On Asking for Help

On Asking for Help

On a Friday afternoon on a sticky day in August—summer break for teenagers—in a two-story bookstore in the biggest shopping mall in the largest city in Canada. That’s where I finally did it; something I had been thinking about doing for weeks but was only now at the point where I felt I really had to.

Yes, in the middle of that busy book store on that grossly hot day in that frustratingly busy shopping mall, that’s where I bought my first self-help book.

Hours before, I had gone to my doctor in search of answers after having a pretty scary panic attack seemingly out of nowhere. I was at work when my vision suddenly blurred past the normal I-really-need-my-glasses-but-forget-them-everyday level, and the noises in the room around me were amplified to max volume inside my head while the voices of everyone there were reduced to a far removed and muffled mix of incoherent sentences.

My doctor, who was a newbie at my regular walk-in clinic on campus—which I totally went out of my way to get to just for the familiar comfort—asked me what could have triggered the attack. Had I gone through any major changes or events in my life in recent months?

Everything in my life has been changing rapidly. So rapidly I had never even taken a minute to think about it.

“I graduated university, I got a job, I don’t know if this is the right job, I moved out of my student house where I was living with my best friends, and back in with my parents…” He stopped me.

I left my doctor's office with a prescription note; scribbled on it was the name of a book and a recommendation to lay off coffee a little bit.

Gripping my venti green tea latte (because he had said coffee, but never made any mention of tea) a little too firmly, I looked to my left and then to my right before typing the words Mind Over Mood into the little search bar on the store’s computer. Two copies available at this location. Fantastic.

I paced the aisles of the bookstore, half searching for the “health and wellness” section, half pretending I wasn’t. Finally, when I had flipped through every adult coloring book at least three times each, I decided I was lost and that enough was enough. I had to ask an employee.

“Hi, where’s the health and wellness section?”

The store employee very kindly brought me to the very back corner of the store, past the cookbooks, autobiographies, all of the fiction – and coloring books.

She asked me if there was anything in particular she could help me find, and I lied. Why, though? I had already been there for 45 minutes, I was sweating, and I desperately wanted to get out as quickly as possible. But despite this, I still lied.

As punishment for my dishonestly, I was left skimming the shelves to no avail for the very specific book I had, in fact, come to find. My latte was now cold, my skin was hot, and the teenage couple sitting in the corner on the floor was starting to bicker about Snapchat and other girls.

I finally accepted that I was going to have to ask for help and, worst of all, admit to somebody other than myself and my doctor that I struggle with anxiety and don’t always have it all figured it out in the way I’d like everyone to think I do—even though I suspect, they definitely don’t actually think that I have it all figured out.

I walked up to a different employee this time because if I asked the same girl from before, I’d have to admit I had lied and that I was looking for a self-help book. So I approached a nice-looking young man this time to save myself from total embarrassment, and with a stone-cold stare and firm eye roll, I asked if he could “help me find this book because I really searched every shelf.”

“Yeah, they’re not in that section right now. They’re downstairs with the best sellers. You can’t miss it.”

And there it was: a double-scoop metaphor with a cherry on top.

This period right out of school is one of the weirdest periods in our lives. Almost everything is changing. It can be hard to admit that we don’t have it all figured out, but really, who does? It’s okay to be vulnerable and it’s okay to be scared of what’s next, of what lies ahead, but we still need to take the step to find out. It’s okay to ask for help along the way, to reach out to others who have been where we are, who know things that we don’t know yet—even if it’s just for something as simple as finding a book in a big store. 

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