I actually had the following experience in September 2016, but I wasn’t in the right place mentally to feel comfortable sharing it yet. I’d like to think I have a better “grip” on things now, but anxiety still tries to yank away my clarity some days. Do you ever turn down help even when you clearly need it?
When was the last time you were asked by someone outside of your closest circle of friends and family if you needed help? How did you respond? In the fall of 2016, I was walking into a building where a walk-in clinic had its office. It was raining hard. I was gripping an umbrella so the wind didn’t blow it away and wearing a baby carrier without a baby in it. My head was down and I was visibly distressed. A lady who was coming out of the building paused to ask me, “Are you okay?”
While I did shake my head “No,” I kept my head down and kept on walking. She kept walking too.
I ended up getting the help I needed from a supporting staff member at the doctor’s office. My issue was that I couldn’t get my baby (sick with what turned out to be an ear infection) out of his car seat and into the baby carrier I was wearing while holding the umbrella. And as much as it sickened me and made the now-familiar rush of anxiety start my chest hurting and my head spinning, I chose to leave him in the car and run for help over getting his feverish body soaked by the rapid rain that was turning to sleet. The kind staff member made sure I got my baby out dry and safe, escorted us to the waiting area, and explained to the receptionist the reason I was a little late for our appointment. Looking back, there were many other ways I could have handled the situation, and I’ve made a mental note of what I would do differently next time. But I wish in that moment I would have just had the clarity to look up, smile graciously, and nicely ask that woman in the parking lot to hold the umbrella for me.
It is risky to ask someone, especially someone we don’t know well or at all, whether or not they are okay. What if you end up just embarrassing or offending them? I mean, people don’t like others getting involved in their business, right? Or is that just a lie we tell ourselves so we don’t have to disrupt our day, suffer rejection, or end up failing them?
The problem is, there are people like me in the scenario above who reinforce this perception that we shouldn’t ask others if they need help. I’m sure that lady would have been willing to hold an umbrella while I put my son in his carrier. And yet I didn’t feel comfortable (or maybe I was just too frazzled) to pause, acknowledge her question, and say what I needed. Looking back, it would have been much simpler to get someone who was already in the parking lot area to help than to rush in to the doctors’ office in a panic requesting help. Because it doesn’t take a medical degree, much time, or much energy to hold an umbrella.
But this is the nature of the beast that is postpartum anxiety. When we need help the most is when we can be too fearful or too paralyzed to ask. Next time I’m in a pickle, I’m hope I can be mindful enough to recognize and appreciate the people around me who are willing to help, even if it happens to be a thoughtful stranger.