You never know how strong you can be until you get beyond that last inch of yourself and reach out for help.
In Western-European culture, ‘independence’ and ‘individuality’ are promoted as strengths. We are sold the lie that “asking for help is a sign of weakness”, when in truth, the strongest individuals are the ones who ask for help when it’s needed.
There are innumerous ways in which the cultural programmers sell us this lie, though fear of judgement is the common denominator. Generally, those on ‘the right’ tend to believe it for selfish, competitive reasons. “If I ask for help, others will sense and exploit my weakness”. On ‘the left’, a predisposition to martyrdom is exploited. “I can’t ask for help while others are suffering more than me”. Despite understanding this now, I still struggle not to fall into the latter category.
Before launching Ann Narkeh Media in January 2016, I had spent many years routinely martyring myself for ‘the cause'(s); taking on impossible challenge after impossible challenge; gruelling, sleepless occupations of cold, wet spaces and buildings; breaking up fights, domestic and otherwise; being threatened and assaulted with material and bureaucratic weapons. I’ve been; targeted; gang stalked; spiked with hallucinogenics; poisoned; beaten up; arrested and prosecuted (found not guilty). I’ve burned out, broken myself, half recuperated and thrown myself back in more times than I can remember.
There is a sort of perverse, emancipatory joy in throwing your body and mind at the gears of the establishment without a care for your personal wellbeing. It felt noble and righteous but ultimately damaged my physical and mental health, almost certainly decreasing my life expectancy, while doing relatively little to actually challenge the injustices I was trying to correct. If I’m honest with myself, I was probably seeking some kind of redemption through suffering – for sins both real and imagined. (I still feel a deep sense of post-colonial guilt – though I played no part in the empire. I am still ashamed of my white male privilege, though I had no choice about being born into it…).
Suffering in silence makes everybody more vulnerable to exploitation. Putting on a fake smile and pretending everything’s OK (when it’s not) only helps the establishment continue taking the piss out of us all.
“The only mistake you can make is not asking for help”.
It was only when I finally reached out for help that I realised I had not only been depriving myself of support which would have been gladly given, I was also depriving others of the opportunity to show that they care. Worst of all, I was maintaining a flattering, but false version of reality in which nobody gave a fuck except me. If everybody around you is pretending to be OK, it is infinitely easier to believe that you are alone and therefore infinitely harder to ask for help.
“Refusing to ask for help when you need it is refusing someone the chance to be helpful”.
Suffering in silence isn’t strength, it’s cowardice masquerading as bravery.
In today’s increasingly dystopian world, it takes courage, strength and humility to defy the cultural programming and reach out for help. If you are suffering, I urge you to reach out, right NOW! If you need help, find the courage to ask for it. Good people will be there for you!
You may encounter those who defend the status quo by mocking you, or taking cheap shots and kicking you when you’re down. Try to ignore or understand, pity and forgive them. Damaged people damage people – those who deny the intersectionality of our struggle need help more than any of us.
I am immeasurably grateful to all the friends, family and complete strangers who have helped me and to all those who have allowed me to help them.
We are all stronger together than any one of us could ever be alone.
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