Friday, July 31, 2009

I Need to Ask for Help

I had a meltdown last Friday. It wasn't any one thing that contributed to it but a series of events that, each on their own, should have been no problem. Last weekend was the church camp out. We book a group use area in a nearby provincial park and pitch our tents in one large field near a large cooking shelter supplied with running water, electricity, protection from the rain, tables, counters and fireplaces. I had such a good time last year that I didn't want to miss out this year--it's a great way to get to know others better.

But I haven't been well. My depression has seemed to be getting worse, not better, and the smallest things create anxiety and agitation. When I'm committed to an event, I plan the days approaching it with care so that I can be "pulled together" and function the way I want and need to. But that wasn't happening for the camp out. Other things were conspiring to take my energy and time so that by Thursday night, I was feeling stressed about all that yet needed to be done. Friday morning was even worse.

I decided to not rush but take everything at a steady pace. I spent my usual time cycling on my stationary bike and in my prayer room and my fears of not having enough time to prepare were groundless. It didn't take as much time and energy as I thought, especially with Tom doing all the hard work of carrying things from the basement and second floor out to the car and packing it all.

Unfortunately, we had a fight of sorts with me getting very angry. That anger filled the silence of the car as we drove to our destination. I knew that once we were with others, our moods would lift and was looking forward to that. Packing everything we needed into a Honda Civic is not an easy task and Tom did an admirable job but it meant that the passenger seat I was in was so close to the dashboard I had to duck to pull down the shade--not a good mood-improver. Nor was the downpour we encountered on the way. Rain and tenting aren't the best combination.

We found the place fine and, since my knee won't let me do a lot of walking, Tom carried our gear from the car to our tent site--a considerable distance. He brought the tent first so I began to set it up while he continued going back and forth with things. I've set the tent up myself more than once but never in the winds we had that Friday. They were crazy! I got the tent up and then one corner blew off it's peg and began flapping around. No problem. Once the fly was up and over the tent, the tent corner would stay in place.

I wasn't counting on the fly being a sail. We nearly had it pitched when the wind grabbed and tore it off the tent. The pastor chose that time to inform us all that we were at the wrong site but he was hoping the people who had booked this site would be willing to take the one we should have been in. Given this information, should we try putting the fly up again or just wait? But if we wait, what would we do with the fly that was flapping around? I decided to be optimistic and we started on the fly again.

I was very short on energy and had to stop frequently to sit on a small stool I take camping. Several people came by and offered to help but I refused them all. We struggled with the fly, got much of it up and then realized that it had major problems. One of our boys has used the tent a number of times since our last use and one essential part was in such disrepair we weren't sure if it would work. Duct tape should help!

This is when Nathan came by again and said we all had to take down our tents and move. Arghhh! But that's okay. These things happen and can't be helped. After the tent was down, Tom cleared my seat in the car so I could sit while he finished putting things back in the car (we'd found a way to bring the car next to the tent). I could have fallen asleep right then, I was so tired!

When it was time to pull away, I turned in my seat so the door beside me could be closed and I could hardly get my feet where they were supposed to go. I thought I had been close to the windshield on the way to the park but this was worse. But it would only last a few minutes as we drove to the site next door so I didn't mind.

When we got there, Tom went to check out the lay of the land and for some reason, while he was gone, I fell apart. I was sobbing so much I covered my face with a cloth so no one could see me. It reminded me of what happens to children when they're overtired. They become cranky and unable to function. When Tom returned I felt so awkward about my messy emotions and all the people nearby that I said I wanted to go home.

I felt badly for that because he had worked so much harder than me in getting us there and now I was saying I didn't want to stay but what else could I do? I was beyond any rational thought and wanted to get away as quickly as possible. Nathan came by and encouraged me to stay--he even had a spare tent that he'd put up for us--but I declined and insisted on going home.

I sobbed and bawled all the way home, more than an hour's drive, and continued when I got inside. I noticed a voice message on my phone and when I listened to it, someone protesting my departure and asking me to return, I cried all the louder. Mikael and Erik helped Tom unload the car and put everything away. I was so exhausted and so distressed that I couldn't even open my computer at first, nevermind get myself ready for bed.

It wasn't just exhaustion. I was so mad at myself for being so weak, so incapable, so needy. I couldn't get rid of the dark thoughts and wondered if I needed the Mobile Crisis Unit. Was I going crazy? My writing, promoting my book, soliciting speaking engagements--who was I to think I could do any of this? I was scared.

While the body-wracking sobs subsided after a couple of hours, I was still a mess when I went to see my psychiatrist on Wednesday. What had happened? Why had I fallen apart so easily? What's wrong with me?

What's wrong with me, she said, is that I refuse to ask for or accept help. She didn't say it quite so up front like that. She's sneaky and asked other questions and took about 45 minutes to get to her punch line. But that was the bottom line: I need to ask for help. I protested. I argued. I said I don't know how.

I've been giving this a lot of thought. How do I ask for help? Is it safe to do so? Will people still like me when they see how needy I really am? Clearly I should have accepted those offers of help while I was still together. Waiting until I've fallen apart is waiting too long.

Two friends have lovingly pointed out that it's pride that keeps me from asking for and/or accepting help. It's not something I want to hear but I have to accept the truth of it.

So I'm going to try. Hopefully those of you in my life will be patient with me as I stumble through the learning curve and make myself vulnerable to you in my times of need. Hopefully I'll recognize those times early enough for your help to make a difference.

God, forgive me my pride and the foolishness of wanting to appear in control of my life and circumstances. Give me the courage to say, "I'm not doing well. I need help!" When I'm looking for help, please place the right people before me--people who will love me despite my need and weakness. Thank you for doctors and friends who care enough to speak the truth even when it hurts. So be it.


Samantha said...

This is something I've had difficulty with, as well. But a good friend once told me to think of things from this perspective:

When we allow others to work at our sides, regardless of who will benefit from the work, we share time and part of ourselves with them. We accept their help and offer love and kinship in return--and those are priceless. No one can buy time or affection.

So I've tried to do that over the past year, and more often than not, as I express gratitude for the help I've received, the person who has helped me has returned my gratitude and told me how important it was to spend time with me--no matter what the reason. Time and time again, I've been surprised.

You wrote a post awhile back on receiving love. I believe this is part of that. Service is love: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these...", but if no one is the receiver, how can one give?

I'm sorry you had such a difficult weekend. I hope your spirit is soothed, and you feel peace and joy once again.

gilley said...

The thirteenth paragraph . . . you called yourself weak, incapable, needy, crazy and then reinforced the incapable self.
Troll talk, and all lies.
You would never speak to a friend the way you did to yourself.
As a friend of that person you were speaking about, I would ask, "Who are you to judge her?"

Di said...

Sweetie, I haven't been here in forever so you don't know that I have been struggling with depression these last few months also. I understand how you felt. Just the overwhelming-ness of it all. The depression forced me to learn to ask for help. I never used to. It's ok to not be perfect and ask for help.

Debbie Haughland Chan said...

Sorry I've taken my time to respond to the comments. I've been very moved by the responses I've received to this post both here and elsewhere. Thank you!

Di, I'm sorry to hear that you've been struggling with depression as well. It's not fun, is it?

My next post is a response to all the comments I received here and elsewhere.