While I watch my 3 year old get ready for preschool, I’m watching her struggle putting on her boots. I offer to help her, when she interrupts me saying “no mommy, I can do it myself.” As I grit my teeth, anxiously waiting for her to get it right, I realize this is typical behaviour for any preschooler. Preschoolers are learning how to do so many new tasks, and as a parent I often forget that we should let them figure it out. As I watch my daughter figuring out how to do most tasks, and insisting on doing it herself, all of this has me thinking. I’ve come to the realization that I rely on doing so many tasks independently. All most, too independently.
For years, I have been overly independent. Dating back to when I was in my late teens, I made it a priority to move out on my own without help. I would work two jobs to make sure I was able to pay rent comfortably, and figuring out my post secondary school courses. When I was 19 years old, I spontaneously responded to a job ad in a local newspaper, to apply as an AuPair in the United States. Within a few months I was on a flight to New Jersey to move in with a family I had only met over the phone, coordinated by an organization I had only read about through a newspaper ad, ready to take on this year long adventure. When my time in New jersey was finished, I moved back home temporarily before moving again, working a few more jobs and relocating out of city to settle down and attend college.
It wasn’t until I was watching my daughter learn new tasks or go about her daily routine before I started realizing that not only does she have some very similar character traits as I do, it really had me thinking about myself, and why did I move around alot? Why was I so persistent to do things by myself? Why would I turn down help when circumstances would be so tough for me to manage by myself? Was it because I was too proud? Or was it because I didn’t want to burden a friend or loved one?
To ask for help felt too gut wrenching. I had a hard time finding the courage or finding comfort asking. I remember when I was in college and my college money was delayed and I couldn’t pay my rent on time. Even under these circumstances I reached out to no one. I found myself skipping 3 days of college classes to work enough hours to cover my rent. When I had a college roommate who decided to move out while I wasn’t home and wrote me a faulty cheque for his last months rent, I reached out for no one. Whether it was money, help moving, or balancing various work and home life responsibilities, I find myself in various circumstances where I would tackle these tasks, and run myself so thin that I begin to feel like I’m a 10 year old laptop riddled with viruses trying to run windows. For some reason, I still find enough bandwidth to push through, no matter what it took to get there. Why was I doing this to myself? Why would I endure all of this pressure? It goes beyond a sense of pride. It was a way to hide that I was different from others. A way to hide that I carry a past.
What I was really doing was running myself too thin. I would refuse help, but internally stress myself out for taking on too much. I remember sitting down with an old therapist, when it was discussed that I suffered from Hyper-Independence. I know what you must be thinking, “is this a real thing?” It is. Hyper-Indepence is a real condition. It is a condition that develops when someone has experienced a form of severe trauma or chronic illness. For years, I have created this false notion that I had to prove I was capable, and to prove my value and self worth through all that I was capable of doing independently, instead of who I am as a person. This would caused me so much harm, than it was good for me. I would over do myself on many tasks, I refused to ask for help when times felt impossible, and when I would find the courage to ask for help, I would feel even worse about it. I would begin to feel worthless.
The road to recovery is slow, but constantly moving. My self worth is not measured by the amount of tasks I take on alone. I am learning to not fall into the mind trap that when I do eventually ask for help, it may not be accomplished in the same manner I have set out in my head, but rather it was done differently, and that’s ok! I was reminded to give others the opportunity to help me. I don’t have to do everything myself, and that it’s ok to rest. To be strong goes beyond how much you do. If you ask for help it doesn’t mean that you’re weak. In fact, this is far from the truth. Recognizing when I need help shows incredible strength. Strength and courage to ask. I would be lying if I said I followed these suggestions perfectly. What I can say, is that each day is a new day. The more I practise, and allow myself to accept help, with time I will be able to find a healthy balance of independence.
For anyone who is struggling whether its with Hyper-Independence, or various forms of anxiety, remember that you aren’t alone. Find someone you trust. Someone that you can lean on to ask for help. Let them know how they can help. Remind yourself that this journey is slow. It will take time for your trust, strength and courage to come. Give yourself patience. Once you get there, you will find that this will be the most mentally and emotional thing you have done.