Help Seeking

I stayed away from gambling for exactly a week but I did it again last night.  The good news is I walked away from a “sure win”.  I was positive another fifty would win me the jackpot.  I was certain the next person to play the machine would win “my” money but I walked away anyhow.  I reminded myself of all the times I thought a win was coming, of how much I lost when it didn’t, and I made myself walk away. I have never done that before.

The bad news is, of course, I lost far more than I intended to lose.

I have a meeting and supervision coming up next week at work and I have been having deja vu flashes.  Over the years I have come to believe lots of deja vu predicts a major event coming in my life.  Because of that belief the current round of deja vu experiences has been causing me to grow steadily more afraid something terrible is going to happen at the meeting or in supervision.

My paranoia and anger over junk mail and online spam is increasing.  The other day I banned three entire isp providers, Russian ones I think, to stop spam coming from their range.  I haven’t questioned this thinking until now but I did something that made me stop and take a long hard look at it.

I got a letter, addressed to me, offering me a range of investment options.  The first thing I thought was my bank notified them about the little bit of money I have managed to save and that was how they got my name and address.

I was enraged.  People sending me unsolicited offers is not what upsets me.  I hate it when they send them to me personally because it means they have paid for my contact details (see entry titled Mailing List Rant).

It has never occurred to me to wonder why I have such a problem about this stuff but my reaction yesterday set alarm bells ringing in my mind once I calmed down and thought about what I had done.

I tore off their reply form, wiped my butt with it, then sealed it in an envelope to return to them!  I didn’t think about the innocent employee who would have to open it – I just reacted.  I didn’t even question my behaviour.

A few hours later I was writing in my pen and paper diary and I wrote the words:

“I am hanging on by a thread” and I realised it was true. My thinking really must be deteriorating because wiping my butt on junk mail is completely out of character for me.  Banning a country from accessing my site just to stop a few spammers from trying to leave comments, comments my spam filter is not letting through anyway, is ridiculous.  Believing deja vu flashes mean something terrible is about to happen is evidence my mind is not functioning as well as it should be!  Believing there is no point to my existence and there never will be, cutting myself off from people, believing there is no help available and refusing to seek help are all signs that I might have more of a problem than I want to believe.

I asked myself what I would say to a client if they were in my position.  I would tell them to talk to someone, seek help, reach out.  I thought about reaching out for help and my mind said there is no help available – not for me.  I thought about talking to someone and my mind said there was no point – nobody could help and I would just be rejected or considered a nuisance.

It astounded me to realise I really don’t believe counseling can help me.  I’m a psychologist – I have seen how much counseling can help!  I know for certain it can and does help people yet here I was – telling myself I am too different, too far beyond help, too abnormal for anyone else to understand.

I don’t seek help.  I never have.  I have always believed nobody can help and, even if they could, they would not want to help ME.  The times I have had counseling or gone on anti-depressants have been times of major crisis in my life and I have not sought support.  I have sought medication, a referral, or a chance to unload.

As soon as the crisis has passed I always turn away from sources of help.  I stop taking the medication and stop seeing a counselor.  I tell myself I am OK now and I don’t need help.  Because of that I have only ever had band-aid help.  I use God to patch myself up and go back into the ring, alone, to take another beating from life.

The problem is I have been standing alone for almost 50 years now and patch up jobs are not working very well any more.

I’m falling down faster and faster and when I fall I am more and more damaged each time.  Things are getting worse and worse.  I have run out of stamina and strength so, finally, I took a good look at my thinking about help-seeking behaviour.

When I ran a course on life skills in a primary school one of the skills I tried to teach the children was help-seeking.  As I sat in my room, empty and exhausted, out of options and in despair the light dawned.

Human beings are not meant to stand alone.

I gave myself the same advice I’ve been giving to my clients for years – you need support!  You need to reach out to every source of support that is available to you and pull them all in – let them help you.

I countered my negative thinking the same way I have countered those same thoughts when clients have spoken them out loud to me.

“I don’t want to be a nuisance.”

You have a RIGHT to be a nuisance and anyone who loves you will WANT you to be one if it means you will let them help you!

“People don’t care.  If I ask for help they will say no and I couldn’t bear that.”

You CAN bear it.  You are bearing it already by assuming they will say no.  The worst that can happen is you will be right but there are people out there who care and who WILL try to help.  Find them and LET them help you!

“Nobody CAN help me.”

Maybe not but let them at least TRY!

I took a deep breath, picked up the phone, and took the first step towards creating a network of support for myself.

My previous work on a help-line showed me that someone like me, someone who never reaches out for help, would be a welcome caller to a help line.  I knew they would love me to call so I did it.  I called a help line and she confirmed what I already knew – I need to get help.  Hearing her say all the things I have been saying to myself actually did help me.  It made those things seem more believable.  As soon as I calmed down and stopped crying the woman changed the subject and began talking about her job which was not helpful but I didn’t let the unhelpful part of the call undo the good she had done.

I decided to seek more help.  Supportive help – love!

I sent an sms to my daughter asking her if she was awake.  I knew she would not be and I knew I would be waking her up but I told myself she would WANT me to do this!

She sent an sms back saying she was awake now.  It told me I had woken her up but I did not back down.  I sent another sms saying I was having a melt-down.  I could not bring myself to actually ASK her to come to me but she offered.  I resisted the impulse to say never mind – I’m fine – I’m just being silly so she could go back to sleep.  I accepted her offer to come to me and she came.

She came, she listened, she hugged me and I felt loved.  I felt supported.  I felt stronger.

I resisted the urge to leave it at that.  I followed up on my help-seeking this time.  I made an appointment to see my doctor.  I called the victims of crime department and asked them how I could access the money they have awarded me to cover future psychological treatment for PTSD.

Then I allowed my daughter to take me to my doctor and I accepted a prescription for anti-depressants.  I got the prescription filled and I took my first dose.  I let the doctor write me a sickness certificate and I called in sick for the next few days.  Every time I was tempted to back away from this path of comprehensive help-seeking I reminded myself that band-aid help is not enough any more.

I felt physically ill calling into work to say I was not coming in for the next three days.  My mothers voice was telling me if I was not bleeding, vomiting, in pain or incapacitated I was NOT sick.  I had a medical certificate saying I am sick but I felt like I was lying, letting my bosses down, behaving badly.  If I had been alone I could not have done it.  I would not have done it.

My professional training told me I was not fit to go to work, the lady on the help-line told me I should not go to work, my doctor told me I was not fit to work, my daughter told me I should not go to work but my mothers definition of sick outweighed them all.

If my daughter had not been there, telling me I need to take care of ME or I will only do a bad job taking care of people seeking help, I would have gone to work.  I feel like a fraud, a faker, and I have to remind myself psychological damage is every bit as real as physical damage.

I would not expect to walk on a broken leg so why am I expecting to be able to help others when I have nothing left to help myself with?

It’s time to follow my own advice.  Time to take care of myself and let people help me.  Time to follow through with the help I am offered.  This time I plan to stay on the anti-depressants until the doctor tells me I can go off them!  This time I plan to keep going to the counselor until I am better (or they say they are not able to help)!

This time I am going to call on all the people who have told me they are there for me – and let them support and love me whenever I need them.

This time I am going to call help lines if I need them too.

I am going to use every source of support that is available to me for as long as it takes to find out, one way or the other, if I really can be helped.

In the back of my mind there is one question.

What if this actually works?  What if, at the end of this, I am a different person and I find I am actually enjoying my life for the first time ever?

How much am I going to regret not doing this sooner?

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