Asking for help is the best: why my friends should be motivational speakers

Well, I’ve been having a serious inertia problem over here, folks. I even looked up inertia to make sure that’s what I meant, and it is—the resistance of any physical object to a change in its state of motion or rest.

When I sit down, I want to sit forever. If I’m in bed, that’s where I’d like to spend the rest of my days. When I’m at dance class, it’s all I want to do.

But let me not give you the wrong impression: most of the time, I experience the inertia issue when I am in a state of rest. And most of the time, I’m not resting luxuriously or particularly well. I’m on the couch, looking at Facebook. Or I’m sleeping while Jonah watches Dora. Or I’m staring off into space while J squishes green playdough through our garlic press and hums Puff the Magic Dragon.

I’ve been avoiding things. Namely:

  • Looking earnestly for the part-time freelance video editing gig of my dreams.
  • Cleaning that last pile of random crap off the dining room table/desk.
  • This blog.

I tell myself that tomorrow it’ll feel better, more do-able, and then the next day, I’m weighed down by the same feeling of meh-ness when faced with these various tasks.

For the last few days, I’ve been admitting to myself that my whole depression thing probably has something to do with it. And admitting that has me scared. Because it’s summer time. Because I’m no longer the exhausted parent of a completely erratic infant. Things are pretty good right now. And if I’m still depressed, then that means I’m a depressed person, rather than a person in a particular situation which has brought on depression.

Luckily, I had a stroke of genius today. After A took J to daycare and I had my 3 hours of sweet, sweet freedom, I decided to make some phone calls. Rather than sinking into the whole resting inertia thing, I actually voluntarily changed my state of motion. I washed dishes and did laundry and called my friends.

FRIENDS. What a revelation.

Arm In Arm by Gail Dedrick

The first one I talked to was S. Calm, earnest, pregnant S whose husband was on a walk with her 2-year-old daughter, which meant that we had nearly 40 minutes of uninterrupted talking time. When I gushed all my worries out to her–in particular, my fear about being depressed even in the midst of very little stress–she burst the situation wide open with this: “Well, actually sounds like you’ve got a lot of stressful stuff going on right now.”

Touché.

We *are* facing a huge rent increase in the next several months. And we *do* have a lot of uncertainty right now in terms of our incomes. So our home and money situations are both totally up in the air. That does sound stressful.

And in terms of the little work tasks I’ve been avoiding, S offered this pearl of wisdom: “Sounds like you just need to do it.”

Sigh.

So I did.

After this whole exchange and hearing about S’s latest travails with her toddler and impending move, I just felt one thing.

Better.

Then, up stepped L, friend #2 in this delightful turnaround of a day. She called, asking if I wanted her to stop by in a few hours. Yes, I did. Even though her timing was going to be smack in the middle of J’s nap when I could get some work done, I thought that hanging with her might actually enable me to feel more whole and productive. I was right.

When I got home from picking J up at daycare, L was already here, waiting. I love it that she just lets herself into our back door if no one is home. She reminded me, just by hanging out on the couch and talking and eating chips, of the lightness and ease that still exists in my life, even amidst all the uncertainty.

This photographic delight from an old college friend: Lindsay Brooke Photography.
(did you know that if grass is wet that bubbles will stick to it like this? it’s a small miracle)

Enter: friend #3. I met up with R for a walk after our kiddos woke up from their naps. I filled her in on the day’s discoveries while we pounded the pavement and pushed our strollers.

By this time, I was starting to feel almost normal.

And then R said, “I love it that you called me and asked for what you needed.” This thrilled me because: a) I actually had the presence of mind to ask a good friend for what I needed, and b) she liked it–nay, loved it–that I asked her.

Isn’t it ludicrous that I have to learn these things over and over and over again? Like that I have a lot of amazing friends and that it’s actually a good idea to call them instead of building an isolated tower of guilt and shame? Or that instead of feeling put upon, my friends actually like it when I call them to talk about my problems?

With results like these, why do I have this deep, dark, moldy fear of reaching out for the people that care about me when I feel crappy? Well, for one, I’m afraid of being rejected. And I’m also ashamed that I have wholly slovenly, unproductive, depressing days. Yet when someone I love (or any person, really) confides in me about their darker, messier parts, my whole self heaves a huge sigh of relief.

We all have parts of our lives that feel shameful. We all get isolated in our own little mental horror stories.

So let us all now take an enormous, collective sigh.

7 thoughts on “Asking for help is the best: why my friends should be motivational speakers

  1. Steph, even though I am not a parent, I love your blog.
    I have a lot of friends becoming mothers and sometimes they are a little quiet about it, and I worry it’s because of my lack of a maternal gene and that I won’t understand, but really it is about them and their personal issues, not me. It’s good to be reminded of this, and to know that being a good friend just means being there for whatever,but also saying “yes, I am here, talk to me!”.
    I also appreciate your frank discussion of depression-it’s not something that only shows up when things are shit, it is something that ringed even the most lovely or mundane aspects of life. It is awful to feel guilty for it.it is awful to blame yourself/partner/child for it when really, there is absolutely nothing to blame. “I am a depressed person” is liberating as well as caging-why bother to fight when you are not going to win? The only way to deal is to discuss,process, and remind yourself that you are not an awful person, you are you. And even though happiness may come with some sort of guilt attached to it, if you are able to achieve it it blissful moments, then maybe you just might be able to get through it all.

    1. Heather. Thank you! I LOVE when non-parents read my blog. To be honest, I write a lot for non-parents, because I think there is such a weird and sometimes painful divide between those who have kids and those who don’t. i think if there was more overlap, the transition would be much less painful. lady, i think that many MANY a mother would attribute her challenges to lack of a maternal gene too. Just because we have kids doesn’t mean it necessarily comes naturally. and you’re right. it is about them. and first and foremost, they’re WOMEN. And you know what that’s like.

  2. The idea of “you just need to do it” has been useful for me lately. I’ve been taking the summer to work on my productivity (I’m a grad student, so my summer is pretty much free), and I came upon this idea of “clearing to neutral” — just the basic idea that whenever something is done (cooking, work, playtime, etc) you immediately clear that space back to a usable condition for next time. No leaving the dishes in the sink, no letting the legos sit on the floor before the kid gets a snack. When I first read about it I was like “suuuuure, like I’ll ever actually be that disciplined….” But really, it has helped my inertia like nothing else! For me, a messy space or the need to do something (clean, organize, etc) before I start what I actually want/need to do makes me feel SO exhausted. This is perhaps not getting to the more philosophical or emotional root of your post, but in my life I’ve found that dealing with the clutter and the cognitive stress of those little things we need to do but leave undone has been helpful in clearing my mental space as well.

    1. All I ever really want to do is get to the philosophical/emotional roots of anything, so I love this, Laura. I think you’re absolutely right. I just find that I can’t maintain the clean, organized thing for more than an afternoon or so. Do you just discipline yourself to continually do it or set aside specific times to knock it out?

      1. Well, I’m also really bad at keeping things tidy and organized, so for me it has to be disciplined – my tolerance for mess is just too high! What has worked best for our family is what I call “the weekly plan.” Each day has a household chore that needs to be done, and it’s usually something that can be knocked out in about 15 minutes. For instance, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I do a wipedown of my kitchen, picking up any errant spills and drips and putting away anything that might have been taken out. I do something similar with my bathroom, just wiping everything down and getting things organized. That way my cleaning goes way faster and things stay relatively neat. Once a week I do a more thorough cleaning of one room, so everything generally stays in some semblance of order. I also put household cleaning into my to-do list, mainly for the psychological boost I get from crossing stuff off a list!

        1. And I should mention — the best tool in my arsenal for keeping things organized is my prescription for antidepressants. Without that, these mundane tasks all fall by the wayside. I’m so glad to have the ability to right my course when I know it would otherwise veer off track. After my first bout of depression, I remember a similar feeling of “Oh, I guess this isn’t situational…” and it was difficult. Ultimately, though, I see it as a manageable biological imbalance. Just like a diabetic’s pancreas doesn’t produce chemicals correctly, neither does my brain. It’s certainly not so simple to come to a place of being okay with it, but I guess I want to pass along that is possible to manage depression as a part of your life and still be happy and healthy.

        2. “It’s possible to manage depression as a part of your life and still be happy and healthy.” Amazing. Thank you so much for your candor in sharing this. It’s relieving to hear someone else’s experience in this arena and I’m so impressed with your clarity about it.

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