Bipolar Disorder and the Struggle of Asking for Help
How this writer plans to improve.
I’m going to tell on myself today. I’m terrible at asking for help.
I blame it partly on my parents. They raised my siblings and me to be independent and to never ask for anything. Somewhere in my young mind, what they intended to be a positive life lesson turned into a harmful trait.
It’s important to ask for help when you need it. The truth of this message is one I include in much of my writing. Yet, if it’s so essential, why do I struggle to do it? Is there a way to improve?
Throughout the rest of this post, we’ll look at reasons we may struggle to ask for help and how to improve. Let’s get started.
Part of the issue stopping me from asking for help is the ingrained stigma that mental illness equates to weakness. That’s an absolute lie, and while it’s an easy thing to say, it’s a struggle to believe.
It’s kind of silly, really. When we have a physical illness and can’t take care of ourselves, it’s easier to ask friends to run to the store to pick up dinner for us. But with a mental illness, we often have the mindset that we have to do everything ourselves. We have to be strong, and that strength includes accepting no help.Start Today!
Another harmful trait is the belief that you have to be independent. For many, Independence means doing everything yourself. It’s about being reliant on no one. But it’s a dangerous habit to fall into.
In reality, we all need help. We all need people. We are social creatures, not meant to do everything on our own. Still, when bipolar makes you feel fragile, it feels like even more of a stab to the heart to know that you have to rely on others for help.
I don’t consider myself a prideful person, but I have to admit part of my failure to ask for help is that I’m too proud. I never want to be seen as being weak or unable to take care of myself. So my pride gets in the way. It stops me from telling people how I’m really doing and asking for help when I need it. Unless you’re a lion, pride can do more harm than good.
So once you know the things that stand in your way, what can you do to improve? Here are a few things I’m working on.
First, I’m making an effort to be more open. That means not only telling people that I have a mental illness, but letting them see the parts that are hard to share.
With the world emerging from the pandemic, more and more life is returning to normal. For me, that means that I can go back out and work as a volunteer with other people. I love volunteering, but being around people again is really difficult. My heart races, my hands sweat, and my lungs feel like they can’t get enough air. Classic panic attack symptoms, but ones I experienced less often with all the time at home.
Being around people again is much harder than I expected it to be. So, I’m learning to tell my friends just how hard of a time I’m having. I’ve told a few how difficult it is for me to drive, and I’ve planned settings where when we get together, we do things in small groups. The fewer the people, the less the intensity of my anxiety.
Second, I’m working on being flexible. That means accepting plans can change last minute.
I’m a planner, and I like to have everything worked out at least several days in advance. Routine and schedules give me a sense of stability, so I organize as much of my life as possible.
However, living with a chronic illness means that things can change at the drop of a hat. Even if you feel wonderful this morning, by this afternoon, you may be unable to do anything.
This is a reality I face every day, both with my Familial Mediterranean Fever and with bipolar disorder. I’m learning to be more spontaneous when I feel well, and explaining to people when I make plans I might not be able to carry them out. As much as I enjoy sticking to a schedule, I’m learning sometimes your health has to take priority. And, yes, that includes mental health.
Finally, I’m learning to be kind, both to myself and to others. Instead of beating myself up every time I can’t go, I’m working on trying to forgive myself. I will not pretend this is easy. Every time I make a mistake in public or cancel plans because I just mentally can’t go, I beat myself up for days. But I recognize it’s a problem, and I’m working on being kinder to myself.
The thing is, I’m the type of person who’s there for my friends. If you’re having an emergency, you know you can call me. If at all possible, I’ll be there and do everything I can. What’s sad is even though I know most of my friends feel the same way, I don’t call them when I need help. But I’m working on it.
I wanted to share this post today to let you know that it’s okay if you’re struggling. And that includes if you’re struggling with asking for help. Having people in your life you can rely on when you need help is a valuable gift. But don’t beat yourself up if you’re having a hard time actually asking for the help. Make it a goal and work on it, trying to improve a little bit each day.
Working together, I’m sure we’ll all make it to a better place.
Until next time, keep fighting.
This is a great read and so important. Early in my bipolar disorder, I did not know to ask for help because I had no idea my bipolar disorder was out of hand. Once I figured out what I was dealing with and came to terms with it (several years later), I no longer had the experience of not asking for help. A very supportive circle of family and friends makes it that much easier for me to reach out for help when needed. I wish that for everyone.
A good support team is invaluable. You have a special gift. Thanks for sharing your experience.