Helping Hands

A basic truth of recovery – any recovery – is that you cannot do it alone.

In a medical recovery – you rely on and expect to have support from medical and rehab staff.

If you have surgery, a baby, a chronic condition, even the flu, people call in and offer to help, and you accept it…

Somehow though, in THIS recovery, from addiction, mental illness, stress, burnout, we seem to shy away from seeking help; we actively hide our disease. Tell everyone “we are fine”.. And they are diseases, just like diabetes, heart disease, cancer… We need, if not treatment, then definitely help and support… And yet we are reluctant to seek it; or even admit to friends and family that we are unwell.

Maybe its because these conditions, sadly, still have some stigma attached. Substance dependency is often met with Judgement, that its somehow a personal failing; that you just need to stop drinking/using; that somehow you’re weak for not being able to stop..

And with mental illness, the same judgements can be found out there amongst people who don’t understand – you can’t just “cheer up”; take a pill; see a counsellor. That anxiety/depression are “all in the head” or “you’re just not trying hard enough”…. Is it any wonder, if these diseases strike, we cover up, often not admitting it even to ourselves for a very long time…?

Sometimes the very first step we take on the path to recovery, is to admit to ourselves that we are unwell…. And then we think “I can fix this, nobody else needs to know”… And we start a vicious cycle, that sets ourselves up for failure.. A cycle of going it alone, starting, relapsing, restarting, relapsing…  as well as still pretending to everyone else, that we are ok.

And even when we do open up, tell someone, we still have to accept that we can’t recover on our own, that we need people – in a meeting; in counselling; in a group. People who understand that we have to live our lives differently now, and will accept us as we are… people to walk alongside us, taking some of the load, offering advice, just listening to us talk, or listen as we sit in silence…

I’ve listening to conversations here and been chatting around the group, and there is a common theme – we don’t want to tell people in our lives that we are struggling, and we find it hard to ask for and accept help:

“I hate to feel needy”

I’m a stubborn bastard”

“I feel like I’m imposing on other people”

“It’s not how I’m wired”

“I am a very private person”

“I’m the caregiver, not the person who needs the care” 

“Everyone is so busy; I don’t want to take up their time”

Sound familiar? It certainly does to me.

I’m not part of a rehab programme, but I have started reaching out, firstly telling people here in the safety of anonymity; and just recently in Real Life, telling people I’m not OK, and I need their help…. And it is terrifying and exhausting…. But there is also this “Aha!” moment, of course most people knew I was depressed, they’ve been hovering on the side-lines, waiting to help, waiting to take care of me.. I still struggle with the honesty; with needing to be helped (which is very different to being Needy)… but as I keep telling myself I am a work in progress…

I have found that within this group, the ability to help and be helped has a balance, that I can be comfortable in… And the generosity of everyone is humbling…

So, you now find yourself in this very supportive non-judgemental group, and that’s brilliant… But it is just one place to find help and support; we all need to find that in our every day lives too; so that we can continue to grow and continue to overcoming these diseases that have shaped our journeys so far..

We have a Maori quote here in New Zealand “Kia Kaha”; it means “stay strong”. We say it to people facing adversity; people who are struggling; people who are working to achieve something profound..

I have an extension to it. And I wish it to all of you

kia kaha

kitea te kaha mai i etahi atu

stay strong

find strength from others

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