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Originally published on nyxiesnook.com. Republished here with permission.
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Living with anorexia or any mental illness can be very lonely and terrifying.
Anorexia, in particular, pushes you to isolate yourself due to the fixations around weight, food intake, and due to the stigma that’s attached. When you finally decide (if you decide, I should say) that enough is enough, it can hit you really hard because it’s only then that you find out you’re missing some key ingredients. One day you wake up and find that you’ve pushed everyone away, and it leaves you feeling like a complete failure — like you can’t even keep people in your circle let alone keep your head above water.
Numerous people reassured me that I deserved help and that maybe it was time to ask for it.
I mean really ask for it. I carried on, though, under the strict illusion that I was coping and I would continue to do so until I was better. I could do it all. The job, the treatment, the family issues; I didn’t need anything else. I was superwoman.
Except I really wasn’t.
The truth is there are so many reasons that I stopped myself asking for help. No one was able to get through to me until the day I decided to speak to someone.
I approached ‘S’ after a particularly bad week, one in which I had just found out about my grandmothers terminal cancer diagnoses. I came to the realization the previous night that I was completely unable to continue on the way I had been, and approached ‘S’ the next morning with the intention of a quick chat about my options. That quick chat quickly changed into a confessional, tears and all. “Chloe, you’re brave for asking for help. It takes a lot of strength to be able to admit when they need some support.”
Having this conversation, although embarrassing, helped give me the strength to ask for the time I needed to recover, and without it, I honestly don’t know where I would be now.
I don’t want to digress from the subject, but although my parents are wonderful people I don’t think they really set me up with the best self-esteem in the world. We are a family of doing things for other people, with the quiet opinion that anything for yourself is selfish.
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Having such a low sense of self-worth throughout my life has led me to do everything for others and almost nothing for myself.
This ultimately has led me to a sense of burnout and a downward spiral into depression and a loss of self. As cliche as it sounds, I’m not only recovering from anorexia but I’m also learning who I am, what I feel, and that I’m a decent human being and I deserve to feel happy.
It hasn’t been easy for me, but since speaking with ‘S’ on that fateful day, I’ve been taking all the help I can get from others and from the National Health Service. I’m coming to learn that it’s okay to ask for help when you need it.
What stops us asking for help?
There are many things that can stop people asking for the help that they need at work and at home, especially when it comes to mental illness.
- Our pride
- The fear of being a burden on others
- Not wanting to cause a ‘fuss’
- The fear of rejection, being ignored, or being stigmatized
- The fear of feeling vulnerable
- Feeling too anxious or shy to ask for help
- Not having the right information or not knowing where to go for help
- Fear that admitting your thoughts or feelings might mean you are put under inpatient care or admitted to a mental health ward
- Feeling like everyone else is able to cope, so you should be able to as well
- The fear of what other people might think of you
- Thinking ‘Other people are far worse off, it’s selfish of me to feel like this’
- Hoping it will all blow over on its own
Why is it important to ask for help with our mental health?
I’m the first to admit that I’m terrible at asking for help for a variety of the above reasons, not least of all the fear of what others might think. Even now during my journey of self-discovery I still find it difficult to ask for what I need.
But asking for help in regards to our mental health is so, so important for many reasons.
By speaking to someone and confiding in them, additional help can be offered by way of therapy, sick leave from work, support from family and friends, and any medications that might be needed.
Starting to talk about your issues can open so many doors in regards to counselling or alternative therapies that can help you learn to cope with your mental illness.
Finally, there is the communication aspect of opening up about your struggles. No one can keep things bottled up all the time.
It’s normal for some of us to shut ourselves behind an unhealthy coping mechanism or complete isolation, but it does nothing to help us deal with what we are going through internally.
By opening your struggles it allows you to talk through what you are feeling/experiencing, which can often release some of the stress. “A problem shared is a problem halved.”
One important thing to remember is that you deserve help just like everyone else.
It’s taken me longer than I care to admit to actually realize that and occasionally I still have to convince myself that I have a right to take up space in this world.
Do you ask for help when you need it? Or do you stay quiet and wait it out? What is your opinion on asking for help?
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