I think this was probably because she was always at work and my dad was never home, leaving me to look after myself growing up. When I did ask for something, I was often told I was a hassle. I learned never to ask for much, and if I did, I felt guilty and anxious about it. That mindset followed me into adulthood, and I came to believe that self-sufficiency and being independent was a good thing. It was a news flash to me, because as I came to learn, those traits actually weren’t a sign of strength, it was a sign that there was an inner child inside of me that was dying.
My whole life, I have been afraid to ask for help and be even more afraid to be seen as needy. I was so consumed with other people and getting through my issues alone that I had no idea what my needs even were. If someone asked how I was, I would automatically say, “I’m-good-thanks-how-are-you?” If I needed a car ride somewhere, I would do everything in my power find a way to get to my destination myself. If I needed to shop, I would go by myself in fear of being a burden to people. Even more detrimental was the fact that when I had depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety and insomnia, I tried to fight through it alone.
Recently, I had a major breakdown when I was in China. I completely fell apart after an emotionally damaging incident, and I dropped to a new level of suicidal thoughts. I had never felt so alone or hopeless in a long, long time. It occured to me that there were two ways I could go about it: get my hands on sleeping pills and alcohol, or find help. I have fought my depression and my suicidal tendencies for six years without psychiatric or medical help, and I finally realized after all that time that I couldn’t fight it by myself any longer. My defenses were finally worn down, but it took a dark suicidal period to finally wake me up.
Through much learning, reading and connecting with people who were actually safe to be around, I realized that life was not meant to be done by yourself. In the beginning of creation, God looked upon man and said, “It’s not good for him to be alone.” He created companionship that we may journey with each other. He never meant for us to be disconnected, isolated islands but somehow, we place high value on the ability to be completely self-sufficient and a do-it-all people.
A man I respect and look up to once told me that needs are beautiful. It was a crazy thing for me to hear. Maybe because society drums it into us that an independent, needless girl is the one that every guy wants. It’s beautiful and it’s attractive. But needy girls? They’re laughable. They’re desperate. However, I have come to admire them. I have come to want to be like them. Because I learned that everybody is needy. Everybody is constantly needing something, but we have been trained to hide it well. And we will do everything we can to get those needs met in the best way we know how. That man doing heroin? He probably needs comfort. That girl sleeping around? She probably needs companionship and intimacy. The girl with suicidal thoughts? She needs to be heard and seen for who she is. When you learn to see life in that way, and see it in yourself, there are no room for judgements. You see people as emotional, needy and complex beings who are doing the best they can with what they have. I hope that you see this within yourself.
If you choose the way of life, here are some practical ways you can honor your needs. Something someone taught me was to close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and “come home” to your body. What feelings and needs are alive in you right now? When you’re with a friend you trust, tell that person how you’re feeling and practical things they can do to make life better for you if they’re willing. When someone asks how you are, think about it for a few seconds and tell them truthfully how you’re really doing. The more you are in touch with yourself, the more alive you become.
Come out of hiding and take off the strong, have-it-all-together mask you’ve been hiding behind. Sometimes, the dark can feel safe, but in the end it will defeat you. I know it’s scary to trust people, but there are people out there who can love and support your journey. Honor your heart. Learn to ask for help. Learn to need. And remember, it’s okay not to have it all together. It’s more than okay that you have needs and feelings – they are beautiful, they are important, and you don’t need permission to express them. It’s okay that you may be living with a depression and anxiety too overwhelming to handle sometimes, because it’s overwhelming for a reason. It can drive you to isolation, or it can drive you into the loving support of people. Which will you choose?
“She has lost the ability to trust, to need, and to reach out for attachment. Many times she has been set up to be connected and receive love from people important to her. And each time something has broken her down… [But] God doesn’t create us to be relationally self-sufficient. He loves us to need each other… Need is good for you.”
Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend, Safe People