“What can I do to help?”
“Have you tried doing x/y/z?”
My friends are coming from a place of love and concern and genuine care for how I am doing. But those question are huge triggers for me. How can I tell people who are only trying to help that what they’re doing is only harming me further?
Fight or Flight
Those are the options I was taught when I first learned about the physio and psychological responses when faced with danger. How these are not conscious decisions. They are simply what our bodies/minds automatically tell us to do when a threat is in front of us.
I didn’t know there was an official third response until much later in life. But this is frequently where I end up.
When I am frozen is when I need the most help. But most of the time I’ll still say “I don’t need help.”
I hate asking for help. It comes down to my overwhelming fear of rejection and/or belief that I am a burden and an inconvenience to the people around me. So, when I find myself in a bad place, I have the worst time reaching out and asking for or accepting offers of help. (Note – I’ve gotten better at this over these past five years. It may still not be completely obvious, but I do try.)
So how can someone help me when I am clearly in need of help? It starts with simply knowing I need help. Listen. Pay attention. The signs are always going to be there.
People around me can usually TELL when I’m not doing well (despite what I may or may not be saying with words) or I’ve been able to break through and manage to state clearly that I am not doing well and that I need help, even if it’s not with those exact words.
First, though, the most important thing to remember is that I’m frozen.
Yes, I know what might help. But I am locked in my mind and cannot think clearly or make decisions. In some ways that’s a really good thing. Because it also stops me from making REALLY BAD decisions. But mostly, it just makes me feel worse.
So here’s the trick to how to help me:
Show me that I matter to you.
Because the second thing to remember is that I am listening to every lie my brain is spitting out that I am alone and worthless and a failure and whatever else my thoughts can do to destroy me.
Don’t ask, “how can I help?” It frustrates me, because I can’t tell you, then I worry about frustrating you or being a burden.
Ask me Yes/No or Either/Or questions.
Offer concrete suggestions on how you would like to help.
Reassure me that you do want to help in this fashion. Or ignore me and do it anyway.
One of the easiest things to ask is always, “would you like to go out for or to have me bring you coffee?” My coffee addiction is well known. I will NEVER say no to coffee.
But it doesn’t have to be coffee – pretty much anything you feel I would enjoy or appreciate that you may feel isn’t that big a deal will be a HUGE deal to me. Trust me.
Here is something else that helps:
“Can I come over (or call and chat) and keep you company and/or do x/y/z for you?”
Again, I may say, “you don’t have to.” or “I’ll be fine.” If this is something you can genuinely do to help, let me know that or perhaps offer to do something else. Reiterate that you want to help in this fashion and you can do this at a different time or a different day if that moment truly doesn’t work.
This tells me that you’re making time in your life for me. That I am someone you are choosing to make a priority over other things you could be doing. I’m… important to you. “WOW,” will say my brain.
“Want to come out and do x or y… or… y or z with me at this time or on this day?” Food/coffee, a walk, or an activity. Be concrete. Show up and drag me out of bed and make me do things if I have been letting this go on for longer than is good for me.
Try to be clear that you’re asking because you GENUINELY want me to join you. That you’re not just asking out of obligation. Because that is what my brain will immediately direct itself toward.
This may seem like a pain in the ass and a waste of time. I mean, why can’t I just freaking SAY what someone could do to be of help, right??? Or why can’t somebody say, “why don’t you do this?”
Please, again, try to remember: I’m my own worst enemy.
I do usually know WHAT might help. I just can’t force myself to think about them or decide what to do or actually do any of them. I am feeling stupid, useless, and a failure. Worthless.
I know that am surrounded by people who love me, but loneliness overwhelms me and I feel desperately alone. Reaffirm your presence in my life. Remind me why being out among the living is a good thing.