest Festival or successfully run for city council without her friends and fellow Pawneeans providing help and support along the way. The same can be said for the rest of us, whether we’re putting on a unity concert to bring together two feuding towns or just need someone to read over an important email. (#EagletonStillSucks)
I’m still learning to be more comfortable with asking for help, and there are a few things I’ve tried to keep in mind when uneasiness settles in:
Consider the happiness it will bring someone else. Remember how you felt the last time you helped someone? Knowing that you were able to make even a small difference in that person’s life likely gave you great joy. That’s exactly what your friends and family feel when they help you, so don’t take that joy away from them.
Helping each other brings people closer together. Being vulnerable can be scary, but those moments also allow any relationship — platonic, romantic or familial — to become deeper. And in my experience, the deepest relationships are always the most fulfilling and rewarding ones.
Remember that relationships aren’t about keeping score. No one keeps a spreadsheet noting the times each of their friends or family members has asked for their help. We help one another because we care, not because we’re expecting a favor in return. “It all comes out in the wash,” my girlfriends and I often say to each other.
If all else fails, see it as an opportunity to send a thank you note. Like many of my Southern friends, I learned the tried-and-true art of writing thank you notes as soon as I was able to hold a pencil upright. I’ve continued this practice in adulthood and found it to be both a way to show genuine gratitude for another person’s help and give them arguably the third-most fun piece of mail to receive (after Amazon packages and birthday gifts).
If you need me, I’ll be stocking up on pretty stationery and practicing my “Do you mind looking at this e-mail real quick?” delivery.