How to Ask for Help When You’re Suffering

Author’s note: The bulk of this article was originally written for a stranger who had shared their struggle with suicidal thoughts, but I would give this same advice to anyone who struggles with mental health …or even just really big emotions! It doesn’t have to be extreme before it’s worth paying attention to what’s going on inside us.

It’s important to have someone you can be vulnerable with, even if they are anonymous. Everyone needs someone they can trust to tell their fears to. Many times the people we love feel uncomfortable when we share, so they don’t know what to do. They feel like their only options are to try to fix you, or to protect themselves from feeling so deeply, because it hurts so much. It takes a lot of strength to be with someone who is suffering and just allow it to run its course, even though often it’s the best thing they can do.

When you need to share your anxiety (and you need to) first tell the person what they can do for you. Preface the conversation with something like, “Can I share something with you? It’s awkward for me, and very personal, but I feel like I need to tell someone…” You might even add, “You don’t have to try to fix it or make it go away. All I really need is somebody to listen and be there.” (Or, if you know your Love Language, you could say that you just need a shoulder to lean on, or some words of encouragement, etc.)

This step of getting “permission” can save you from heartache and embarrassment. It prepares them to be there for you, and by answering affirmatively, they have committed to it. You can often gauge from someone’s reaction whether they are interested or cannot be trusted. It’s probably normal to see fidgeting, or even lack of eye contact (they might just need a moment to adjust to the intensity), but someone who scoffs, shakes their head, changes the subject or just plain walks away isn’t ready yet. On the other hand, someone who can maintain their focus, or even increases their attentiveness when they hear your words, is preparing themselves to be there for you. The same people who might seem cruel when they don’t know what to do with themselves have the potential to be good to you if they have enough clarity (and if they aren’t surrounded by negative peer pressure).

Keep in mind you are more likely to get a negative response if the person you are planning to talk to is the person who is causing the problem you’d like to talk about. Sometimes, when you’re feeling stepped on our disregarded, you just need someone else to speak up to them on your behalf. A third party could also help you find the words to be assertive, yet kind. You might share with your trusted confidante that you’re not trying to make anyone look bad, but you would like guidance on how to gently work out the situation. (PS, coaches can be good for this, too!)


The important thing is not to wait until you are near the breaking point. It’s important to tell someone at the first sign of trouble, so you have time for several “failed” tries to share your troubles if you realize you either can’t trust someone, or they aren’t emotionally ready for you. By searching for help right away, there is still time to keep trying until you find someone who understands that you need someone who cares, long before you’re at your breaking point. This is a skill. You will get better at it, and so will they.

Another note: Often adolescents don’t understand how to get our attention, and if you have a very angry adolescent on your hands, consider taking the time to teach them how best to get your attention, rather than just reacting badly when they start badly. Often when they’re being a problem, it’s because they’re having a problem. When you’re prepared, you can respond to them in a helpful frame of mind, you won’t accidentally dismiss a problem or get defensive and start a whole new problem. It is one of the best lessons they can learn, because it helps them get the help they need, now and into adulthood.

I am an avid student of interpersonal communication, and I believe the way we get someone’s attention is every bit as critical as the thing we have to say. Believe that the other person wants to help you. Help them help you.

I pray you will find a trusted confidante. It could a be a sister or brother, maybe you haven’t communicated with in a while. Get their permission before you disclose, and it could be nearly anyone you’d expect you could trust. Be a strength to them, too, when they fall on hard times, as well as when they need someone by their side to celebrate life’s good moments. Happiness isn’t as joyful when you have no one to share it with. Share the joy they have to offer. ♥️

What’s Next? (Don’t put it off!)

I’m going to walk you through my mental process of creative problem solving. Of course all the mental dialogue took place in seconds, but I’ll slow down the pace a bit to keep it comprehensible. 😉 Here we go…

Problem (aka circumstance): Last night I really wanted to start in on my latest recording project *but* I knew that I should get back into doing my evening routine, since my routines had been neglected for the past several days. All week I had the driving thought, “How much can I get done with this little piece of time?” “Ooh, here’s a dull moment, let me escape into this, my latest obsession…” (Classic ADHD thing)

Realization: I stopped a moment and recognized that everything I wanted to do was part of a rather endless project. (How many times have I told myself? “Don’t start projects at bedtime!”)

Resolution: Endless projects cannot be allowed to fill all available time.

Initial Solution: So, I turned my internal dial to “slightly more responsible”, and instead asked myself, “What is it I’m supposed to be doing right now?” 

Setback: That’s a complicated question, actually. I often get stuck in a hamster wheel of what am I supposed to do now? What am I supposed to do now? (Classic anxiety response to an ADHD thing)

Better approach: I found it to be more helpful to ask myself, “What’s coming up next?”

I used to think people only said, “What’s next?” when they had accomplished everything they needed to and were ready to move on, but I’ve observed that “what’s next?” is a question that organized people regularly ask themselves, even when they’re NOT finished yet and NOT quite ready to wrap things up or move on. Hmm, curious…

Good advice: They check in frequently just so they can be ready for what’s coming.

Solution: I can do that. Since the thing that was coming up next for me was bedtime (a couple hours hence) I thought, “What do I need to do before I can start getting ready for bed?” I went through a mental checklist;

  • Drink lots of water
  • Set out medications and breakfast dishes for tomorrow
  • Be sure there are clean dishes for breakfast
  • Be sure there is no wet laundry waiting for me
  • Lock exterior doors
  • Check THE TO-DO LIST

Setback: UGHHH… My natural instinct is to feel overwhelmed at facing whatever is coming up next, even small things such as calling the doctor, emailing a teacher, setting up that darn voicemail (again!?) Sometimes I feel totally lost, unsure what’s expected of me, but other times, like tonight, I know what I need to do next and I inwardly groan, because I know I’m behind, so I don’t even want to think about it. 

**Dangerous thought! Quarantine it when found!**

Better approach: Thinking about a problem is the first step to solving it – don’t avoid that first step! What is it exactly our brains are protecting us from by steering is away from thinking about what’s uncomfortable? Be willing to ask yourself hard questions even when you’re NOT feeling “ready”. Seriously, just thinking about something can initiate the stress of being in the middle of the situation, and our brains seem to think everything will be catastrophic. (Classic anxiety thing)

**Getting into a habit of ignoring problems exacerbates the problem.**

Solution: With that thought in mind, I knew it was crucial for me to really face my upcoming responsibilities tonight, not just go on in blissful ignorance until I’m slapped upside the head by the panic monster after they become due.

Action: I sat down and began planning the next day, and eventually planned for the whole upcoming week (for the first time in a while!) I hadn’t felt very much like “adulting” when I started, but I accepted some temporary discomfort, and motivation showed up as I got into the groove. I reminded myself not to be afraid to merely think about something. I coached myself as I might coach a client:

  • Some of these to-do’s are more urgent than others, focus there.
  • Some things are already past due (oh THAT’S what I had been avoiding) but that does not mean I am a failure. No shame in imperfection.
  • Some things do seem daunting, but that doesn’t mean I’m required to feel overwhelmed. I have a choice.
  • Affirmation: I’m experienced enough – with breaking tasks down into smaller, bite-sized pieces – that I can really have faith in the process.

Result: When I was done planning I felt so much better! I knew that I had made a map that I could follow, and all was not lost.

Bonus: It’s a more wholesome pleasure to spend a few minutes outlining a blog post now with my responsibilities behind me, rather than having them looming large ahead of me.

Moral of the story: This is one of the most critical things for people with ADHD (or for anyone, really) to learn: When we are facing a potential conflict, like needing to decide what’s for dinner, or have a delicate conversation, or plan an event, our brain is wired to protect us from whatever it is that we fear, whether it is worth fearing or not. Have you ever noticed that?

Avoidance is so stressful! Living in the  moment is not what “being present” really means. Ease and instant gratification are only fleeting illusions. Living without regard to the future is a recipe for stress, disappointment, anxiety, and continued avoidance.

Better approach: We all can learn to recognize that not every fear crossing our mind is valid. When we live mindfully, we can notice those feelings that pop up, and we can scrutinize them. I would encourage you to get into the habit of cross-examining yourself when you feel like escaping.

Embrace those fears, look at your calendar for tomorrow, see what is coming up next week and beyond, and make a habit of actually doing it! (That’s a subject for another post!)

Tell me, what is it that you are avoiding right now? Is it something that’s coming up, or something that’s been building up?

Is This Blog for Me? (I Don’t Have ADHD…)

A person with ADHD is, first and foremost, a person. If you are also a person, you might enjoy the content of this blog. 😉

This is particularly true if you have ever experienced any of the following “symptoms”:

  • You have procrastinated
  • You’ve gotten distracted
  • You’ve been forgetful
  • You’ve struggled to get organized
  • You’ve struggled to prioritize
  • You’ve felt overwhelmed or “scattered”
  • You’ve been disappointed in how little you accomplished

Also if you:

  • Care about someone with ADHD and want to understand how to better relate to or assist them (good for you!)
  • Have imagination and can apply wisdom from someone else’s life to your own life, even though you don’t have exactly the same life! 😀

What if I don’t even believe ADHD is real?

  • That’s nothing we need to quarrel about. Consider any mention of ADHD to be shorthand for regular people who struggle sometimes with executive functioning skills (see list of “symptoms”, above). I believe the struggle is more or less universal, especially now that we have devices that can soothe and distract us at any time of day or night.
  • I don’t plan to promote any specific dietary or pharmaceutical intervention, or even natural remedies. I will leave that part of the discussion to the professionals.
  • I do encourage people to do some things for their general well being (such as regular sleep, exercise, developing confidence, nurturing healthy relationships, etc.)
I’ve lived it! I’ve been gradually learning how to turn my ADHD from a liability to an asset.

So, if you are someone who has a general fascination with the human brain and behavior and would enjoy reading a unique perspective on the subject, or better yet if you want real-life strategies to apply what you’ve learned, then WELCOME! This blog is for you

My aim is to share habits, strategies and coping skills that can help shape positive mindset and behavior. I feel that focus on these areas is a necessary part of any person overcoming any obstacle, whatever their struggle may be.

Have we met?

Have you ever had an “Ah-ha!” moment so big, you just wanted to share it with the whole world!? Maybe it’s a book you loved, or a truth you discovered, or a hack that someone else shared with you. I feel like I’ve recently had about two years worth of Ah-ha’s, and it’s time that I start to share them! I am thrilled to begin publishing ideas and inspiration in the form of artistic visuals and perhaps videos, but I can’t wait for every detail to be perfected in order for me to be ready to share. I’m ready to share now!


My name is Janina Glass, and I am the mother of some awesome kiddos who have come to my husband and I through birth as well as through the blessing of adoption. I am an artist, a writer, a performer, and a lifelong learner. I also have ADHD, which is kind of like always having shoelaces untied as I wander about my brain trying to remember where I set my toast. (If that made any sense to you at all, I deeply apologize. Welcome to the club!) It can be pretty comical, though often frustrating, depending how I choose to look at it that day.

I remember at about age 15 having the first of many ah-hah moments. I read a book that changed my outlook on life. It was <a href="http://<iframe style="width:120px;height:240px;" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" src="//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=janinadawn-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=0312144776&asins=0312144776&linkId=0668e13be36a810821cb69e82ab900d7&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff"> How to Argue and Win Every Time, by Gerry Spence. It’s been while, so I don’t remember all the details, though I do recall my mother seeing it in my hands and suddenly looking very concerned that her argumentative teenage daughter may be holding a lethal weapon! It really was a good thing; it opened up my mind to the world of personal growth, and I was hooked!

There were two profound truths in it for me:

  1. My definition of “winning” was all wrong. It wasn’t about proving my point, or the other party admitting I was right. Sometimes winning was choosing not to pursue the argument, sometimes it was deciding that the relationship was more valuable than the conflict. That can be winning too, to just walk away.
  2. We are the most persuasive when we are simply revealing the honest, vulnerable truth.

I believe the most valuable thing I can bring to you will be delivered from my own place of vulnerability, which will hopefully lead you, dear reader, to a place of greater strength. My goal is to keep each post readably brief and readily actionable. So for today I will simply leave you with those thoughts I gleaned from Gerry Spence, summarized in my own words:
Be honest in all you say, be brave as you reveal your true self, and be willing to let go of what does not ultimately matter most.

honest brave willing to let go infographic