Are you struggling with trauma and finding it hard to ask for help? In this episode we discuss why asking for support is actually a sign of strength. You are not alone in your struggles, and healing is always possible. Tune in to this empowering episode to learn more.
So today’s episode comes to you because I’ve been reading a book and I read a little section in the book that I just thought was so good and it hasn’t left my mind ever since. The book is called Perfectly Hidden Depression, How to Break Free from the Perfectionism that Masks Your Depression by Margaret Robinson Rutherford, PhD.
Dr. Rutherford is a Therapist and She has coined this term, perfectly hidden depression, basically the idea of depression based off of a perfectionism. So, kind of a depression that we hide away from the world. We still are highly functional. I might call this high functioning depression, but it’s a depression that it is kind of is rooted in a perfectionism.
It’s rooted in the idea that I can’t make mistakes, that I have to be perfect in some way. I have to be independent, all of that. And because of copyright issues, I can’t read from the book, but I hesitantly recommend the book. It is very thick. There are lots of like journaling exercises and that kind of a thing.
I have not finished it. Honestly, probably won’t finish it, but I do love the idea that she’s trying to help people overcome this perfectionism tendency that is so rampant in our culture that oftentimes leads to suicidality, from people that we think have beautiful, wonderful lives and would never guess that they are struggling to the point of suicide.
I really admire the work that she does. She does have a podcast called, I believe it’s called Self Work. So you can check her out in both of those ways. So, I’m going to just sort of paraphrase the section that I read from this book, um, because you know, like I said, due to copyright, I can’t read it directly, but because I think it is so.
Such a great teaching, story for those of us who are reluctant to ask for support or help in any way. Now, remember that Dr. Rutherford is a therapist herself. She, you know, has training. She’s been doing this for a long time. She talks about. That she went to, I think it was some kind of professional training and on one of the evenings after dinner, her and a group of therapists, other therapists were brought to a room with, um, some closed double doors.
And they were, taught, they were told that they’re going to enter in this, into this room and there was going to be a maze, they’re going to be blindfolded and their job was to find the exit. And they were assured that there actually was an exit and into, you know, Keep a hold of this rope and keep trying to find the way out and that they could raise their hand at any time and, and get help.
There were people standing around to help them. And so her and her colleagues enter the room, blindfolded, holding onto this rope, trying to figure out how to get out where the exit is. And after several minutes of bumping along, She started noticing herself getting frustrated, and she raised her hand and she thought, is the exit letting go of the rope?
And they told her, no, that’s not the exit. And a couple more times after a few minutes. She would ask, you know, is the exit, this is the exit that, and they kept telling her, no, Margaret, keep holding on to the rope and keep going. And eventually she realized in sort of this light bulb moment that the exit was asking for help.
And she raised her hand one last time and said, is the exit asking for help? And that was what the exit was. And her point with the story is that admitting that we need help and asking for the help that we need is sometimes the biggest stumbling block for us. One of the reasons why I do this podcast week after week is because I want people to understand, first of all, what trauma is and how it’s affecting their lives, but really for the listeners to understand that they are not alone and that they are not alone.
It is super common for us to feel like we are alone, that nobody else understands our experience, that we’re kind of this unique unicorn in our experience. And while your experiences are unique to you and nobody has the right to take those experiences away from you. It doesn’t mean that you’re alone in them, right?
And because you struggle, because you have doubts or questions or, you know, feel like you’re not good enough or that you’re broken, or you will never be capable of certain things doesn’t mean that you’re actually broken. Right? And those two things, you are not alone and you are not broken, are two of the biggest messages I want people to leave from listening to my podcast.
In addition to these messages, there’s always a reason you are the way you are. We each have experiences that we’ve gone through that have left wounds and we’ve each figured out a way to cope with our wounds, you know, and. Most of the time, these coping mechanisms are not unique to us. It’s just kind of how humans cope with wounds in different ways.
But there’s always a reason. There’s a reason why you can’t get out of bed in the morning. There’s a reason why you are afraid of the thing you’re afraid of. There’s a reason why. You don’t speak up. All of these things are things that I see very common in my clients and myself. And one of the most hopeful ideas is that you always make sense.
It might not look from the outside that it’s, you know, a highly adaptive way to make sense, but you always make sense. And in order to overcome some of our weaknesses, some of our obstacles, usually I don’t want to say a hundred percent of the time, but usually asking for help or support is the first step.
Actually, even before asking, recognizing that we have a weakness, recognizing that, you know, something is wrong that we can’t figure out on our own. And then asking for the appropriate help is the first step. And something I always think about is that when we are wounded in relationship, and podcast, I am talking about relationship wounds.
I’m talking about attachment trauma. I’m talking about other kinds of trauma that happen in relationship to other people. I usually don’t focus too much on shock trauma, which is one of the kinds of traumas that can happen without another person being there. But even the shock traumas often have another person there.
So we are wounded in relationship and therefore we are healed.
And here’s, here’s the thing, only, you know, how you feel and what you need, which means only you can ask for the support and the right kind of support for you. And one thing that trauma is so good at is keeping us quiet. It’s good at making us feel like we should be small and quiet and not speak up and not rock the boat because it’ll just go away.
Create more problems. But really, essentially, what that does is that creates the problem internally. Inside of us instead of a problem externally to us. It might be true, it might be true that if we speak up, if we say something, there will be some dissonance or some friction in some way in our relationships, in our environment, but I wanna suggest that that is better than having friction and dissonance within yourself.
Something I notice in our culture is that. It’s such an independent culture, right? We’re taught that we need to figure things out on our own, that we’re in competition with other people. So almost like I’ve got to do this by myself because that’s how I win. But it’s just not true. There’s a continuum of independence on one end of the continuum is hyper independence, and I think that hyper independence tends to be a trauma response.
It tends to be what we do when we didn’t get the support we needed, especially as young children. We learn to take care of ourselves and then we learn that that’s the best way. And on the other end of the spectrum is codependence. It’s when we rely on somebody else for, for almost everything, for really the, the feeling good inside of ourselves.
I need you to do XYZ so I can feel good inside of myself. And that’s not healthy either. And those are kind of two opposites in the middle is what I call interdependence. It’s this idea that we lean on one another, but if the other person leaves for a while, we can stand on our own two feet. We’re not going to completely be shattered, right?
And that we’re not going to, withdraw and think that we have to do things on our own, that hyper independence, what we really want is that interdependence. We want to be able to lean on other people and ask for help and support, but if the help and support doesn’t come on the timeline that we need, or not in the exact way that we were thinking that we can still manage ourselves, that’s kind of the sweet spot.
And, we even by nature, as humans, we are a social animal, right? We’re not really meant to do everything on our own. We’re not meant to spend all of our time by ourselves. This is one of the things, in my opinion, that was really terrible about COVID was we were trading physical health problems for mental health problems because so many people were alone during COVID.
That’s a side note. But… We’re not meant to do life alone. We are social creatures. We are meant to do life together. And when we think that we have to figure things out on our own, that it’s somehow weak if we don’t, that we can’t ask for help, that, I think, is just a trauma response. And I will say, In my own healing journey, I have had to learn how to accept support.
So I’m not saying that in, in recognizing you need support and then asking for it, that it’s going to make everything easier immediately. One of the first things that you might have to learn is how to allow support. I remember my coach was coaching me and I don’t remember the exact context, but. I was imagining my mother and really the problem for me was that I couldn’t, pull away from her as much as I wanted to.
She was almost like smothering me, like I need you to need me kind of thing. And I, I just wanted to sort of pull away and do my own thing. And much to my surprise, my coach encouraged me to pull away. And, you know, my, my logical brain was like, what, that doesn’t make sense. You’re not supposed to pull away.
You’re supposed to accept the love, the, the affection that is given you. And I did what she told me to, I followed my body and this was a somatic practice and I allowed myself to pull away. And that was like the very thing I needed. I needed to be allowed to pull away because it was almost like I was receiving too much support that I didn’t want.
So that’s kind of the other end of the spectrum of, you know, allowing support. I am thinking of another client who, um, I was coaching her and. Um, I met, I encouraged her to imagine her husband kind of giving her hug or something like that. And she was like, that’s too much, that’s too much. And so I kind of backpedaled and said, okay, can he just put his hands on your shoulders?
And she’s like, Ooh, even that feels too much. And so I said, how about one hand? Right. And she said, okay, I can do one hand, but this is a person who. Has felt very alone and has felt like she has to figure things out on her own and that’s the best way and that’s the way we, you know, Protect ourselves from being vulnerable and all of that.
So she just worked with feeling in her imagination, one hand on a shoulder. And you know, you can slowly, gradually imagine different things, more support, support in different ways. But for many of us, either we weren’t allowed to not have or not accept support, or we were left to ourselves. So often that.
Accepting support feels really foreign and strange and so we have to work on letting that felt sense develop in us like the podcast episode is titled. Asking for support is strong. It’s strong, especially if you have leaned toward being hyper independent and figuring things out on your own your whole life.
Now just keep in mind that our culture It recognizes and rewards independence. So what I’m telling you here might feel wrong to you because of the larger culture and larger cultural messages that we all have received for a very long time. So there might be a little bit of wrestling with this idea. Of asking for support and whether it is a sign of weakness or a sign of strength, I just want to suggest that it’s actually a sign of strength and that the more we come together and support each other, the stronger we are individually and the stronger we are collectively.
Okay. I think that’s enough for now. And so are you currently, I have some openings for one on one coaching. If that feels like a good step forward for you, I recommend that you go to my website, Denitabremmer. com and click the button to schedule a free session. Alternatively, you can also go to my website, Denitabremmer.com and click the button to schedule a free session.
Come find me on Voxer. It’s one of my favorite apps. It’s like a walkie talkie app. You can leave voice messages for each other. You can also leave text messages and I would be happy to. I’m going to coach you on Voxer as just a way for you to kind of step into this and test it out to, you know, just try it out for free.
So if that’s something that you’re interested in on Voxer, my handle is at Denita Bremmer. And that’s D E N I T A B R E M E R. I would appreciate any way you would like to support this podcast. When you leave a rating or a review or share with a friend, this work spreads and our world gets more regulated.
Remember that I’m a life coach, not a doctor or a psychologist, and any suggestions or advice mentioned in this podcast should not be a substitute for medical or mental health care. Until next time, go be yourself and follow the spirit.