Learning the hard way to ask for help

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Deb Russo is a FIFO wife of the offshore kind. Her husband works on oil rigs and vessels. Typically, he does a four-week-on and four-week-off roster. They've lived their entire 14-year relationship like this. Initially Deb's husband was in the Navy, then he shifted to work in the mines and did the 28/7 roster (Deb's least favourite!) With this offshore roster, though, she wouldn’t change a thing.

"You have it so together," she said in her email.

I stared at the screen, wondering how to respond. Sometimes I feel like I've got it together. But the truth is, these past two months I have struggled, despite a brilliant three-week holiday in Paris (child free!) earlier in the year.

Then I stopped struggling and just crashed. It was the type of crash where rare tears ensued, a tantrum was thrown and my father was on the next plane from Darwin to hold his little girl's hand because life had just got too hard.

Why? Because despite always advising others to ask for help when they need it, I'm actually really bad at asking for help myself. I know I should. I know I must. But I just can’t. There's something about saying those words "Can you give me a hand?" that sets off an anxious panic attack.

But here's what I've finally learnt after my second breakdown from exhaustion in five years: we can’t do it all. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar or delusional. Everyone needs the right people behind them. FIFO or not, we cannot do it all alone.

Watching an interview with The Black Eyed Peas frontman and The Voice judge Will.i.am is when it dawned on me that successful people don't get where they are without help. Will.i.am had the help of his best friend and manger. Actress Angelina Jolie couldn't have her six kids and movie star life without her nannies and minders. My dear friend Molly can’t open her shop without her mother. I can’t fix my car so I hire a mechanic.

We all need help to achieve balance and success - whatever we deem success to be. My husband can’t do his job without me, and I can’t do it without my husband. This is the funny thing: he has workmates surrounding him, knowing what he is going through. He has a support group at his finger tips. They get it. They understand and they know how to help. They also know how and when to ask.

Back here at home, I'm acting independently. Without family surrounding me, I have to ask for help if I need it. Yet before now (and I’m still a work in progress) I couldn't. I had a fear of failure, of looking irresponsible that I couldn't manage my life and my kids.

I was always thinking things like 'There's just one more week to go - we will be okay'. But if you keep that up, you will end up like me – an exhausted mess who is embarrassed beyond belief that her parents have to come to her rescue – again!

I shouldn't have let it get that bad. The difference between success and exhaustion is the ability to ask for help. 

I so desperately want to be successful in my own right. I want to do it all. I'm tired of being tired and stretched.

But I also want my kids to see that success often relies on getting a bit of help (not a free ride though - there is a difference and I’m not a free loader!). I want my boys to know that relying on the support, skills and knowledge of others is not a bad thing. But becoming stuck, exhausted and angry is.

I suppose I just learnt it the hard way (again!). 

X Deb

More columns from Oil & Gas Mum, Deb Russo:

Check out Deb's daily blog at www.thefifowife.com.au and if you've got any questions for her, please click here.

And here's another oil and gas couple's advice on making FIFO family life work when you're working offshore