Puzzling out the need to help at all costs

If you ask me for help with something, I’m likely to go out of my way to provide it.  At times this means putting my own needs aside, even when they are more pressing, or trying to be there for almost complete strangers to the extent that is expected for close friends.  I’ve been examining this in recent years and trying to puzzle out why this is such a driving need for me.

I think one aspect of it is rooted in the fact that I’m not someone who typically asks for help.  I struggle through trying to find every way I can to deal with a problem on my own before I ask for assistance.  Or I don’t, I leave something unsolved rather then admitting I need a helping hand. If I were one of the seven deadly sins, I would be pride. So, when someone comes to me for help, I see them making a sacrifice even in the act of asking.  Maybe they aren’t as obstinate and prideful as I am, maybe for them it isn’t hard to reasonably reach out for a helping hand when they need that.  But I don’t know that, and I liken it to my own experiences and don’t want to let someone down if they struggled intensely to even reach that moment of asking.

Another aspect is that I do derive a lot of joy and purpose from helping others.  I’ve always felt most comfortable in tight knit community settings, where I feel connected with a group that works together for our mutual benefit and shared closeness.  When I help someone else, I feel I am helping myself, because I truly get a deep satisfaction by seeing others succeed and flourish.  And often those people are the ones I’m close to, and their well being does directly impact mine.

I think the factor I’ve noticed the most though, relates to my experience with mental illness.  I questionably have ADHD, I’ve been given the diagnosis, but that was many years ago and I question if I have the associated traits at this time.  At times though, focus is hard and executive dysfunction makes doing the do quite impossible.  I also have bi-polar disorder, PTSD, and anxiety.  These days I’m starting to add chronic pain to the list, though I haven’t sought out a doctor to determine the cause of the constant back and joint pain I’ve been experiencing increasingly for a year or so.  It all culminates in being very low on spoons most days, and having an inability to do basic things, a fact I beat myself up for.  I am not pleased when I’m anything less than extremely productive, so when my anxiety can’t handle asking an associate where something is at a store, or my chronic pain makes me put off cleaning for another day, I feel like a bit of a fuck up.  I know that’s not the case, I would never think that of someone else, but it’s easier to be hard on yourself I suppose.  But, here is the thing.  When it comes to most of these issues, there is a magic little switch in my mind that flips on when someone else asks for help.  I may be on the verge of a panic attack thinking about asking generic Target Comrade where the decorative soap dispensers are, but if a friend I’m with need to ask for something and is too anxious there’s a little click.  They need me to do a thing, the switch is flipped, and I’m marching right up there to make sure I ask, and do it damn well, and figure out exactly where the singing unicorn photo frame my friend desperately needs is kept.  I can brain hack past most of my mental illness as soon as I’m doing it for other people.

This happens to me with Kelev a lot.  We share many of the same diagnosis, PTSD, bi-polar, anxiety.  Neither of us is a completely functional human, though we both manage to survive alright on our own if need be.  Sometimes though, he just can’t manage the facade of being okay some days.  If I’m in a fucked up headspace and trying hard to direct myself towards thoughts of sushi and glitter but instead keep dwelling on how lovely it would feel to run my car off a bridge, and then suddenly I become aware that he isn’t doing okay, the switch is flipped.  I’m not focused on my suicidal ideation  or existential dread anymore, I’m focused on what I can do to make his day a little brighter and my problems just float away.  And since most of my issues aren’t actually based on any real life problem, but just my brain meat deciding that life is awesome so we’re gunna have a shitty time anyway, often those consuming thoughts has dissipated entirely by the time I come back to them later.  I don’t know where the switch came from or why it is there, but I know that if I feel someone needs me, I am able to do things and handle things that are well beyond my capacity to do on my own, hard as I may try.  So I like that, it makes me feel a bit like a superhero, because I’m performing feats that are just simply beyond my best efforts on a normal day.  And if I can ease someone else’s burden a little bit, I’ll feel the day was worthwhile.

So, I like to help.  I like being asked, I consider it an honor with how hard even that act can be.  I like feeling purposeful and seeing the improvement in the lives of those around me if I can assist them.  And I like that while I may be a slightly broken worn out human specimen, I can shut that off for a little while and wear the cape of Captain Assistance for as long as it takes until everyone else is okay.  One day I’ll figure out if this all is healthy for me, but for now, it feels good and it’s useful, and that’s all I can ask.

 

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