It’s ok to ask for help

November 30, 2014

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.

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