Strength means having the courage to ask for help

by Tammy Ozolins

I have four brothers and no sisters. So, as you can imagine I had to be very tough at a young age. This is what I truly pride myself on, my toughness. Well, even though this is a great quality to have, it did have some negative to it. See, everyone expected me to be this tough woman all the time. Well, deep down inside that was not the case all the time.

When I was I high school I was just starting to deal with Bipolar Disorder

I was not medically diagnosed until my mid-twenties. So, I remember coming home some days and feeling defeated. Holding all those feelings inside will do that to you.

I would spend a lot of time in my room, just crying or screaming because again I had to be this “tough” lady and I did not want to show that I was not that person. Deep down inside I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, “I am struggling over here, I am not okay”, but I didn’t have the courage to ask for help. You might be asking, “But why?”

I felt like it would take away my strong reputation and I did not want that to happen. Having four brothers meant I had to be automatically strong and therefore asking for help would be a sign of weakness. And I did not want to be portrayed as weak. Another consideration was my parents. Would they believe me or think I was “faking” it for attention. I was not sure how they would feel and that scared me as well.

So, for years, even after high school, I would do the same routine, hold all my fears and worries and mood swings inside of me and then once I was home, I would go into my room and let it all out. To be honest with you, this became exhausting and I was not sure how much longer I could do it. Then I started to use unhealthy coping skills to help me out with the mood swings and pain. I was drinking a lot more and using self-harm to help me cope. Later, I had a suicide attempt.  

I remember the day I asked for help

It was on Christmas and I remember crying all day and stayed downstairs because I did not want to ruin the day for my family. Later, that evening, I fought hard and had enough pain, I went and told my parents I needed to talk to them. They came upstairs and sat down at the kitchen table and I sat across from them and I looked at them and said the exact words: “I need help. I am not doing well. I cannot do this anymore and I do not want to live anymore.”

When I was saying this, tears were streaming down my face and I could not hide the pain anymore or hold it in. I remember the expressions on their faces. They were shocked and they gave me a hug and told me let’s go to the hospital and get you help. So, that evening we did just that, and that was my first stay at a psychiatric hospital.

Once hospitalized, I realized it was OK to ask for help.

It was my second hospitalization that I really accepted that I needed to manage and cope with bipolar disorder for the rest of my life. It was there also that I knew that for 100% it is okay to ask for help, that it is NOT a sign of weakness. I have said it before, that even though I thought it was going to change my reputation, it did not. I know asking for help has made me feel STRONGER, because I had the courage to say I need help!

It took me years to ask for help

But I did it and I continue to ask for help if I need to. I just wish I would have asked sooner, maybe then I would not have had to deal with all that pain all alone. Even though most days are filled with sunshine and joy for me, on those “rainy and stormy days” my “umbrella” is called- ASKING FOR HELP. The best part is I am blessed because I have a lot of people I can rely on for this help.

My best advice for anyone dealing with any kind of struggles, academics, relationships, self-esteem, ask for help, find resources, call hotlines, people and get the help you need. Life is not a bed of roses, but you do not need to struggle along. It won’t take away the pain and struggles completely, but it will help you get through it.

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