Trigger warning: this piece discusses themes of anxiety.
Reaching out for help can be a really scary thing to do. I know because I have been there. There are so many thoughts around ‘what if?’
What if they don’t care?
What if my problems aren’t as important?
What if I’m just wasting their time?
These were the thoughts I had circling in my head when I first knocked on my teacher’s door. This teacher had known me for several years and we got on really well. At this point, I was in sixth form (16-18 for anyone outside of the UK) and I had been struggling for years. On this particular day, I was in a bad headspace and feeling very anxious. I was too scared to bring up the topic straight away so, at lunch, I brought her an essay I wanted to get some feedback on. We chatted about that for a while but she could sense there was something else I wanted to talk about. She opened that conversation by asking:
‘Lauren, is everything alright?’
In that moment, I wanted to run. I wanted to pretend I was fine like I had done for five years but I knew the cycle. I knew if I didn’t, I would never give myself the opportunity to get help. I would carry on and cope the best I could. But coping wasn’t thriving. I wanted to thrive and enjoy the time I had left in sixth form before I left for university. I wanted to feel more confident and have hope that I can be more than what I had been told by bullies, or by my own mind.
My answer of ‘no’ led to the start of my healing journey.
From this conversation, I opened up about how I was feeling, the thoughts I was having, the issues I was dealing with and how lost I felt. My teacher listened and we made a plan together. From there, she often checked in with me and she made sure her room was a safe space. She signposted me to the right people within the school’s wellbeing service, and made sure that I was getting the help I needed.
I needed someone to help in this way; she listened and gave me guidance, but also made sure that professional services were accessible to me. I am eternally grateful to her for being a person who never judged me, and always listened.
Reaching out for help can be a really scary thing to do, but without it, I would have been living in more fear of my own mind. I am so happy I made the decision to say, ‘no I’m not okay,’ and open up. Fear shouldn’t stop us from getting what we want or need. If you are struggling and are worried about opening up to someone, here are some tips I found that made the process a bit less scary!
Have an opening topic. Mine was my essay. It can help to establish a connection in that moment.
Write it in a letter. Sometimes words are hard. Writing them down gives you the space to not rush your words and get what you need to say out into the open.
If you don’t fancy writing a letter, sometimes a mindmap can help! I did a mindmap which showed the thoughts or issues I was dealing with, and I noted the feelings associated with that particular issue. This helped me to make connections between thoughts and feelings, and helped my teacher to see too so that she could understand better.
Find someone you trust. This could be a parent or guardian, a teacher or mentor, a church leader, a GP, a social worker, an aunt, a cousin, a friend … find someone who you feel comfortable talking to. Conversations are easier if it’s someone you like and don’t feel judged by.
You don’t have to reveal everything at once. I think it took my teacher several attempts of asking ‘how are you?’ before she had a well-rounded overview of everything. Perhaps you could start off with one topic to talk about at first, and go from there?
Be prepared that they may signpost you onto professionals who have a better knowledge of how to help in the long term. Your trusted person can be there to listen and advise in the short term – it’s okay to have both. It was the best thing that could have happened to me, and I wish I opened up to her earlier. Whenever and however you choose to open up, know that there are people there ready to listen and support you.
Voices of Hope wants you to know that you do not have to do this alone. Click here to ‘find help’ - it’s not weak to speak!