So on Monday I listened to this Flying Solo podcast where Robert Gerrish chatted with Leanne Faulkner about her story. Now I know Leanne because I’ve done a little bit of work for her. I knew she’d had a business (Billie Goat Soap) and I knew she’d had a breakdown because of that business and had to walk away from it. But I didn’t know just how big that business was, or how major her breakdown was … or how much her story mirrored my own (right down to her husband taking over her business).
Talk about flashbacks! It was kind of listening to the 2010/11 version of myself being interviewed.
And if there was one thing that really jumped out at me while listening to the podcast, it came when Robert asked why it took Leanne so long to get help. She said:
“I thought I could fix it myself.”
Just process that line for a second.
And then answer me this: is this right up there with the worst things we tell ourselves? I know I said it to myself a LOT when I was really struggling. And I know I spent a LOT of time and energy trying to help myself … despite being quite ill-equipped to do so.
If we’ve broken a leg, do we think “I can fix this myself”?
If we’ve got cancer, do we think “I can fix this myself”?
If we’re drowning in heavy surf, do we refuse to throw an arm in the air?
So why then, when we are in a terrible place mentally, do we insist on thinking ‘It’s ok, I’ve got this’?
Well, that’s a rhetorical question because (having been there) I know the answers already.
It’s because we are capable people. And capable people do not need other people’s help
It’s because we are the helpers. Helpers definitely do not need anyone’s help.
It’s because we are control freaks. We control freaks cannot admit we need help because that would be admitting we are Not. In. Control. (And god forbid we go off brand in that regard!)
So what happens then?
Well we push on for months … sometimes even years. (I know I pushed on for at least 18 months beyond the point where I should have gotten help.) And we wait until things are really dire. And even then a little voice in our head whispers … ‘no, you’ve got this. Come on, you can sort your shit out yourself.’
Well, I’m here to tell you that you can’t.
I don’t care how deep your reserves of resilience go. I don’t care how self-aware you are. I don’t care how amazing your support system is. If you’ve been struggling mentally for ages, and you are soldiering on, not telling anyone … you are doing both yourself, and everyone around you a huge disservice.
One of my huge regrets from those ‘very dark years’ was the fact that I pushed through for so long because, in doing so, I effectively lost myself. I ceased to be the wife, mother, daughter, boss, friend and person I aspired to be. The face I presented to the world was the same (and stop for a second to consider how exhausting that was to pull off), but inside, I was literally a shell of a person.
And because I let things get so bad, it took a long time for the best part of me to emerge from that shell once I did get help.
So how can you not be me?
Well, if you’re reading this today and you’re thinking, ‘ok, yeah, I am struggling a bit’, ask yourself:
Am I at the stage where I need to tell my family that I’m struggling and I need more support from them?
Am I at the stage where I need to ask my boss for a few days’ leave from work?
Am I at the stage where I need to go see my GP and ask them to assess my mental health and refer me to some specialist help?
Be ruthlessly honest with yourself.
Because it’s 100% ok if you’ve not ‘got this’.
It’s 100% ok for uber-capable people to need help.
Here’s a line I heard in a different podcast the other day:
We are all nothing but a pile of choices.
And this leads me to the thought I want to leave you with today:
When you choose to soldier on (and on) in the face of extreme adversity; when you refuse to ask for or seek help; you’re also choosing to propagate the myth that smart, motivated and highly-capable people shouldn’t ever need help.
And that’s a myth we all need to be playing our part in busting don’t you think?
Have you ever pushed on way beyond the point of where you should have? If you had your time again would you have pulled back sooner?