Help: Shifting it from Shame to Responsibility
What I’ve found is, that being a parent changes absolutely everything. I knew this at some level, but experiencing in it life is far different than acknowledging it on a logical level. I know, you’re probably like, “duh, Danny.” But hear me out.
You see, sometimes I get stuck, and maybe you do too? What I mean, is that I’ll know what I’m supposed to do next, but can’t get the one word out that lets others know I need help getting unstuck.
Sometimes, ok probably all of the time, that’s all I have to say and I’ll have a number of people by my side, ready to support me in what ways they can to help me get unstuck. But more times than not, asking for help feels too heavy to handle and hard to ask. But why does something so necessary to do, come with so much shame in our society?
Being a parent, I’m constantly helping another human being navigate this world without shaming them, without judging them for needing it, and by offering what skills and spoons I have to give them without expectations of repayment. And then I started wondering, what if we welcomed adults (or even older kids/teens) to this kind of help and support? The kind that is unconditional and comes without the shame and judgement threads this society together?
And then it hit me like a Wonder wrecking ball: I HAVE experienced this before and what it does, is save lives. I’ve found this support and freedom from the shame that is asking for help in the rooms of recovery. It was through getting sober in the rooms where I found the courage to ask for help, and as importantly, the faith to accept it.
Being a parent has taught me that even asking for help, looks differently. That now, I have a responsibility to ask for help before I get to my jumping off point. That I must humble myself enough to say one simple word, “help,” before the red flags become a dumpster fire. Now, I have this tiny human watching my every move, learning from me, exactly how to ask for help and how to take care of themselves when things get hard and their heart feels heavy. And because of this beautiful (and daunting) responsibility, I get to learn how to ask for help sooner, when I start feeling those red flags and before they are even noticeable to others while making sure to love myself all along the way.
Last week I was at my jumping point and couldn’t find the courage to ask for help until I was already in crisis. One thing that I’ve learned since, is that if I treat myself in the same ways I do Wilder when they need help, I would have asked immediately and not looked back, stuck in shame or guilt.
When I leaned into the friends who could answer my silent cry for help, what I found was a three day voluntary hospital stay waiting for me and a dear friend taking my baby and teaching them to sleep without me, through the night.
I needed help loooooong before I asked for it. I thought that when others who I trusted heard me screaming, they would come but sometimes others don’t know how to help unless we ask. I knew that I was at my breaking point for weeks before I finally broke, but because of shame, I couldn’t ask for the help I needed. My brain was telling me that because I was almost a year postpartum, I should be getting better not worse. I needed someone to tell me that it was ok to get help, that they too saw that I needed help. I needed someone to tell me that there was help for the thoughts and feelings I was having, and others who were having them.
Being a parent doesn’t require me to put my own needs after my babies, in fact, that mindset is one that fuels the shame that (this) parent feels when needing to ask for help. In order to be the best (and safest) parent possible, I must first help myself sometimes (oftentimes). That doesn’t mean my babies needs will be unmet, but that does mean that I can lean into my village and ask for help in meeting those needs.
It’s ok to ask for help.
It’s ok if help means checking yourself into a hospital or treatment center. I did.
It’s ok if help looks like taking medication. I am.
It’s ok if help means changing the way you are parenting, even if it hurts your heart. I have.
It’s ok if help means lessening your load and rehoming an animal. I am.
It’s ok to ask for help no matter what or how that help looks.
Being a parent, I want to teach Wilder the security that comes from asking for help, not the shame. As a person and human being, I want to teach myself and then perhaps one day you all, the joy that comes from asking for help.
During my three day hospital stay, the only book I was able to get my hands on (besides a bible and no thank you) was one called, “I Will Not Die and Unlived Life,” and read it cover to cover in less then two days. It was the exact book my heart needed and had been years since I have had the time and focus to read an entire book, let alone one I didn’t want to put down. Even sitting in a hospital bed with others around me screaming, there was joy in being alive and the help I was receiving.
Being a parent changes absolutely everything, and in ways I never even thought to imagine until I was at my jumping off point. Asking for help is a courageous act of self-love, one I deeply want to model for Wilder. Here’s to learning both big and little ways to model asking for help to the tiny humans watching our every move. How are you going to model asking for help today?