i’ve come to realize that i have issues with people helping me. somewhere along the way, i got it in my head that i was supposed to be able to do everything all by myself (and of course, it was supposed to turn out perfectly). this was first brought to my attention in rehab (and might have contributed just a little bit to my ending up there as well).
at age seventeen, in an extremely difficult but possibly life-saving decision made by my parents, i was sent to one of those boot-camp-esque rehabs out in the wilds of utah where we hiked back and forth and up and down the mountains all day until we arrived at our pre-determined location and set up camp for the evening. the next day, we’d wake (very early as i recall) and do it all over again, often having to rely on the food we kept in our “possibles bag” (the items that we were able to get to – everything else couldn’t be accessed until the evening) for lunch, which as i recall, usually consisted of tortillas, peanut butter and granola – something i continued to eat for years, to the amusement of most of my friends.
every day, we’d each be given jobs, which were all extremely important. for example, one person would be assigned to “fires” and their responsibility (obviously) would be to make the fire used to cook dinner and breakfast, if we were having a cooked breakfast, which was seldom, and lunch if we were having a layover, which was even more seldom. other fantastic jobs included latrine (which meant digging a hole), dinner (cooking), ashes (scattering the ashes of the fire in the morning, when they were cool, in order for the carbon to have a minimal environmental effect), etc.
on this particular day about a month into my time, we were hiking up a particularly craggy hill on the mountain and everyone was in a fine mood. if i’m not mistaken, it had been raining and hailing the day before and possibly even that morning (my memory is pretty shaky), and the hail was so big that we were forced to hide under trees or any shelter we could find. we had these army ponchos and most of us ended up sitting on our bags with the poncho covering as much of our stuff as possible – though our bags were wrapped up in a tarp on our backs, the worst thing possible would be our sleeping bags getting wet. for a few minutes it was fun, as all of us shrieked and giggled and ran for cover. then the hail got bigger and it started to hurt. and as we sat there, we could see the anxiety in the eyes of our counselors (those of us who could see them, the rain was so heavy that unless you were right next to someone, they were pretty much gone), as they knew how far we still had to hike before we could set up shelter.
after that though, the sun shone throughout the afternoon and even though the hiking was some of the more difficult we’d experienced (not quite rock-climbing, but we definitely weren’t on a normal path) and pretty long as well (7-10 miles), we were all in a great mood. as we got to the top, we knew we were close to “home” (for that night, anyway) and that our counselors were happy that we’d still made it – even though the sun was going down and we’d have little time to set up before the darkness hit (and there is nothing like the darkness of being the only ten people in the middle of nowhere). and at our backs was the sun. we were high enough up that it actually seemed bigger than any of us had ever seen. it was that deep orange just before a sunset and the sky was such a clear dark blue, that you could almost see the edges of the sun flaring.
and then, i really could see the edges flaring, and then it was sort of melting and getting bigger and then suddenly, i was tripping. and not just a little “whoa, this is intense” but an actual full-on acid trip. i learned later from the nurse that it is actually quite common if you have done a lot of hallucinogens; they are stored in your fat cells and can be “released” as you exercise. however, at the time, i had no idea what was going on. i remember sort of whispering to my friend next to me, “do you see that? is the sun melting?” and i remember being scared. i wasn’t sure what was happening, and i wasn’t sure they were going to believe me that i didn’t do drugs. and i knew that i was on fire duty and that i could barely handle getting my bag off my shoulders by myself, let alone making a fire (which, even if you know what you are doing, is quite difficult). but i didn’t know what to do about it.
i don’t remember how it came about, i’m sure my friend who i’d confided in had told the counselors and they called a “group” (we had scheduled group time twice a day, but anyone could call group at any time also). i was terrified that they would be mad at me, but in the end, they took it as an opportunity to show me that sometimes we need help and that all i had to do was ask for help and that anyone would be happy to make the fire for me, i just had to ask. which shouldn’t have been so scary, but i couldn’t do it. i started crying and even though the trip had sort of calmed down a bit, i’m sure it didn’t help. eventually, i turned to my friend mirian and managed to tell her that i needed her help and ask if she would make the fire for me and she got up and came over to me and gave me a big hug and told me that she already had. and that i could always ask her for help and she would always be there (it still makes me cry a little).
(how awesome would it be if in life, we could just pause and call “group” and check in with how everyone is feeling.)
i thought that i’d really taken in that lesson and gotten much better about letting those close to me know when i need help and can’t do something on my own, but this weekend i had an argument with my husband about what i need to be happy here in germany and he said that i don’t tell him what i need or what he can do to help, to which i scoffed, of course, saying that i had made it perfectly clear and he obviously just didn’t listen or think it was important. later, when we were a little calmer, i was able to express a little bit better what i truly did need and discovered that i hadn’t been as obvious as i thought and in fact, hadn’t really said anything at all.
my parents tell me that whenever people tried to help me with anything as a child, i would stop and scream, “self“, letting everyone know that i wanted to, and could, do it myself. i can’t imagine how frustrating that would be for them. i can just see my mother trying to get me out of the house and here’s this little two year old who can’t quite get her clothes on herself or tie her shoes, but won’t allow anyone to help. everything must have taken ages.
my language skills have improved – i no longer just shout one word at people, but in essence, i still have the same problem and unfortunately, the same results. everything takes longer, i get extremely frustrated and no one is happy.
i’m going to now try and remember how amazing i felt when mirian hugged me and told me that i could always ask her for help and realize that it’s ok.