Mental health and wellbeing matters: asking for help

Coffee image for Film Stories' regular mental health column
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In this week’s mental health and wellbeing matters column, just a few words about the importance of being able to ask for help when we need it. 

I would like to touch on a topic I am sure has been covered before, but from my own personal angle.

It’s been said that whenever you’re struggling, all you ever need to do is ask for help. And it sounds so simple, but let’s be honest; it’s really not. Asking for help, especially when you are mentally low, can be one of the hardest things in the world. Believe me, I know.

In the past, my Mum often told me that the state of her home was a reflection of the state of her mind. Her home, these days, is very well kept. My own home, however… well, apparently I have adopted the same behaviours of allowing my home (and my physical self) to display what is happening in my mind.

As I sit and type this, I am looking at a beautifully clean home. The flat smells of citrus and clean linen, there is nothing on the floor except the cat, and the sink in the kitchen is completely empty. But I must confess that this is not a sign of how I am coping at the minute. This is a sign that I’ve started asking for help.

I have a family member who is a professional cleaner, and once every month or two she comes and cleans my flat for me, because I am currently incapable of doing it myself. I pay her, of course – family or not, it is a big job. But it was still hard to reach out for that help and to be vulnerable enough to let her see how low I have sunk, because I always like to give the impression that I have my shit together.

Somehow having family help me out is both easy because they know me, and hard because I am letting them see me at my worst and having them realise that I’m not always as put together as I pretend I am. Even though I know I am not being judged, that paranoia still persists because my mind likes to play games with me.

I have had to reach out to friends, before now, just for a chat or asking for some kind of distraction from my issues. And at my lowest points I have asked for help with my mental health from professionals at the hospital and local food banks in order for me to survive with basic meals.

These are some of the hardest moments, to ask for help, because you are also having to admit to yourself that you can’t cope with life as easily as it seems other people can.

Significantly, though, is the knowledge that once you’ve admitted it to yourself, you have to say those words to another person. “I need help.” Three simple words that hold so much power and vulnerability at the same time. Three small words that feel like they’ve become stuck in your throat. Three syllables that can change the direction in which you’re heading.

There is no easy way to say those words, and it comes down the old adage of ‘bite the bullet’. Just take a deep breath, raise your voice, and go for it.

I wish there was an easier way to say it, to encourage you to say it, or to make the words feel less like broken glass on your tongue. But the truth is you will never be braver than you are the moment you vocalise that you need support to take the next step forward in your life, in whichever aspect that may be.

And you’ll be surprised how many people are standing by, just waiting to give you that support.

All you have to do, is ask.

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