I don’t like asking for help because I don’t like bothering people. I tend to assume there are worse things in the world than my problem, and everyone is busy, so why bother them. Because of this thinking, I rarely ask for help when I can really use it. However, if a friend called and asked me for help, I would drop what I was doing and happily help her, and most of my friends are like this as well.
So why is asking for help so hard?!
As military spouses and moms, we grow tough skin; we gain confidence in our own self-sufficiency; and we have this “I can deal with whatever comes my way” attitude because we have to. Sometimes we think we can do it ourselves despite clear evidence that we can’t. We don’t want to seem weak, or maybe we think other people wouldn’t need help in this situation. Maybe we are afraid our cry for help will be turned down. After all, putting ourselves out there by asking for help and then being told “no” is a scary risk. Maybe asking for help means revealing something about ourselves that we would rather keep secret.
After having my second child, I experienced a moderate case of postpartum depression. I loved my new baby and bonded with him just fine, but I felt this sadness that I couldn’t shake for about a year. This was the complete opposite of my usual happy optimistic self, so I knew something was wrong. At the well-baby check-up when they handed me the self-care survey, I checked the “correct” boxes stating all was well with me, even though there were many boxes I could’ve checked that stated otherwise.
I didn’t tell anyone how I was feeling. I dealt with it in my own way — through prayer and getting involved in every church group I could. And I made it through.
After a year, it was like the sun came out again and the grey cloud that hovered over my head was gone. Even though I “got through” that previous year, looking back, I know it would’ve helped a lot if I had talked to someone. My good friends could have been a source of strength and encouragement. And who knows, maybe they were going through or had gone through something similar — maybe I missed an opportunity for a deeper connection with the friends around me. I have since learned to see the signs in other new moms and make sure I offer help and a listening ear.
But even now, asking for help is still hard for me! Most times I fail to think about what I would gain by asking for help. When I was pregnant with my third child, I had a medical emergency at 11 p.m. The ambulance arrived while my two preschool-aged kids were asleep. Help was definitely needed. My husband called our friend up the road, and she stayed at our house until my husband returned from the hospital hours later. My husband warned her not to go in our bathroom, but she did. And she cleaned up the bloody mess, something that would have been too difficult for my husband to do in the state he was in after not knowing if he was losing his wife or child. That day, she was no longer just a friend; she was family and would remain so.
For military moms it is even harder to ask for help for frequently we are just arriving at a new place and have just met new people or maybe we haven’t met anyone at all. How do you ask for help from strangers?
In the last 13 years, I have moved six times. Through these moves, I have realized that the common factor of “military” no longer makes the people around me strangers. As military moms, even though we’ve never met, even though we may have different personalities or beliefs, and even though we or our spouses may have different jobs and ranks within the military, we share a bond like no other group of people.
Let’s give people around us the opportunity to help us, knowing that one day we will have the opportunity to help others. This is how strong communities are built and sustained. Asking for help may seem hard, but suffering alone is even harder.