If there’s something you want, something you need, ask for it.
You have to ask for it, because it’s the only way to make sure you’re going to get it.
Other people aren’t psychic, much less as attentive or empathetic as we’d like them to be. You might mention it once, but what’s the off chance they’ll 1) remember and 2) care enough amidst the noise in their own heads to act on your expressed need or desire?
This bleak fact, that at the end of the day, we ourselves are the only ones who can make sure we get what we need, what will make us sane, healthy, happy, and that the people we care or love about, by DNA-roll-of-the-dice or by choice may not be able to deliver, even with prompting, is the hardest lesson of being a “grown-up,” and the one I struggle with all the time.
Asking for help, rather than expecting people to see I need it– asking for hugs, or giving them out so I can get one in return– repeating myself over and over about “no, I do not want to celebrate my birthday and it’s not a thing that’s going to happen,” and then carrying through rather than caving– expressing the need for solitude, or quiet, or to not be the one making decisions about anything from what’s for dinner to how some social activity ought/not to go– these are all exquisitely hard at times, especially when I do manage to say them clearly around the hesitations of not wanting to feel like I am actually as bossy/ bitchy/ a spoilsport/ just acting crazy again as other people might think I am for standing up for myself. Other peoples’ reactions and criticisms are still really wounding. I still get really paranoid around silence, and overanalyze what’s going on in that silent reaction.
Brene Brown writes in her books about shame versus guilt– that shame is silencing & paralyzing, but guilt isn’t. I haven’t read enough of her books to have worked out my own processes to pinpoint all the things that make me shame-turtle, but the “you shouldn’t need help and it’s wrong to ask for it” message clearly got driven home at some point. At some point, my incapacity to competently and intelligently handle a situation all on my own (even when, objectively, it’s more than any one person could handle), or my need for others to give me some positive emotional reinforcement got deeply entwined with my being a “bad” person if I had to ask for help. If it was freely given, then maybe it was something I could consider accepting (although even then it was suspect, because I have known lots of people who were just manipulative in the end and that reinforced the “don’t ask” button in a different way). In the meantime, I put on a brave face or a brusque face or just straight out lie.
And asking doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get the help that you need. You might get half-measures, or none, and have to still do it yourself, with the anti-climax of breached trust in your fellow humans. (Hooray!?! At least it tells you who not to waste your energy on? Framing shit as teachable moments just sucks.) Sometimes, you’ll get help from unexpected quarters– and that’s good, in the end, but can be complex if you’ve been less than gracious to those folks beforehand, and so you’ve got to reevaluate your own shitty behavior.
I’m writing this on day one of my leave of absence, after precisely two hugs (freely given) and four and a half well-meant expressions of taking it easy or good luck or likewise from direct coworkers. I did get several more well-wishes from folks in my working group, and some unexpected help from that quarter, too– which means, again, that I have to examine the divide between my own self-perception and others’ willingness to help when asked not by me, but my boss. I am seriously questioning how long I will stay at my job once I return, having talked myself off the ledge of trying to quit while I’ll out– but the larger question of the cluelessless and/or disinterest of most of my coworkers and my need to look at what I can do to prevent future overexertion as well as to identify– what is it I like about the job, in case I do decide to look elsewhere, what I need to change in this workplace in me and in others for me to tolerate staying, and what conversations I need to have with colleagues & higher ups to see what would work.
Of course, there are other things to do. Sleep. Read. Socialize. Tackle the garden. File for divorce. Get my dad’s mortgage resettled. Other family health & legal projects. They will be good distractions and anxiety-reducers around the hard work of “how did I get here again,” and “how do I ask for what else I need to keep going?”