I’m so used to asking for help because of my health. Sometimes it’s something simple, like today when I couldn’t turn a screw that was stuck. I thought maybe it was because of my joint problems. But as it turns out, my very healthy and very strong friend couldn’t turn the screw either, so it wasn’t just me. That felt a bit odd.
But what felt even stranger was asking for my friend’s help with something that was absolutely in now way related to my health problems. Usually the help I ask for is obviously health-related, like bringing me food when I don’t feel up to leaving the house or carrying something that isn’t heavy or large but that I still can’t manage. That kind of thing. And sometimes it’s on the edge, like turning a screw that may or may not really be stuck.
Then there are the things that are completely unrelated to my health in any way whatsoever. And that’s what happened today. I needed to reach something that I just couldn’t reach. Even on a step ladder while wearing heels, it just wasn’t going to happen. Because the thing is, I’m short. I’m very short. Well ok, I’m not that short, but I’m definitely well below average height-wise. My friend is 5’9″ and was able to reach this thing from my step ladder. No one of average height, no matter how healthy, would have been able to reach that thing, so of course I couldn’t come close.
Here’s the weird part, though: I kept trying to excuse asking for help. I kept joking about it, and insisting that I really did need the help in a way that wasn’t health related. And then I wondered why I was trying to justify the request. The friend who was helping me is one of my oldest, dearest friends. She’s one of the only non-family members in my life who knew me before I had any health problems. She has brought me groceries, fetched prescriptions, shoveled out my car after snowstorms, and carried numerous heavy objects. And I have helped her with personal things as well. If I feel the need to justify my request to her, of all people, then it’s obviously completely about me. She certainly didn’t say or do anything to suggest that I was asking for something unreasonable. She has never judged or questioned any of my requests. She often offers unsolicited help. So why was I so defensive?
I hate asking for help. I hated having my mother cut my meat for me when I was 16 and could only use one hand for a while, and I hate asking for help now. I have been judged by too many people, from strangers to doctors to the Social Security Administration, and sometimes I assume I’m being judged even when I’m most likely not. I can’t stand being seen as weak. I was a crier when I was much younger, and around the time I grew out of that, the pain began. There have always been so many things I couldn’t do, and now there are even more. I forget that asking for help is its own form of strength, and so I resist it. Yet I need help so much, and avoiding it just isn’t possible.
So when I really need to ask for help, I expect to be judged as weak, even when that’s not happening, and apparently I get defensive to minimize the weakness that’s perceived. It may not be right or necessary or even make much sense, but it’s where I’m at after more than 2 decades of pain and other symptoms, and more than 2 decades of judgement from others.
Why am I telling you this? Because I’m guessing that many of you also have trouble asking for help. Your reasons might be similar to mine or completely different, but you have your reasons. Sometimes they’re justified and sometimes they’re not. No matter what, I want you to know that you’re not alone.
Great post. It’s strange but as I think about it, I find it easier to ask for something I want than asking for help. If it’s just something I want, it doesn’t really matter what the response was, and I subscribe to the notion that you can’t get what you don’t ask for. But when it comes to asking for help, particularly health related, I struggle, because asking for help is admitting I can’t do something as simple as cooking a ready meal by myself (the first night I had a carer – and they do just that – I couldn’t help crying). I am much better at asking for help now, as I know that getting help with things I can’t do, or are difficult, means I have that little bit of extra energy to do something else, rather than trying and failing to do it myself, but it can still be soul-destroying, knowing I’m not capable of doing something that everyone else (ie. everyone in tv shows!) can do.
You make some good points Tamara! I feel the same way – it’s the part where I have to admit I can’t do something that’s so rough. I hadn’t thought to compare it to asking for things, but you’re right, that’s much easier for me, too. Asking for things doesn’t feel like a personal failing the way asking for help can.
How right you are. I found it interesting that you are ok asking for help for health related stuff, but take a pause when it’s not health related. I’m just the opposite. I look at those non-health related requests as ones that anyone would make “we all need help reaching a high shelf or opening a jar occasionally”. But, the ones related to my health are requests I’m making just for me, so those are the ones that make me feel weak and needy. Your post inspired my Sunday Inspiration post for this week: http://countingmyspoons.com/2014/12/sunday-inspiration-ok-ask-help/
I’m flattered that I could inspire you, Julie!
You often do.