April 30, 2015

Asking For Help Can Be Difficult

It was hard to ask for help after I had a stroke.  I was an OT who helped others and a divorcee who knew how to take care of herself.  When an independent person suddenly feels helpless it is easy to fall into a pattern of complaining or criticizing.  I knew my reaction to feeling helpless would influence how others would treat me.  It is easier for me to be gracious about accepting help when I know I have done everything I can for myself.

I learned a kind way to respond to people who are uncomfortable watching me work so hard.  When I was in rehab I overheard another patient say "I think I can do it myself, but thank you for offering."  I use this gracious way of responding to kind-hearted people who take a risk of being rebuffed when they offer to help.  Sometimes this polite refusal is not enough so I invoke the
my-spouse-would-groan rule.  I cannot ask someone to do something for me that would have made my husband groan.  John puts the four pieces of my artificial Christmas tree together, but I cannot ask him to do all the prep that goes with putting up a real tree (shaping the trunk to fit the stand, etc.).  I ask Peggy to tighten the knobs on my kitchen cabinets that keep getting loose, but I cannot ask her to scrub my kitchen floor. 

Volunteers do simple tasks that keep me in my home.  I can hire people to clean my house.
I cannot get a home health agency to send an aide to change the batteries in my smoke alarms when they start chirping.  If I live long enough, living alone at home will wear me down.  I foresee the day when I will be glad to pay other people to take care of me.  When I am 94 years old I will not be so cautious about asking for help.  If my requests for help exhausted people they might think "how much longer can she live?"   But I am 69 so I have to be careful about wearing out my support system.


  1. It is hard to ask for help, at least for me. My husband likes doing things for me and gets agitated when I don't ask but for the last 8 years I lived with just my daughter and myself until the month before my stroke. I was so independent and now that's the part that makes me saddest, when I ask unless I know that I can not do the task. How can I get better if I don't try :) Have a great week!

  2. The dark side of helping is that people like to feel good about helping others even when it isn't needed.

  3. I really never thought about it quite this way.. both on the giving or the receiving sides. Very interesting way to look at things. I do like your thank-you for offering line.

    I have an interesting shift about "give and take" with some of my friends with disabilities over the past 2 years. Some act kind of jealous about the amount of improvement I have had and some looked just thrilled that I can pour the coffee for them now.

  4. When I was a therapist I had no idea that pouring someone a cup of coffee can be so thrilling. Thrilling because of the motor gains, but also because it means I don't have to give up my self-image of an adult who helps others.

  5. Rebecca, this is so true. I keep on considering the entire lives of the people I ask help from. If I don't know them, I can't ask them for help. I'm grateful if they offer but I can't ask.