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.

5 comments:

  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!

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

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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