People, including me, always say that it takes strength and courage to reach out and ask for help.
But I don’t think I ever fully understood that until now.
My habit has always been to wait until I am at the point of crisis before REALLY telling anyone what is going on. I’ll try to reach out well before then, but not in any kind of way that would make anyone understand how much I really need them, due to the fact that people do not yet have psychic abilities. I try to make plans with people and just talk to people more, and usually other people are responsive and this works. Usually this is enough to help me slowly feel better.
But sometimes, it just so happens that all the plans I try to make with people fall through, or no one is responding to my messages. Suddenly everyone is busy. Suddenly everyone is tired. Suddenly I am not a priority to anyone. There are always days like this, which I can handle, but sometimes this will turn into a prolonged period spanning weeks or months. And the longer it goes on, the more frustrated and desperate I become, and I begin to feel like no one cares about me.
It starts out with me feeling like I’m annoyed with everyone. And I am, but then I realize that I’m annoyed because I feel like I’m an annoyance to everyone else. A burden. A clingy little girl who needs to be managed and kept in her place. I realize that no one is taking my feelings or opinions into account. I start to feel permanently anxious and suffocated because I have to keep all my conversation and thoughts to myself and I’m no longer involved in anyone else’s life. I like to feel like I’m contributing. I start to feel like thing will always be this way, and I will forever be the girl who is somewhere between everyone’s second to last thought and no one’s first choice.
I start lashing out at people and become quick to anger. Normally I have a very high tolerance for small things. People, even friends, have always said or done things on a daily, or at least weekly, basis that hurt my feelings and I’m good at ignoring them. I let them slide because I am able to be confident in the knowledge that they still love me. But all of that goes out the window. I don’t let things go as easily, because everyone else is hard on me and critical, so why should I not turn the same lens towards them? This doesn’t exactly make me fun to be around, so others withdraw even more. It’s a vicious cycle.
I have absolutely no idea how much of all this is Depression, how much is Social Anxiety, and how much is just me. But lately, I am more apt to at least consider the possibility that the way I am feeling could be mental illness related. Even though I am in recovery.
As much as I do not like the thought that my emotions could be invalid, or at least inaccurate to who I really am, in some way, this realization has done some good for me.
Acknowledging my mental illnesses reminds me that I am not infallible. It reminds me that I could have died once because I believed I had no one, which wasn’t true. It was almost true, and it was true that I no longer had the person I needed, but I still had someone. There is always someone. Sometimes you don’t know it until whatever you’re going through is over. Sometimes you’ll never know if you don’t experiment.
So, I’ve started experimenting. It doesn’t always go well. But sometimes it’s exactly what I need.
Even if what I’m going through has nothing to do with mental illness, my worry that I could fall into the same bad place that caused me to drop a course and make a not-so-fun visit to the ER gives me the push I need to reach out BEFORE I hit the crisis point. I would embarrass myself a thousand times over before I would willingly let myself go back there, now that I know how scary it can really get. And I acknowledge that other people are my saving grace. I am always ashamed of that, because I feel like I should be tougher and self-sufficient. But as Jamie Tworkowski says, people need other people. We all do. It’s just that some people are fortunate enough to not have to think twice about it.
So now, sometimes, even though I feel like everyone hates me, I will send people a text. I’ll say exactly how I’m feeling and that I could use some reassurance. Sometimes people still don’t get it, or they don’t care enough to get it, and they brush me off. But sometimes, they will tell me what I need to hear. They’ll tell me that they’re still there for me, that they didn’t know I was feeling that way, that I am not all the things I think I am.
People can be selfish. People can treat others unfairly even if they actually care about them, usually because they’re stuck in their own head, thinking about their own problems. Some people aren’t interested in thinking about anyone else, but most people want to and just don’t realize that they’re not. I myself have been guilty of that far too often. It’s worth at least trying to explicitly remind them and it’s okay to straight up ask for what you need.
This takes a completely different kind of courage than the desperate courage and desire for survival that it takes to reach out when you’ve already reached your breaking point.
This is the courage to cling onto hope, to believe that people are inherently good, to take the risk of potentially making things worse, to believe that you are WORTH the support that you are asking for. This is the courage to be proactive and take ownership over your own life.
Bell Let’s Talk Day is next Wednesday January 27th, and I will literally be on my social media all day for work. While we’re hashtagging and raising money, I want to actually have a productive conversation rather than rely on the same tired anti-stigma tropes and statistics, so I’m trying a new thing – I’ll be asking questions all day from the @Healthy_Minds twitter account and I’m hoping you’ll participate by answering them. I’ll also be tweeting (and answering my own questions) from the @Speak_Out_Blog twitter account and my own personal twitter, @chelsearrr (also in my bio down below). I’m going to RT as many of the answers that we get as possible. You can also ask me questions, and I in turn promise to answer every single one honestly. Make sure to follow those accounts so you don’t miss out on a great chance to connect with a wider online audience.
First question (also a question we ask in Jack.org Talks) – why do you talk? This post right here is my answer. What’s yours?
Chelsea Ricchio is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of the SPEAK OUT blog. She is also the Communications Manager for Healthy Minds Canada. She graduated from the University of Toronto in 2015 with a BA in English Literature and Book & Media Studies. She was the former president of the student group Active Minds at UofT, which hosts SPEAK OUT events on campus (from which this blog takes its name). She was diagnosed with Dysthymia and Social Anxiety. She is 23 and lives in Toronto with her cat Genie and her roommate.