“Do you ever feel smothered, like you get too much help?”
This was a question one of the dads asked me at a recent talk I did. It was a really interesting question, and quite insightful. We’d been discussing how important it is to ask for help, how there is no shame in admitting that you need support; which is something I always tell others, but manage to often forget myself. But… Can you get too much help??
And to answer the question (again), yes and no. (Super helpful, right?)
Ok, I probably need to clarify a bit there.
Yes, it is possible to have too much help, but no, I don’t feel smothered – but I know some people do.
People need different types of support
I think I’m quite lucky. My friends and family know me well enough that they understand I need more “silent background support” rather than “hands-on support”. They know that personally, I mostly just need to know they’re there – with the odd little pick-me-up (like my bestie popping round the other morning with face masks and breakfast chocolate after we’d both had a crappy night’s sleep with our babes). I prefer this than a check-in every day. In fact, I think if I was checked on every day I’d probably end up more batty than I was to begin with – but people with different personality types need that, and that is totally ok.
This doesn’t just apply to people with PND or anxiety either. This applies to anyone who might need support. This applies to new parents, old parents, grandparents, hopeful parents, people in new jobs, people in stressful jobs, people studying, people training, people moving, people stuck… I may even be bold enough to go so far as to say everyone needs support in some aspect of their lives – just to different degrees. Some people need a friend to pop in every day, to have their physical presence – or at the very least a phone call. And at some point in the future, I might need that too. But right now, for me, knowing they’re there if I need them is enough.
Why sometimes you can get too
The problem, then, lies where there is a disconnect between the needs of the supportee and the actions of the supporter. If a person needs lots of physical support (phone calls, help with housework, meals, etc) but they don’t receive it from their loved ones, it can lead to feeling rejected, alone, and stressed. The kind of feelings we wouldn’t want anyone to feel!
If a person needs more subtle support (the odd text, random acts of kindness every now and then, having people they can call if they need), but they have people showing up to their house every day trying to clean up and talk about their feelings, this can feel overwhelming and definitely a wee bit like your soul is being squeezed by a well-intentioned boa constrictor.
In those cases, it’s not that the supportee doesn’t appreciate the help, or that they’re ungrateful. Anyone who’s struggling definitely appreciates receiving help. It’s just that (brace yourselves for my groundbreaking news here) people are different. (I know, I could practically hear your gasp from here!)
Sometimes our struggles are based around a feeling of loss of control, so when others come in and remove more control (with the best of intentions) through constant “helping” it elevates that feeling. I’m that person – my depression and anxiety often come to light more when I have feelings of losing control over things. Things like my children’s behaviour (sleep, eating, etc) or my lifestyle (life revolving around the kids). So the best course of action for me is to focus on the things I can control, like self care, our routines (sort of… whilst still revolving around the kids, haha!), etc.
Of course I appreciate it when my loved ones come to help out – I’ve walked in many times to my dishes being done, my laundry being folded, and honestly, it’s like they’ve reached right into my soul and given my heart a cuddle. But if that happened every day, I’d probably feel judged for one thing – and I’d also feel like I’d lost control over my role in maintaining the household.
So, how do we avoid this disconnection?
There are pretty much two options here: suffer in silence and live with it; or face it and talk about it. Although the latter seems simple in theory, it can be quite daunting – none of us want to feel like we’re being ungrateful or needy. We don’t want to push our loved ones away, especially if we’re feeling insecure in our relationships already. But surely a bit of tactful honesty here would be better for everyone involved?
Quite often people want to help but they’re not sure how – so a bit of gracious guidance can go a long way. For example, you could say “hey just a heads up but I’m struggling a bit at the moment – I’d appreciate some company this week!” or “I really, really appreciate your help, but I’m OK with food at the moment – if I get stuck in the future I’ll definitely let you know!”. And if you’re on the other side, ” I just wanted to let you know I’m here if you need anything, but I don’t want to add more pressure to your busy life – so just let me know how I can help” or “I’d love to drop off a meal to you – let me know if you’d like company or just a drop and run!”.
(On that note, if you’re feeling like a friend might need some extra support, but you aren’t sure how to approach the topic, this post might help❤)
Open communication means both sides are able to clarify what would and wouldn’t be helpful, which means more warm fuzzies and less lost souls or emotional boa constrictors. Which is good for everyone!
Until next time!