• The downside of keeping busy

  • How reaching out to a therapist helped Tara Jackson overcome long-term difficulties

  • Why reaching out for help isn't a sign of weakness

Learning to reach out, ask for help and receive support from others, is an ongoing journey for me.

I feel like we’re taught from a young age that it’s weak to ask for help. In fact, learning to do things on your own is an important part of growing up, and then it’s later seen as a fallibility to need support with things.

If you need help from others you must not have it together, you could be seen as lazy or even self-indulgent. Instead it’s seen as a badge of honour to be able to juggle multiple things – work, family, a social life and have time to look after yourself – mind, body and soul!

I held it together for years. Or at least I thought I did at the time. I was working full-time, had a few long-term relationships over the years, a busy social life and time to chill out and do what I wanted. I’d go through periods where things seemed to run smoothly, I’d feel ‘on top’ of everything and I’d feel a sense of accomplishment. But, these times were split up by ‘life’ and the increasing inner battles I had with not feeling happy deep inside, for not having ‘dealt’ with loss in my childhood amongst other things, and for being unhappy in my own skin as I yo-yo’ed from one diet to another.

I wouldn’t reach out to anyone, I just soldiered on trying to keep things going. I’d promise myself I’d try harder if I’d fallen off the diet wagon, or I’d think that everyone else had it together, so I should too. I thought it was weak to ask for help and that I should be stronger when I had moments when everything got the better of me. I thought there must be something wrong with me when I felt like I was crumbling and I didn’t want anyone to think that was the case.

This ongoing battle inside me lead to me blocking it all down. I numbed everything I was feeling, with food, TV, alcohol and other substances. I’d always say I was fine, I knew how to be the strong one, I knew how to hold it together. But really I was bursting at the seams.

Reaching out to a therapist for the first time and admitting I couldn’t do it all alone was life-changing for me. My first few therapy sessions a few years back were one of the most liberating experiences I’ve ever had. They unlocked all these thoughts, feelings and emotions I’d been bottling down and helped me with the clarity I needed to really start shedding away some of the layers I’d built up (literally and metaphorically), and to start looking after myself.

Since then I’ve worked with a few coaches and healers, done multiple group courses to work through different things and today am part of a women’s group for ongoing support.

For me personally, sharing and speaking through what I am going through makes it all seem so much more manageable. Life can be complicated, there’s so much going on, so many demands on us, so much pressure to be, look or feel a certain way. Sometimes it’s hard to get to the bottom of all the noise and figure out who you really are and what you really want. Having someone there, who perhaps has also experienced what you have, just to listen as you figure things out is so powerful and healing.

We all have different things we may be struggling with that we could use support with – paid and not paid. It could be getting a cleaner, or more help with your children, to give you some time and space for you. It may be joining a local or an online support group, asking a friend to join an exercise class with you, working with a personal trainer, therapist or coach. Whatever it is, know that it’s not weak – there’s something quite humbling about reaching out for help and it actually feels incredibly powerful when you do it. Plus, you’ll start to notice positive changes ripple throughout your life so much faster than when you try to do it alone!

We can all be more and give so much more when we’re not overwhelmed and bursting at the seams.

Where do you need support? I encourage you to reach out. You don't have to do it all alone .


Further reading:

What is self-care?

How cognitive analytic therapy can help with anxiety

Why the therapeutic relationship is so different