Don’t Ask Me For Help

I hate asking for help. Hate it. With a fiery and pathological passion.

I don’t need help with my homework. I don’t need help with the dishes or the trash or the laundry or making dinner. I don’t need help fixing this stupid computer. I don’t need help carrying this immensely heavy box. I don’t need help up the stairs, yes even with these crutches.

Unfortunately, this also translates to: I don’t need to go to the doctor even though I’ve been feeling ill for weeks. I don’t need to “revisit” my prescription even if my depression is getting worse. I don’t need anyone to fix my fucking life. And I certainly don’t need help off this goddamn ledge.

Except, of course, I often do. I just cannot stand to ask.

This often means that when others ask for help from me, I get annoyed, even disdainful (not the healthiest reaction, I know). This annoyance rears its ugly head most often when my brother or mother (or many other members of my family) ask for help. In my defense, very often when they ask for “help” it’s not about need help, it’s about not wanting to do some menial task by themselves, or at all. My brother is perfectly capable of taking out the trash, even if there’s more than usual and it’ll take two trips – he just doesn’t want to do it, so he’ll ask for help, and get angry when I say no because “I’m selfish and never left a finger to help anyone.” My mother is the same way. If she can convince someone to “help” her or “do a favor” for her, so she doesn’t have to do it herself, she will.

I therefore I have a lot of conflicted feelings when people ask me for help with small or menial things. And I am absolutely incapable of asking for help myself. Unless I literally genuinely physically am incapable of doing something, I refuse to ask for help.

On other hand, I will drop anything and everything for a friend, or coworker, or student, if they ask me for help. I am constantly assuring my friends that there is nothing wrong with asking for help, that I want to help, that they deserve help. Perhaps I simply trust that they won’t abuse the unspoken rules. Perhaps I simply like them better than I like my family. I just don’t know.

A lot of this stems, I think, from my mother (I blame a lot on my mother, so healthy, I know!), who depended upon me from a very young age. I sometimes feel like we skipped the usual order of things, and went straight to me taking over the care-taker position. Not completely, of course, my mother worked (and still works) very hard to provide for me and my brother. Though money was often tight, we always had a roof over our heads, we always had food, and there was always a little left over for books and the occasional night out at the movies. But I have been very much in charge of my mother’s emotional well-being since I was eleven or twelve years old.

I remember so clearly many nights when I found my mother sobbing on the floor of the kitchen, and going to her to hug her and rub her back and tell her everything would be okay. And at that time, I took over sorting mail and opening bills and filling out checks for my mother to sign because otherwise she would forget and the electricity or the water would be turned off. And I found myself taking on a good majority of my brother’s care: keeping him out of trouble, entertaining him, helping him with his homework. Meanwhile also playing peacekeeper between my mother and my father, who had by this time already been divorced for eight or nine years (and still screaming at each other on a regular basis). I was eleven or twelve years old.

By the time I was fifteen I had taken over the responsibilities of cooking dinner and calling to pay bills over the phone and comforting my mother through three bad break-ups and supporting her as my brother began disrespectful and problematic in school.

I have never once gone to my mother for comfort or advice. I have never once told her about a bad break-up, or a fight with a friend. I have certainly never talked to her in detail about my depression, though she knows I have it. I am the responsible one, the dependable one, the steady one. I do not ask for help, I am responsible for giving it.

Perhaps I am simply resentful.

(In the meantime, of course, this also means: I never go to the doctor, I do not have a therapist, and I try very very hard not to burden my friends with my problems or my depression issues, but that’s a neurosis for a different time).

Silent Sister


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