I am so happy to welcome our first contributor, Leslie Jones, to the blog! Leslie has helped me through some especially tough times; times I didn't realize were terrible because I was in too deep to realize I was drowning.
Leslie works part-time via online and phone-based counseling while raising her three children. Check out her bio for more details.
As a therapist, my entire career hinges on a person deciding to ask for help. No matter a therapist’s education, skills, or abilities, nothing happens unless the client first decides: today is the day, enough is enough, I’m not living like this one day longer. It can be a very slow process, beginning with Googling about therapy, locating a counselor, working up the courage to make an appointment, and then actually showing up. Each of those steps is another opportunity for a person to say “nevermind” and just return to the status quo. Sometimes change is just that scary – a person will choose what they know doesn’t work over something that might, simply because the unknown is terrifying.
It’s because of my career that I know how important asking for help is. Not one bit of the transformative process that comes out of therapy can happen if someone doesn’t ask for help first. However, as a recovering perfectionist and stubbornly independent person, it’s one of the hardest things in the world for me.
I became a parent twice in the span of 19 months to two vivacious little girls. In that time, I systematically had to let go of the perfectionism (thanks, breastfeeding, for knocking me down a few pegs), cope with the drain on my energy level from constantly reminding a smaller version of myself how to use a toilet, and get over myself when it came time to accept help.
When my second daughter was a newborn, she had colic. Those scream-filled evenings were some of the darkest in my life. While I was in it, I was in survival mode; I didn’t even realize how much I was struggling until it was over. My husband was deployed and when he called in the evening wanting to hear details of the babies he missed so much, I could barely remember anything I did that day other than keep them and myself alive. I am forever grateful that we have the opportunity to live near our families. If my mother and mother-in-law, both angels in their own ways, had not just shown up at my house with dinner or invited us to their house to escape mine for a bit, I have no idea how I would have gotten through it.
Even though I was drowning, I STILL struggled to ask for help. I still do!! I KNOW this is my hang-up and mine alone, and it’s still hard. If it’s that hard for me, someone who knows how essential help is, how hard must it be for everyone else? The same goes for people needing help with their diet, fitness, a specific training goal, and more. I am still working on overcoming that stubborn independence that tells me I SHOULD be able to do it all on my own. Who says? Where did I learn that? Why do I continue to believe it even though I know it’s not true?
Reach out to a friend (thanks, Amy!), call your family, tell your spouse what you need him/her to do, talk to a religious leader, doctor, or a therapist. Simply admitting, “I’m having an off day,” can lead to a beneficial process. After all, when it comes to therapy, the most important element is the relationship between the therapist and client. No amount of skills or education can replace that. Don’t feel embarrassed, because guess what? They have felt this way, too! Maybe not in the same circumstances, but everyone knows sadness, pain, worry, grief, disappointment, frustration, etc. The true joy in life is relating to others, but that’s hard to do when not being honest about the good AND the bad. We all have both. Let’s share the load.