There I was. A brand-new mom, alone in my bedroom at 3:00 a.m. with a one-month old baby girl who hadn’t stopped crying for six hours and wouldn’t eat. This was the low point of my postpartum anxiety. My husband was away traveling for work, as he often is, and I was left home to take care of our newborn by myself.
I felt broken. All I could think to myself was, “How am I supposed to have even more children if it’s always this hard, and I have no help?”
You see, feeling depressed and anxious was brand new to me. I had always been the positive one—the outgoing sister in Relief Society, the uplifting friend who her friends came to for advice. So feeling terrified and alone all the time was foreign territory.
After that harrowing night, I knew I couldn’t live this way forever. My husband, constantly traveling. My baby daughter, constantly wailing. Me constantly sobbing. But I didn’t want to admit that I needed help. I was always the helper—never the helpee. Even my postpartum therapist had prescribed me an antidepressant that I didn’t want to take because it would mean I needed help.
One month later my baby girl, Grace, was having surgery, and my husband, Christian, was preparing for yet another trip. I decided to call in the troops. I told Christian I might ask my visiting teachers for help while he was away. He thought it was a great idea. My text to them was simple: “Hi ladies. I thought you should know that Grace had her surgery today, and Christian is leaving for an entire week. So I guess this is a pseudo SOS.”
And as weird as this sounds, I felt really ashamed asking them for help. I know that’s what visiting teachers are for, but I still felt like a charity case. That is, until the troops actually showed up. Suddenly I had visitors every day, dinner invitations every evening, experienced mothers teaching me how to swaddle, and young mothers commiserating with me. It was as if the entire Relief Society of my ward went into hyper drive.
And one taste of help got me hungry for more. I wanted to take advantage of all the resources I had previously been too stubborn to enjoy. I started taking my antidepressant medication. I attended a therapy group for new moms. I called my mom and friends every week, who live on the other side of the country. And I confided more in my husband and in the Lord.
We are taught that true disciples of Jesus Christ strive to serve others. But have we unknowingly decided that conversely, those who ask for help are inferior in some way? Is this why I struggled for so long to reach out for help?
This question struck me as I was reading a book by Brené Brown. In it, she says, “Many of us are willing to extend a helping hand, but we’re very reluctant to reach out for help when we need it ourselves. It’s as if we’ve divided the world into ‘those who offer help’ and ‘those who need help.’ The truth is that we are both.”
Since I began to actively ask for help when I need it, I’ve noticed some blessings in my life. Here are just a few:
1. Less pride. It may seem contradictory to boast about having less pride. But this is not boasting. When I accepted the fact that I needed help, I had to discard my pride. I had to stop caring if people saw me when I hadn’t washed my hair in three days. Letting my guard down like that forced me to set aside my pride. I had to toss out the proud helper I once was and become the humble helpee. I thought I was being humble before the Lord by constantly praying for His help, but I had unknowingly been too proud to receive the help He was trying to send me.
2. Feeling closer to my Heavenly Father. During those first few weeks of postpartum depression, I often felt frustrated that I didn’t feel close to God, especially since I needed Him more than ever. It wasn’t until I asked others for help that I realized that God was actually helping me through them. And that was a tangible manifestation of His love for me.
3. Better friendships with my Relief Society sisters. The Spirit can’t come and fold my laundry, but my Relief Society sisters sure did. I became good friends with women I never would have befriended on my own. The one-on-one conversations we had really made me feel more connected with these women who were 30–40 years older than me.
4. A closer relationship with my husband and baby girl. When I began meeting with a postpartum mental health professional and taking medication, I started to feel like my old self again. I stopped feeling guilty or stressed every time Grace cried. And that allowed me to feel so much more love for her. And even though my husband was so busy, the conversations we did have became more meaningful because I wasn’t as stressed about dinners or dishes. I was able to confide in him how I was feeling, which made me feel so much closer to him.
I realize now that God expects us to need help. We’re not meant to get through this life on our own. And He will provide for our needs—particularly through those around us—if we have the courage and humility to ask them.
Lead image from Shutterstock. All other images courtesy of Jenny.