Jenni Osborn

Asking For Help

This week is Anti-Bullying Week here in the UK and a key theme on social media has been asking for help. It’s not an easy thing to do but it is crucial for all of us, especially when we are experiencing bullying.

The wonderful Charlie Macksey has an iconic image which took my breath away a little when I saw it. In Charlie’s wonderful book The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, the boy is befriended by the horse, who becomes his friend and mentor. The images are breath-taking in their simplicity, and the messages that he writes are heart-warming. This one in particular stands out:

 ‘What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever said?’ asked the boy, “Help,’ said the horse.

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse
From The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Macksey

The quote goes on: ‘Asking for help isn’t giving up,’ said the horse. ‘It’s refusing to give up’

We have somehow had it drummed into us that we should not ask for help, that we ought to be able to cope with all the things that life throws at us on our own. Perhaps it’s a message we get as we grow from children into young people and then adults, that ‘adulting’ involves independence and doing things on your own. But I want to point out that whilst being independent might be seen as a good thing, it is also entirely overrated! Actually what we should be aiming for is ‘interindependent’: being able to rely on others as well as ourselves; knowing that there is a community around us who will assist us with the big and small stuff of life, when we ask for help. There are definite times in our adult life when we need help from others: moving house, having a baby, changing jobs, marriage, divorce, death. We also need help when we reach the point of overwhelm: when tears threaten because we’ve run out of milk, when anxiety stops us from leaving the house, when brain fog sets in and we are unable to think clearly about anything at all. These are all signs that we are not functioning well on our own and need to ask for help.

Bullying is nasty, the behaviour is nasty, the impact on the bullied is nasty. There’s perhaps a tendency to think it’s only something that happens in schools or to the weak, that as an adult we ‘ought’ to be able to stand up to a bully but this is another one of these fallacies, like that we ‘ought’ to be able to cope with life’s ups and downs on our own. Strength comes in numbers, especially when bullying is involved.

If you are being bullied in your workplace, your family, your neighbourhood then please ask for help. Talk to the person you trust the most, or talk to a complete stranger which is sometimes easier. The Samaritans helpline is completely free and is there for anyone who needs to talk about anything at any time. It might be hard, the first time you tell someone but it gets easier each time and I promise you’ll feel better, more able to cope and somehow like you’re not alone. You can call 116 123 or email if you would rather write than speak.

Speak up, it’s hard but, you know, we can do hard things.