Written by Erin Callinan, MSW
Asking for help can be hard. Knowing when to reach out or who to talk to can often be filled with fear, insecurity, doubt, or shame. What if they don’t believe me? What if they judge me or simply tell me to ‘try harder.’ What if I look stupid? What if it doesn’t help? If you’ve ever felt this way, please know YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Maybe you’re there right now. If so, this was written for you and I’m so glad we are sharing this space together.
I’ve felt the fear and anxiety of reaching out to friends, family, or therapists when I felt alone, overwhelmed or simply “off.” Sometimes the effort it took to make that call or go to that appointment seemed like a task far too heavy.
Fortunately, after 20 years of living with bipolar disorder, I’ve learned that reaching out for help is one of the BIGGEST ACTS OF KINDNESS AND LOVE you can show yourself. You deserve to be seen and heard. Your frustration, loss, struggle, fear, or uncertainty...all have purpose, meaning and value. Learning to navigate the “tough stuff” becomes a significantly lighter load to carry when you don’t go about it alone.
5 Tips for Reaching Out to Get the Love and Support You Deserve
1.) Never doubt or underestimate what you've been through. You own your story.
2.) You don't have to "tell all." Share only what you are comfortable with.
3.) The struggle you may be going through does not define you. Reaching out to others will help you learn to believe that.
4.) Seek support from formal services, therapists, and social workers as well as natural supports like friends, partners, coaches, mentors, faith leaders, or teachers.
5.) Tell them how they can support you by sharing what is helpful and unhelpful (what to say, how to respond, what to do).
It took me a long time to figure out what I actually needed when I reached out. It was like trying to write a poem while you’re still looking for the pen. Please know, it’s not just you! Be kind to yourself and know that it takes courage to ask for help. And it’s okay to not know what you need.
Many years back I found that pen and put it to paper. Feel free to borrow these words if you’re still looking for that pen. And I promise...once you reach out, you’ll find that you had the pen all along.
“Here is what I need from you. Believe me. Hear me with your ears and your heart. Offer to stay with me. Tell me I’m going to be okay. Know that this sadness is real for me. Understand that it makes it hard to move. Know that I don’t want to feel alone. If you call me, I might not answer. Please don’t stop calling. Give me space, but not too much. Assigning words to feelings takes energy that I don’t have. Sit with me in silence. Hold me. Don’t make me promise to follow through on plans. I want to, trust me. But the pressure of doing so may be too much and I can’t stand to disappoint you. I need you to do the following through. For now, at least, until I feel a little stronger. And one day, I will do the same for you.”
Reach out for help if you need it. There’s a big world of people waiting to support you.
Erin Callinan, MSW
Consultant, Speaker, Author
Beneath The Brave