Why is it so much easier to give help than receive it?
As mentioned in my last post my mental health has sort of dived off a cliff. I feel like things have been slightly better the last few days, if I am around people I feel quite normal and can laugh and joke and have motivation to move from my spot on the sofa. The moment I am alone though, it is like all the tension I have been unconsciously suppressing whilst in company pops up and the prospect of the simplest action fills me with anxiety. The thoughts return and I am once again at war with myself.
The problem with this, is that a) I am doing way too much to fill my time – I am seeing people as much of a the time as possible to stave off the slide into misery I know will come and b) I seem my normal self when around people so the guilt at all the support I am receiving becomes even greater.
I have, in recent months had a few friends go through very difficult times. I have cooked meals for meal rotas, offered to take children and done what I could to support. All of this was as part of a team of people all doing the same. This is what community is about, I say. It’s what we are here for.
I believe that, I really do. We are meant to love each other, be available for each other. If the early church community is anything to go by the way we love each other should be self sacrificial. It will cost us, of course it will, but if we are doing it right we will also receive a lot from it. We give from what we have and share our resources as a community.
The problem is, it’s one thing believing this and saying it to others when they are finding the receiving position a difficult place to be, but it is quite another being on the receiving end of such help.
The thought of going about my life, looking “normal” and happy makes me anxious. I feel like I should look depressed and tearful. I mean, this has been the case recently, but as things start to feel a smidge more manageable, I find that I look much more with it and normal and this scares me. What if people look at me now and assume I don’t need the help and support anymore?
I feel like a fraud. There is a meal rota for us at the moment, with different people giving us a meal a couple of times a week, people are offering child care and play dates. It is so incredibly helpful, but also I feel like I don’t deserve it. Surely, if I can put on a smile and laugh when I’m out and about, people will see I’m a fraud and know I don’t deserve it.
The problem, I think, comes from those whispers (or at the moment screams) in my head that tell me every spare minute I have, how worthless, useless and rubbish I am. They tell me how bad a friend, wife and mother I am. They tell me I am lazy not ill, they tell me I am taking from people who need it more when I don’t deserve it, that people will see through me.
It helps me manage the despair if I am around people, if I am blocking out the voices with a distraction. I am selective about who I see – just those friends who won’t mind if the despair hits while still with them, but this still means I am out and about and looking, for the most part, fine.
It’s the problem with mental health problems. You can smile and chat whilst wishing you were dead.
So, I am having to remind myself, several times a day of what I would say to a friend in the same situation:
- You can’t control what others think of you.
- Not everyone will understand.
- People will only help if they have the capacity and desire to do so.
- People want to be in community, supporting and helping each other.
- If it was someone else experiencing what you are, what would you think?
A friend the other day (thanks for this Ionella) said it so perfectly that it hit home; we are just being God’s hands and feet.
This is what we are called to be. Community, family, loving neighbours. Doesn’t help the guilt much, but it is still good to try and remind myself sometimes…