“Listen: I Don’t Care If You’re a Burden. If You Need Help, Ask for It.” by Sam Dylan Finch originally appeared on Ravishly, a pop culture + feminist news website, and was reprinted with permission.
In the last few weeks, I suffered a mental breakdown unlike anything I had seen in a long time.
Historically, I would’ve suffered this alone, doing everything I could to hide my mental illness. But this time, I did something different, something profound, something scary — I let my friends help me.
They showed up in the middle of the night when I was drowning in panic and depression, talking me through it until I fell asleep.
They opened up their homes to me when I was too self-destructive to be alone in my apartment.
And when it became a crisis, they drove me to the emergency room and advocated for me, talking with every nurse and every doctor that came into the room, to be sure I would get the best possible care.
They’re heroes, these friends of mine.
I wrote about this experience publicly, both on my Facebook pages and on my blog. And unsurprisingly, the most common response was something along the lines of, “I could never let my friends in like that, I’d be afraid of being too much of a burden.”
Hundreds of people in tweets, messages, and comments conveyed the same fear: That if they were to ever let someone in while they struggled, it would do more harm than good.
And I know this fear well. It used to be my attitude. Even now, I still find myself swimming in guilt and anxiety over whether or not I put too many demands on my support system.
Even so, I don’t regret asking for help. I might not be alive right now if I hadn’t.
Knowing that the presence of my friends was literally a matter of life and death, I’m on the other side of this episode with a huge shift in my perspective — one that I’d like to share.
I’m done — I mean, really, really finished — with the attitude that having a mental illness makes us a burden.
I’m done buying into this problematic idea that people with mental illness should go it alone, as if we are not worthy of support, love, or compassion.
I’m especially done with self-silencing, never asking for help even when I desperately need it.
Doing so has only succeeded in perpetuating my suffering and isolating me, neither of which has aided me in recovery one bit.
I used to be the one that pushed everyone away out of fear that I was too demanding or too toxic or “too much.” But I’m finally at a place in my life where I understand just how important it is to lean on your support system — and so I’m committed to not running away anymore.
I’m going to ask you to do something really tough. Something that goes against everything we’re taught about mental health struggles. But I wouldn’t ask if it weren’t important, I promise.
I’m going to challenge you to ditch this idea of being a “burden” and start reaching out when you’re struggling.
Why? Because our lives and our mental health are far too important not to.
The folks who care about you do not want you to struggle in isolation, and they certainly don’t want to lose you. And you, by virtue of being human, are worthy of support and care — support and care I’m almost certain you would offer others if they needed you.
The reality is that no one deserves to do this alone. So why subject yourself to that?
If it’s between being a “burden” and losing your mind — or worse, your life — I’ll carry the burden for you any day. And I can guarantee you that there are others who would do the same.
Let the people who love you set some healthy boundaries and navigate how best to take care of themselves while supporting you. It’s possible to support you and support themselves at the same time – which can take some trial and error, admittedly — but it’s more than possible.
You have to take the first step and ask for help, though.
Be courageous and say, “I’m going through a hard time right now. Can you help me talk through some options?”
Be brave and say, “I’m so depressed and I don’t know if I can do this anymore. Can you help me?”
Push back against your fears and say, “I’m struggling and I don’t know what to do. Can you come over?”
Because listen: You are too important, too precious, too valuable to sabotage your own well-being because you are afraid of hurting others.
It may sound noble to protect the people you love, but they don’t need protecting from you — and chances are, they never asked for it.
So do me a favor, okay? Be honest about what you’re going through, and let the people in your life support you.
If you’re anything like me, that support might be the difference between ending your life and getting the help you desperately need.
And I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we’d prefer it if you stuck around.
More from Ravishly:
- I convinced myself I wasn’t sick — until I wound up in a psychiatric hospital
- 6 totally awful lies that mental illness told me
- PSA: When you misuse the word “insane,” I’m going to judge you