As I’ve come more and more into myself with medical diagnoses being more concrete and learning to work with that, my mind turns back to trauma.
I’m not thinking so much about my own trauma, but how it is a life stealer. I don’t mean in the typical people committing suicide way, I am thinking more in terms of how it steals people’s ability to be peaceful.
I myself was miserable and felt like no way out of trauma for years. I knuckled through a lot of the ugliness alone. I stopped talking about it in therapy as even though it was ruining my life, it was too hard to face.
I read an article today about Romanian children who grew up in orphanages who got basically zero interaction or nurturing. Once the final communist dictator fell, a lot of American families rushed to adopt these children with disastrous results.
I found myself immersed in the article as it was talking about neural development up to 24 months and what happens if you don’t learn to trust a caregiver to give you your needs. My mom wasn’t interested in me and had a lifetime of her not only not having an attachment to me, she worked diligently to destroy me.
A lot of psychologists rushed in to study the attachment patterns of these children as with legitimate psychological research currently, you are not supposed to harm someone. You obviously can’t purposefully deprive a baby or small child what they need for science.
The most interesting thing that came out of these studies and watching the Romanian children grow into adults for me, is that asking for help when you are distressed is a learned behavior.
Maybe it doesn’t blow you away, but it did for me. For many years, I couldn’t ask for help when distressed. In fact, I retreated to myself by myself. I never learned as a traumatized child that when I hurt, you were supposed to go to a caregiver to get support. If I skinned my knee, I knew it was my fault for falling. I certainly wasn’t going to ask for a bandaid as a little girl.
I know a lot of people in trauma recovery. They say they refuse to ask for help when they are in huge distress. I had someone once yell at me when she sent a text saying she was in huge emotional upheaval when I decided to call. She answered the phone in this half weary/ half angry tone of “I told you I don’t want to talk about it!!!”, so the conversation ended.
I think about people in trauma recovery or just have been traumatized and the misery they live in, the life stealing. I think if one could find a way to ask for help, it would make it better and easier to recover.
When I first started asking for help when I was distressed, which was medically as it felt more legitimate to be distressed for medical reasons versus emotional ones, it felt foreign. When people did help, I wanted to retract my request as it almost felt like I was going to be in trouble.
As asking for help has become more and more common for me, I will admit, it still feels strange. I do it as we all need help, but it can still feel off. Now I know it’s a behavior I’ve had to learn. With any new skill, you won’t master it the first time around or maybe for years, but I practice as it’s important to me.
As I think about how trauma has played out in the lives of so many people I know or are from my past, I want to share with them a path out of misery is learning the new behavior of asking for help.
Free yourself as I know when I ask for help and help comes in whatever way that might be, I feel lighter, less alone, loved, awkward, eased, guilty, grateful… Essentially though, help for me comes in ways of needing a lightbulb changed to meaningful conversation about the complexities I might be managing at that moment. Help brings relief that whatever my problem happens to be, it will be fixed, heard, or validated.
The more you allow others to help you, the more you will be freed to help others in healthy ways.
Getting help and comfort in a distressing situation is a LEARNED behavior. Whether you are lucky to have learned it at the appropriate developmental stage prior to 2 years old, or in your 40s, 60s, or whatever stage in life you are at, I hope you learn it.
As I said, I think about people—a lot. I have to think of them as they haven’t learned to ask for help. As sad as it makes my heart, I can’t help someone who hasn’t learned to ask.