Help! I need somebody. Not just anybody.
Back in 1965, the Beatles crooned about needing somebody — anybody — to save them from what John Lennon would later tell Playboy was the incomprehensible Beatles fame. “I was subconsciously crying out for help,” Lennon admitted. While most of us will never reach the heights of fame that they did, we have issues and problems that are just as valid, important and needing of attention as celebrities. There are misconceptions about asking for help. Many women and mothers are silently screaming and suffering, but are too proud or unsure of how and when to ask for help.
Sometimes, asking for help can be confusing. I remember being fifteen and a half and first learning about feminism. I was startled by Gloria Steinem’s quote, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” I kept moving it around in my head like a lumbering lesson; trying to find meaning in it. Why would a fish and a bicycle be in the same sentence? Is needing a man bad? Do I need a man? Should I need a man? It was so convoluted and I was scared to admit it felt foreign. Instead, I declared it proudly, and then waited to see how the people I loved reacted. My mother thought it was ludicrous. My father resented it. My guy friends laughed. My female friends nodded. The only problem with this quote and my clumsy interpretation of it, was that, it ended up resembling a Rubik’s Cube and I was never fully able to make all of the colors line up. So when I needed help: be it at work after graduation, while carrying heavy boxes of Xerox paper, or worse, when I found myself in over my head as a drug addict, I thought only the weak sought out help. Instead, I happily chirped, “I am woman, hear me roar!” while my back cracked beneath the weight of too many paper reams, or my hair fell out while I spun out on a speed bender.
After I had my daughter, via C-section, I was pretty much incapable of even getting up to go pee in the middle of the night. I had to rely on my partner to come around to my side and grab my elbow and lift me. I remember my hero of an OB tell me, “Don’t be proud. Ask for help.” She was trying to kill that part of me (and, assumably, other women) that would rather hold their pee or bust their stitches than shove their baby-daddies awake at 2am. My stomach was numb for months and my C-section scar took a year+ to thin out and stop feeling like a burn. During that time, I got stuck in the couch like a deer in quicksand more times than I’d like to admit. But, I did ask for help. Because it’s been over a decade since I was a seventeen-year-old drug addict, and it’s been at least a few years since I realized something else: I do need men. And, I do need other women. For help. For guidance. For emotional stability. For maturity. For fun. For role-modeling. For everything I didn’t get when I was younger and for some things I couldn’t embrace before now.
Having struggled with anxiety and depression since I was a child, I have become an expert at hiding or “hibernating” as I like to call it. This worked for a long, long time. I was able to calm my inner storms and control my external environment. Now, it works in limited capacity. Now, I need company, a pep talk, or to be lifted out of my dark room and that’s just the way it goes. What served me before doesn’t serve me now. I need to trust the change and go with the flow of who I have metamorphosed into. I need to honor my current incarnation.
My daughter goes to Children’s Hospital for treatment for a genetic condition that has caused her muscles to develop at a slower pace than her peers. This can be isolating for me because I have trouble interacting with mothers of typically-developing children. I love my daughter more than anything in this life. And, while at CHLA or other providers, we are in a friendly environment for her distinct needs. She’s a trooper and I’m her cheerleader. But, with my mommy friends, we stick out. And, I resent the questioning looks and outright nosiness of people who want to know why she is more petite or not walking yet. I’m still navigating this. It’s hard to ask for help in this area.
After a particularly difficult day that found me in bed in the dark by my daughter’s early bedtime, I hit a bottom that gave birth to a realization. Perhaps, being of service to other moms and their unique situations will help? To put that idea in action, I started a social support group for parents of special needs children. I am hopeful that this will connect me with others that have similar gifts of unique parenthood and I can find out how they interface with other moms. To be clear, I wouldn’t trade my situation for anything, I’m simply learning how to steer the car better.
Speaking of being of service, at CHLA recently, I was in the bathroom when I saw a mother who was struggling with her two-month old baby girl. She was trying to juggle her stroller, the change table, and using the bathroom herself. Finally, she patted her daughter on the stomach and looked at me (she didn’t speak English) as if to say, “I’m leaving her here while I go use the toilet.” I gestured to her that I would watch her daughter. That she didn’t need to put her child in jeopardy. That she could breathe a sigh of relief for a few minutes and trust that everything would be fine. She smiled so big the bathroom’s florescent bulbs shimmered off her teeth.
Whenever I see a mom, a woman — or a man — in need of help (I have rescued a few old men from the side of the street having fallen) I try to rise to the occasion. And, when I need help, especially if I’m feeling blue and can’t seem to navigate the fog by myself, I’m learning to surrender to the divine connection we all have. We are one. And as fabulous as we are, sometimes, we need help. And that’s totally OK!
Darrah Le Montre is a writer and journalist and devoted mom. Her work has been published by Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan and nudie blog SuicideGirls.