Asking for help... when you don't know how
By Court McCulloch
I lay on the bed, my face tear-stained, feeling like I’d never be me again.
I felt alone, unworthy, unattractive and more than anything… lost.
Every day, I would wake up, wondering how to make it through the day.
At my best, I had a smile on my face but one that never felt completely genuine. Sometimes, I’d even forget. But then it would remind me.
At my worst, I was taken over by a panic attack. Driving the 30 minutes to my boyfriend’s house and not being able to see… just focusing on each white line ahead.
There was something else wrong with me. These weren’t just anxiety attacks or bouts of depression… I swore there was something else wrong. Something that would stop me from ever being ‘me’ again.
But it was. Anxiety and depression – debilitating, all-consuming and controlling.
Every day I would wonder… How did I ever become me again? The happy, energetic, outgoing me? Was I stuck being this sad, lonely, self-conscious person?
This piece has been the hardest thing I’ve written for you. As I write I have tears flowing down my face. It doesn’t matter how much I accept, acknowledge and even appreciate what I’ve been though, it breaks my heart thinking of the girl who had no self-love, no self-belief and no idea how to change how she felt.
For five years, my life was defined by an undulating experience of depression and anxiety. At times, I wouldn’t leave my room. At others, I forgot, temporarily, about how I felt.
There had been my own health problems, social pressures to be skinny and beautiful, cancers, losing people I loved, earthquakes, heart attacks, car crashes, moving countries and starting again…
Sometimes, I would search for external validation. Going out and drinking a lot. Exercising for over three hours every day just for people to notice a difference in the way I looked. Waiting for attention from guys to confirm that I was attractive.
Sometimes, I just wouldn’t know what to do. Crawling into my bed, getting upset over everything and anything, taking everything way too personally.
There was no internal validation. No belief in myself or confidence in who I was.
When you feel alone, when you feel like no one else knows how you’re feeling, when you feel lost and confused and stuck, when you feel hurt and angry and betrayed by your own brain and your own body… it’s an awful, lonely place.
And it’s a place no one should be in… and yet more and more people are stuck there.
If you’re in this place, I want you to know this:
You’re not alone.
I know it feels like right now no one understands, I know it feels like no one knows how you feel and I know it feels like this is how you’ll feel forever. But I promise you, so many people are with you.
And I want you to know this:
So many people have been there, and so many people have left that place.
And you can too.
But there’s not many that have done it alone.
Two things changed it all for me.
The first, my Grandma. I remember being at her house and crying in my bed. Blinds closed, complete darkness. And then her sitting beside me. Telling me that it was okay to feel the way I felt. Telling me that I would find a way through and she would be there to help me. Letting me talk to her about how I felt.
The second, a life coach. At one of the worst times, a friend reached out. She had just finished her life coaching qualification and wanted to take me through a life coaching series because she thought I’d make a great coach. The beautiful Jae Schaefer helped me to carve out the way I wanted to feel and then helped me to work towards those feelings every single day.
The most daunting thing can be asking for help. Where do you start?
I know that it’s easy for someone to say ‘just ask for help’ when in reality, it’s a whole lot more daunting. I also know that you want it all to go away overnight. But the reality is, battling your mental health isn’t an overnight fix, it’s a lifelong journey that starts with just one step…
1. Take a deep breath, and turn to someone you love.
I know this seems scary. I know it seems ridiculous and you feel like you can just face it by yourself. But if someone you loved was going through what you were going through, wouldn’t you want them to open up to you?
Take a deep breath and send a message to someone who you love. Your best friend, your boyfriend, your mum. Ask them to come over. Ask them to go for a walk. Countdown from 3 and let yourself tell them how you feel.
Explain you don’t want advice, you just need to talk. Explain how you feel, what you’ve been going through, cry if you need to. Just talk.
2. Start reading
If you can’t talk, read. A small step in the right direction can be the biggest step of your life.
There are so many life coaches and therapists out there who specialise in anxiety and depression. And most of them have social media and blogs.
It means you can read, learn and feel empowered without leaving your bed or without using your words.
Because if you can’t find the words just yet, you can start by finding comfort in the words of others who have felt something similar to what you feel.
These people didn’t just decide to specialise in these areas for fun – it’s because they’ve been there and want no one else to experience what they experienced.
3. Get help from a professional
I know, this is daunting. Facing the reality of how you’re feeling. But you can choose to feel this way forever, or you can choose to overcome it.
Therapists, counsellors and life coaches are there to help you. They have experience, tools, knowledge and above all, a want for you to live a life that you are happy in.
The most important thing here is to find someone you connect with. Find someone who feels warm and comforting. Find someone who makes you feel like this isn’t forever.
Trust me, they can change your life.
What if you see someone you love who feels this way?
If you’ve seen someone you love fall into a place where they aren’t themselves anymore, talk to them. Don’t avoid the subject because it’s ‘easier’ or ‘less awkward’, because chances are, that person is wanting someone to ask because they are afraid of bringing it up.
Send a message, invite them for a coffee, take them for a walk outside…
If they say no, keep asking. It’s daunting for someone who feels this way to say yes because they’ll start to feel anxious about those plans. However many times they say no, keep asking.
If I could go back in time and talk to myself, I would promise myself there’s a bright future ahead. A future where every single time I feel a feeling of anxiety, I acknowledge it and use one of my tools to overcome it. A future where I feel happy, confident and in love with who I am.
It just takes one little step in the right direction.
BY COURTENAY MCCULLOCH
Founder of Thrive Collective, activewear-wearing, brunch-loving, dog-obsessed girl on a mission to help all women realise their real potential and start living a life where they thrive in every moment.