Sunday, April 3, 2011

Help: A Four-Letter Word

Patients For A Moment (PFAM) is a patient-centered blog carnival to build connections within the community of people who blog about illness, disease, and disability. Hayzell, of, is hosting the April edition of the PFAM blog carnival. This month's topic is: "Is help a four-letter word?"

Hayzell writes:
But nothing is simple with pain or illness. Help becomes a complicated "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario laden with conflicting emotions and mixed messages. When your predicament isn't obvious to others, people may not recognize that they can or need to help. Likewise, when your problems seem like everyday nuisances rather than full-blown catastrophes, you may avoidasking for help or recognize that you should. Why is it that asking for too much help makes you "helpless." but not asking enough makes you guilty of "not verbalizing your needs?" Where is the sweet spot between "toughing it out" and "being dependent?"
I've always been a very independent individual. I never wanted to be one of those women that needed a man. I wanted to be able to provide for myself... to be able to stand on my own two feet and take care of myself. However, chronic pain put me face-to-face with some things in life that I've always struggled with.

Sharing with others. I've always had trouble letting others get close to me. For example, I used to never let other people read my writing because it's so personal. It's actually been a strange occurance, since my chronic pain began... I've found myself shutting off around people that I perceive don't understand or care (I'm working on being more forgiving and not just shutting down). But, with people that I feel really care or at least somewhat understand (especially those that I've met through the online blogging community), I've been much more real and open with. I feel more comfortable in sharing a glimpse into what my world is really like. It's such a good feeling to share your heart and your world, and allow others to see such a vulnerable side of you... it's still a little scary... but I feel that God is calling me to write, and the only way I know how to write is from my heart.

Asking for help. I've never been "good at" asking for help. I like to be able to do things "on my own." But, there are times that I simply cannot do things for myself, and I have to ask for help. I'm getting better at asking my husband for help, when I need it; but asking others for help is more of a challenge. I really hate needing to ask for help. I appreciate my husband so very much. He takes good care of me, and he never makes me feel like I'm weak and dependent (though that's how I sometimes feel). He knows where my limits are... sometimes better than even I do. He helps me respect and stay within my limitations, so that I don't have to pay dearly later for it.

Asking for help can be even more difficult because I have an invisible illness. Since people cannot see my illness (as they would a visible illness), they think I look "fine"... capable of doing things without needing any help or assistance. It's difficult enough to muster up the courage to ask for help, but it's humiliating to be looked at with disbelief and treated as though you're making up the pain in order to get attention or something. I hate having to try to defend that I even have an illness or disability; and at some point, I guess I just stopped even trying.

Helping myself. I'm even worse at helping myself than I am at asking for help from others. However, chronic pain has made it clear that it's incredibly important to help and take care of myself. One of the main obstacles that I've had to overcome is simply to allow myself to ask for help (from myself and others). This is definitely an area that I'm going to have to continually work on.

"Refusing to ask for help when you need it is refusing someone the chance to be helpful." ~ Ric Ocasek

Update:  The PFAM Carnival is live. Check it out here.


  1. This post really resonates with me Jamie. I hesitate to ask for help for so many reasons, many of which you have stated so eloquently here. Thanks for helping me to feel less alone in that ongoing struggle of "do I ask for help, or do I tough it out myself?"

  2. A great post. Asking for help in my family is very hard because everyone is dealing with bad health issues. Not an easy think to do.


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