By Ruthie Withers
Late last year I found myself sitting across from an intake worker at a mental health facility applying to admit myself into a two-week day program for anxiety and depression. When the case worker asked me why I was there, I looked down with sadness into my lap, where my hands were folded, and uttered the hardest three words: “I need help.”
In March 2011, after the birth of my second premature baby, I similarly sat across from a social worker at a local hospital asking to participate in a program specifically for mothers suffering from Post-Partum Depression. I grabbed a tissue, the tears coming quickly, and cried, “I need help.”
Some years ago on a turbulent plane ride, in an impossibly tiny airplane, traveling from Chicago to Boston, I had a full blown anxiety attack in front of other passengers. I turned to my husband, with a mixture of terror and pleading in my eyes, and begged, “I need help.”
I need help.
In my experience, when you suffer from anxiety and/or depression, asking for help can seem like an enormous task, almost impossible. It can make you feel like a failure or like you’re admitting defeat.
I felt confused when I was first diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder in 2004. Why couldn’t my rational self just “get over it”? Hell, when the psychiatrist in the hospital program diagnosed me with Post-Partum Depression and prescribed me medication to treat it, I argued with her! I explained to her, quite rationally, that I suffered from anxiety….no way was I depressed.
It’s not easy asking for help, but it does get easier. I’ve always been open and honest with my closest friends and family about my struggles with anxiety and depression. Over the past few years I’ve widened my circle and have become more vocal about my experiences with mental illness.
Once I opened up, the most amazing thing happened; I started getting private messages from friends and acquaintances asking me for help. They wanted me to lend an ear and an open mind to their experiences and struggles with anxiety and depression. I was more than happy to do so.
My journey has come full circle in a way. I once feared asking for help and opening up about my issues. Now I am in a position to understand others and lend a helping hand.
Will I need to ask for assistance in the future – from friends, family, doctors, and therapists – for my anxiety and depression? Undoubtedly, I will. With my head held high, however, the hardest three words will come out a little easier.
Ruthie Withers is the proud mother of two boys, an attorney and a lover of all things Spanish. In her free time, she enjoys running, traveling, watching Game of Thrones, and taking insufferably long walks on the beach. She lives in Attleboro, MA.