It’s OK to Need Help

It’s OK to Need Help

A friend of mine is adamant no human should ever trust another.

While this isn’t the way I approach life, I can see how much easier it would be to become so self-reliant that you eradicate the need for anyone else.

Out of necessity, this is actually the way I’ve operated for most of my life to date, forging my own path without role models, mentors, or cheerleaders. And no, I do not like it one bit. It is dispiriting, exhausting, and stunting. I had to become my own best friend so I wouldn’t have to depend on anyone but this has never felt right or natural to me.

It started when I was a child and continued throughout a very isolated adolescence when I sought refuge in books and languages, looking for a way out. I quickly found it in academia — which afforded me international mobility — and in the arms of a man nine years my senior.

Married at 19 and divorced three years later, I learned to count on no one but myself until I met my best friend around 1996. Supportive to a fault, he was always there for me wherever I was in the world. Alas, cancer killed him last September. He was my North Star and I’ve felt utterly lost since then.

At this point in my life, this is a very sad realization. I got married a second time in 2013 and here I am almost six years later wondering where all this time has gone. After losing most of it to major depressive disorder that nearly killed me, I’ve had to resign myself once again to still being very much alone. The fight for mental health and survival is one I wage on my own — and on the page — every single day.

This is American reality, the reality of millions of us too cash-strapped to afford the therapy we need and whose relatives do not consider sick but lazy.

And yet, I’ve never once stopped believing in mutually empowering human interactions.

Intellectual symbiosis is something I experienced for the first time recently when my mind collided with another and sparks flew. It gave me the strength to keep excavating my psyche and locate more missing pieces of my broken self.

However, maintaining human interactions in the long term requires a level of curiosity, concern, and care many of us seem to have become incapable of. We’ve lost the ability to make time for others, to empathize with someone else’s plea, to share the unredacted nitty gritty of our daily reality.

Because exploring our shared humanity means losing control of our carefully curated narratives and it isn’t something we embark upon willingly.

And yet, it is this very reluctance which often condemns us to loneliness.

Although endemic to our society, loneliness is still viewed as shameful.

Never mind that disconnectedness is a very real scourge, no one wants to be seen as a lone wolf, a misfit who lives on the margins of society.

Much as I remind myself I’m the only person I can ever truly rely on, it pains me every time I do. The little kid who looked askance at the world wondering why it was so cruel has grown into an adult whose heart is so full it’s always on the verge of bursting.

Love is the hallmark of everything I do and I’m not ashamed to admit it. The muse makes my brain tingle, passion motivates me, and unexpected kindness from another human never fails to empower me.

And yet, I’ve often ended up in lackluster or abusive romantic entanglements that were more a way of escaping loneliness than joining forces or encouraging each other to achieve our full potential.

But two solitudes in parallel do not a relationship make.

Some self-help ghouls will argue that the only relationship you’ll ever need is with yourself.

This is so reductive and depressing that the thought of forever living an airtight, self-contained life or even end up describing myself as my greatest fan or my own superhero makes me howl in agony. I like myself well enough, sure, but I don’t admire myself. That would be weird.

Despite a start in life steeped in loneliness, I’ve always gone toward people. I’m that person who always gets asked for directions everywhere, the random stranger others pour their heart out to, unbidden. And I treasure every single one of those interactions as they reinforce my humanity, especially after depression sought to erase it.

Nevertheless, I still struggle to let anyone in. For the longest time, I believed love to be something you gave others and received from them in return, not something I could even give myself.

Love was a transaction contingent on variables rather than the omnipresent force that rules the world. Love was sacrifice rather than a gift, love was subject to terms and conditions.

It’s not until I started listening to my heart that I realized love could only ever be free and unconditional. To love another is to hope they keep choosing you as you keep choosing them. Love isn’t a prison; love is a pair of wings.

Because the relationship you have with your own self does define all others, love starts with loving yourself, meaning that you have to stick those wings on your back first rather than wait for someone else to.

But once aloft, you’ll understand why there’s always a co-pilot as well as cabin crew on the plane.

We need one another to thrive.

I’m a French-American writer and journalist living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.

It’s OK to Need Help

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