Written by Robin L. Flanigan, Senior writer, bphope newsletters
It can be hard to admit that we need help. And we’re often reluctant to ask for it because we fear uncertainty and the possibility of being judged for our vulnerability. Researcher Brené Brown, Ph.D., says we tend to feel better about ourselves when we help someone else but think less of ourselves when we ask for help.
“You cannot judge yourself for needing help, but not judge others for needing your help,” she says. But you’d be wise to measure courage by how vulnerable you are, she adds. So instead of feeling reticent about reaching out, think about how doing so is a sign of strength.
Help for people dealing with mood symptoms will be different for everyone and can run the gamut from physical, financial, emotional, or spiritual.
“Asking for help doesn’t devalue you in any way,” says licensed professional counselor Laurie Leinwand. “It can enable you to advance, connect you meaningfully with others, bolster your productivity and ability to do things with greater ease, and better prepare you for your next challenge.”
Interestingly, a Stanford Graduate School of Business study found that we dramatically underestimate how likely others are to help us.
“People are more willing to help than you think, and that can be important to know when you’re trying to get the resources you need,” says Frank Flynn, associate professor of organizational behavior at Stanford GSB.
The welcome news is that there’s no one right way to ask for help. If you feel most comfortable talking to a close friend or family member, do that. If you’d feel more at ease talking with a professional, or a stranger on a helpline, go that route.
The only thing that matters is that you let someone know you need assistance.
Of course, being aware you may need that assistance—and preparing for what to do when that time arrives—is also key.
So, for starters, try not to wait until you’re in a crisis to make your needs known. Be proactive and plan ahead when things are good. That plan will be useful when symptoms arise but before they escalate, and even when others know you need help, but you don’t.
“Accepting bipolar as a genuine, treatable condition is key to recovery,” says bp Magazine columnist Stephen Propst. “It’s also essential to recognize those times that call for a helping hand. Never hesitate to acknowledge when you can’t go it alone; that’s when it’s time to say, ‘Help!’