Finding the Courage to Ask for Help

*This post was written at the very beginning of my mental health journey. Since then, I’ve grown through counseling and moved into having my own coach and mentor. I want to share the baby steps that it took to ask for help, build a team around me, and start getting mentally, physically, and relationally healthy. Praying that this journey encourages you to reach out. I would love to be a part of helping you find the courage to take steps forward to health.

I was sitting at my desk, on a call with a friend, and she asked, “Where have you been?”

I wasn’t sure exactly what she meant… South Africa? Working? Homeschooling my girls?

She said, “Well, another friend at church was asking about you because we don’t see you online much anymore. We see brief updates but not the inside look and fun posts that we’re used to seeing. She just wanted to know if you were ok.”

For me it was just life. Living it a bit quieter.

Life that is taking me on a deeper personal journey than I ever anticipated. A personal journey that needed me to stop.

To be quiet. To quiet the things around me.

To wait. To notice. To ask for help.

I’d had a niggling sense in my heart for a few years that counseling or therapy could be my next step in personal, mental health growth.

We’ve been through a perfect storm of physical health issues, surgeries, organizational transition, deaths in the family, stressful work and culture moments, personal verbal attacks, launching a daughter to college a continent away, preparing two more to leave the nest, medical travel and moving in a pandemic and honestly, way too many other things to list.

My health issues have become more complicated and my physical response to stress was impacting me in bigger, stronger ways.

I was noticing reactions to situations that weren’t going away.

I’ve been doing all the things that I should be doing to “fix” the stress and anxiety that I was experiencing but my body wasn’t following what my mind was saying.

As a person who is good at solving problems, skilled at taking big tasks and breaking them into doable steps, I was realizing that this wasn’t something I could solve or break down on my own.

I needed to ask for help.

I needed someone to walk me through this intense journey that we’ve been on.

I was becoming desperate for another voice, a professional voice, to speak into what I was going through and address the stress that my body was holding.

Once I came to that realization, then came the actual act of finding someone.

Who? Where? How?

Do I go through my organization, ask a friend, send an email?

I did hours of research. But, the hours weren’t necessarily spent trying to find someone. The hours were spent agonizing over actually getting started.

I was fighting low-trust levels, fear of actually telling someone all the stories, loyalty to those around me, and feeling lost in the details of figuring it all out.

I had a handful of half-written, unsent emails, a few unsent Facebook messages, and lots of backspacing and deleting on both.

Then, I’d wait it out. Surely I was strong enough to do this on my own.

A few weeks later, try again.

A month more of convincing myself that I really didn’t anyone. This would get better. I needed some rest and sleep. That’s all.

More stress and sick days would lead to a few more hours of researching, wondering, questioning, and rethinking, more emails and messages left unsent.

Why was this so hard?

I’m the person that people come to for help. I’m normally the person solving problems, finding solutions and fixing things. I get things done. I multitask quite easily. I have my hands in all the things while balancing home, work, and life.

I’ve organized and moved my family all over the world. I can fill out 5 visa forms, apply for passports, figure out our taxes in three currencies, navigate a conversation in French, order from a menu in Afrikaans, eat rice with bugs in it, and drive on the opposite side of the road but I couldn’t figure out how to stop my body from the effects of anxiety and stress.

I know all the things. {or, I thought I did}

Why wasn’t my body listening to me?

I was reaching the end of what I could do on my own.

{truly where God wants us, yes?}

Whether it was the impact of chronic illness or the culmination of our 10 years in global work, it didn’t matter anymore.

Why was reaching out for help so hard?

Pride? Maybe.

Time? Maybe.

Choosing someone? Maybe.

Feeling a little tired and weak? Maybe.

Feeling like if I did this, I was admitting I wasn’t fine? Maybe.

Wondering how it will go, what people will think and if it will even help? Maybe.

All of the above and probably more reasons? Yes.

It finally came down to doing the next thing. A lesson that I felt like I’d learned but maybe needed to learn once more.

I sent a text to a friend who knew someone. I got on their website and sent an email. I booked my first appointment. I was terrified and wanted to cancel. I got on the zoom call anyway.

I found myself in professional counseling.

With her encouragement, I got my neurologist on board and started the process of figuring out if or how medications could help my body calm down and heal.

My neurologist, who’ve I’ve been seeing for 6 years now, was absolutely thrilled that I was ready to take on my struggles in a new way and build a stronger, better support team for full health.

Stress and health issues do not play nice together and she was glad that I was starting to understand how serious that was. Suddenly, I was standing in line at the pharmacy and realizing that I was a person needing therapy and medication.

I was surprised to find that I didn’t feel weak, I felt stronger.

I felt like I’d made a really hard, life-changing decision.

I’d never been against getting help with mental health. I’d never thought needing medicine or getting therapy was a sign of weakness. I didn’t look down on anyone who did those things!

I just never thought it would be me.

{again, right where God wants us.}

In talking to my therapist about how hard it was to send her an email, she said that I wasn’t alone. She said taking the first step is the hardest one.

Oh, the journey is hard after that too. Digging deep, talking through the really hard things, looking back on your life, seeing your faults and weaknesses, honestly acknowledging the impact that stress and unhealthy relationships have had on your body… that is incredibly hard.

But it’s a good, healthy hard.

I built a team. I went to physical therapy every week. I have zoom counseling calls. I email my neurologist if I need her. I meet with a friend for coffee and let her ask me real, big questions. My pilates instructor is showing me how to slow down and exercise differently. I literally have to make myself nap almost every day.

I love them all, this support team I’ve built. They’ve shown me that even if my mind wants to fix it, my body is not so quick to recover.

The journey is long and recovery is beautifully hard and there’s so much to learn along the way.

In the book Upstream by Dan Heath, he says, “Don’t obsess about formulating the perfect solution before you begin your work; instead, take ownership of the underlying problem and start slogging forward.”

Chrystal Evans Hurst, in her book “She’s Still There”, says, “The problem for most of us is not making a decision, it’s making a decision that results in action. Yet results come only when we take action. We have to move from thinking about it to doing something about it… until you’re willing to participate in that process, nothing will happen, and that’s the part of the decision making where most of us get tripped up and off track.”

A Life Overseas recently went farther in a post about missions and Toxic Positivity saying, “Most importantly, toxic positivity does not reflect the heart of our God, who created the full range of human emotions and is able and willing to sympathize with us in our weakness and times of trouble. Toxic positivity is not how we shine a light on the darkness because toxic positivity is a reaction that stems from fear and shame rather than faith. It focuses on self-reliance to “power through” and create or shine our own light rather than calling us to step into the light through surrender to the one true God. Toxic positivity is a shallow substitute for the hope of the gospel and a genuine relationship with Christ.” {emphasis my own}

I’ve been reading like crazy. Listening to podcasts. Learning about saying no, realizing the purpose of boundaries, respecting my limits, listening to my body and finally, finally realizing that God sees me as ME.

God does not see me only as a coach, wife, mother, pastor, friend, woman with health issues, homeschooler, administrator… God sees me as His daughter.

I’ll stand before Him one day on my own, by myself, as a loved child of God. Simply because He created me.

I’m learning that my selfhood is a gift that he’s not asking me to give away for any other role.

These are incredibly hard and important lessons for this season of my life.

It takes time. And perseverance. And creativity. I drive myself to a functional medicine practitioner, let myself enjoy all the red light therapy, sauna, foot detox, and supplements, while making new friendships in a new town. I schedule monthly massage therapy, take gentle walks, sleep… a lot. Now, I’m digging into “Fast Like A Girl” and the science behind healing my body through fasting and feasting. I meet with my mentor and talk with my coach.

Spiritually, I’m on two-a-day time in the Word. Like football, this season of my life is requiring deep times with Jesus. I’m realizing places of spiritual abuse that have greatly impacted my trust and safety yet have pushed me closer than ever to God as I trust him, find my full safety in him alone.

Recovery is something that I want to model well as I grow older. I want my girls to know it’s okay to ask for help. I want to help people put plans in place towards healing in every way.

Wholeness and health is something that I’ve become even more passionate about as I’ve learned how rare it is for people to give themselves permission to say they aren’t fine, to give themselves permission to ask for help before being in crisis.

So, now I turn the question back and say, after everything you’ve been through in the past few years, “Where are you? How are you? Do you need to ask for help?”

Do you need a push to say you’re not ok?

Remember, coaching is not counseling, but together, we can make a plan, ask the hard questions, build your team and start you on your own journey to health!

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