Thursday, December 11, 2008

Support Where You Need it the Most! (part two)

I'll spare you another bizarre bra picture, but yes, we are still talking about building a support system. But, you know, if you really stop and think about it a bra is a good analogy for how to build a support system.

Okay, I'm kidding.

Here's my real point: One of the hardest things about building a support system (besides being honest with others and yourself) is actually calling in that support system. Case in point: me.

When I was preggers with baby #3, J, I was justifiably nervous about the postpartum period. Given the fact that I pretty much fell apart after the first two babies (we were lucky if Mommy quit crying and sleeping and yelling long enough to get everybody dressed and fed--housework, cooking, and laundry were nowhere on my radar), I knew I needed to make some serious preparations for when J would arrive.

So I started cooking. I made several lasagnas, shepherd's pies, and chicken broccoli casseroles and stuffed them in the freezer. Then I made quart after quart of soup and jammed those in too. Next I organized the house. I tore apart all the closets and cleaned them out. I inventoried our food storage. Then I scrubbed everything from top to bottom. Then, while I was weighing the merits of disposable dishes during a session, my therapist asked if I had any help lined up for after J was born.

"Well, my mom's coming out for a while," I stumbled.

"Okay. What about after she's gone?"

"Um. My husband was going to try working from home a bit." I was starting to get uncomfortable.

"What about nights when he's at school?"

"I don't know."

"Okay. What are you going to do on days that you just need a break?" My therapist paused. I squirmed. She continued, "Now, I just want you to consider this. You don't have to decide now. Just consider. What about asking someone to come in and visit once or twice a week and helping with the kids? You could hire someone or you could ask a friend. Just think about it."

I didn't just think about it. I started to argue about it. I listed all the reasons why that just wasn't feasible: money, the need to pay back favors, my kids wouldn't like the person, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. But, as the pregnancy came to its end I began to wonder if my therapist was right. Maybe I could ask someone for help.

Well, J turned out to be a bit of a high maintenance baby (acid reflux disease and possible lactose intolerance. Wheee!) and I suffered along as best I could. There were times, though, that he would just cry and cry. It set everybody on edge. Soon my oldest, N, was having panic attacks and E--who was not even two years old--was throwing tantrums and breaking things. I needed help. And I started to ask for it.

First I found a good child therapist to help N with her panic attacks. Then I attempted letting a friend do my dishes without "paying her back." One day I called my visiting teacher to see if she would fill in when a babysitter canceled at the last minute. I even called another friend late at night to come over and hold my screaming baby while my husband was at school so I could get the other two kiddos to sleep. The thing that amazed me the most: everybody I asked for help said yes. And they were happy about it.

Things are less stressful these days. J is on an acid reducer. N is starting to manage her panic attacks. E is beginning to understands logic and cause and effect so time outs (and hugs!) are effective. But I still have my really bad days--like the one a week and a half ago--and on those days I can't bring myself to call anyone to come help me. I don't want to intrude on their lives. I keep telling myself that if other people can handle the stress of life with three kids then I should too. I am too embarrassed about how lame I am when I am at my worst. I don't want people to see it. I'm too afraid of what they will think.

But, the other day, a couple days after I'd been down, I told my visiting teachers how rough it had been. The offered to clean my house. I said no. They said, "When do you want us?" I said, "NO." They said, "We'll be here on Friday." And I said, "Okay." And they came last Friday and they cleaned my house. It was nice. I couldn't believe how good my kitchen looked. I couldn't believe how much better I felt. Not just because my kitchen was clean but because I realized I wasn't in this alone. I had support. People would show up. People would help. I breathed a little easier.

I gotta ask, am I the only one with this problem? Do you all find it easy to ask for and receive help? What are some of the most supportive things people have done for you?


m said...

In a rough patch for me, not depression related but just life difficulty related...I had several friends assert their help without my asking or even hinting really. And I guess I can say that I don't struggle against it or try to resist it too hard...but after the help is rendered and they have left, I cry the rest of the day just humbled into the earth at their goodness. Does that make sense?
I'll share this example because it is engrained in my heart- we were strapped financially beyond reasonable measure. I had just received the package of photos from my little girl's preschool and she looked like an angel-- literally, hands clasped and up by her sweet little face. I asked my girlfriend if she'd let me run by sometime and scan them just so I could have a copy to email to family ect... she said she didn't feel right about it because of copyright/the company's right to make profit from the images...I understood.
But then she said, "You know what, I want to buy the pictures." And after I said no no no...she did buy a sheet of the pictures so I could have that image of my cute little girl.
After she left, I cried that entire day. Things were so wretched in our world at that time. I was really hanging in there but I think it wasn't until her kindness framed my life picture that I really became fragile enough to cry. It was awesome of her and I'll love her forever because of her goodness.

Breakdown said...

I've found myself on both sides of the issue. I had a friend that suffers from depression and I have a bad habit of bieng a bit overbearing. I offered my help at any oppertunity, he never accepted and I think he began to think I was being a bit of a jerk, anyway we lost touch in the end.

On the other hand I have no problem asking for help, my problem is often that I can't get anyone to help me when I need it. Home teachers, friends, family. For the most part I usally find myself fighting my own battles. I do all I can to help anyone that asks but when I need it is usally seems like I have to pull teeth. Now, it's not all the time. I have had some good people help me from time to time, just there are those times when I really need it and nobody is there to help. It's a bit discouraging.

I am so glad that you have found a support system that is there for you when you need them.

Lura said...

No, you're not the only one! I have a hard time asking for help unless I'm really, really desperate. Like the day after Thanksgiving when I was utterly exhausted and sick and desperately NEEDED a nap right around dinner time. I called our mother-in-law and she took my kids for two hours (including feeding them dinner) while I got some MUCH needed sleep. I was SO releived! But I have to be pretty desperate before I ask for help because, like you, I feel like I'm intruding on people's lives.

Jer said...

I struggle A LOT with asking for help, whether it be depression related or just life difficulty related like Maryam mentioned. Basically, I don't ask for help, and it's gotten worse as the years have gone by. Honestly, I just don't know how to ask for it. And for some reason I feel unworthy of receiving help. Usually when things are hard, I crawl into a hole and lick my wounds--meaning if you're a friend of mine, I will become distant and probably not call or talk to you, or I'll just plaster a smile on my face and smile and nod. Something I need to work on, I know, because it's not just me that suffers, it's my family and friends too.

Anonymous said...

I've gotten better at asking for help, and I have learned not to turn down help when it's offered. People need opportunities to serve! I know when I offer to help someone I feel a little bummed when they say no, especially when I can see that they need it.
My visiting teachers came and cleaned my kitchen for me a few weeks after my youngest was born. They had just come for their monthly visit and asked if I was doing okay. I said, "I'll be fine after I get my kitchen cleaned" (meaning that I was going to clean it). They jumped up and said, "Let us do it. You just sit there and tell us where things go." So they loaded my dishwasher, hand-washed, dried and put away whatever wouldn't fit in it, swept the floor, wiped the counters, the whole shebang. I was so emabarrassed. But I realized, that's what visiting teachers are for. They offer no judgement, only help.

Misty Lynne said...

I have found for me, that like Jerilyn, I tend to withdraw when I feel stressed or depressed. I start shutting down-avoiding eye contact, conversation, crying in public, etc.-until I can find my equilibrium once again. My husband is the only one I feel remotely comfortable crying in front of, and that has taken years to develop. I don't like feeling vulnerable. I don't like making others uncomfortable. Worst of all, I often don't know how to let others help make it better. So, I withdraw until I can fix it on my own (sometimes with my husband's help).

For me, honestly, the hardest part about using a support network is figuring out what is wrong. Am I stressed? Am I depressed? Am I just tired? Then there's figuring out what will help? Going for a walk? Cleaning the house? Having "me" time? Sleep? Talking to a friend? And after that, I still have to communicate it (without crying if at all possible). Often, I find it easier to simply keep going until it all smoothes out on its own.

Anonymous said...

I have a hard time asking for help. Especially post-partem with my first. I kept thinking that I should be able to handle it. I had taken care of lots of kids, I even had a degree in the field, but everything was messed up inside of me. It wasn't until I had the second one that I admitted my depression. My mom knew and my husband knew, but they (wisely) didn't bring it up because I would have fought them about it. They just did what they could to support me. Being honest about it is the very hardest part. I didn't want to share the darkness, I wanted people to still trust me, and I was ashamed. When my second baby was born it was such a different experience. At that point I wished I had done something about the depression the first time. Hindsight is always 20/20.

Elizabeth-W said...

This was a great set, Laura. It's so hard to ask for help.
If I were in a pinch, I know a couple people I could call. But, it's taken years to develop that relationship. But I think that is what we're supposed to do. We have to be humble, we have to let go of pride. (All that 'we' is 'me', just to be clear.)

KFerrara said...

I'm new to your blog and have been intrigued by reading through your thoughts on depression... I suffer from depression... I have recently been diagnosed and do feel that it's time to start taking meds... I have learned through trial and error (or effort like you said) on who to trust with my struggles/depression. It's hard for me to open up and share my feelings... I have held them in so long... Honestly, people have no idea that I suffer daily... It is as if I wear a mask... (I'm sorry if this doesn't make any sense to you)
Thank you for sharing...