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3 Tips for Accepting Help When You Live With Chronic Illness

It is hard when you are sick – it doesn’t matter what the cause of your chronic illness is either, it may be physical, mental or a combination of both! The damage illness causes can be devastating to many people; their lives may change irrevocably. One of the most painful things though to deal with is not the sickness itself, but the loneliness that can come from the isolation of living with your disease.

Most people want to help, at least in the early stages. They may say things along the lines of “Let me know if I can do something” or “Can I do something for you?” These offers are mostly genuine and well-meaning, but they can be very hurtful too, because they can make us feel more alone and invisible when not followed up on.

However, over the past year or so, something I have learned is that I have a part to play in my own support! If someone offers a kindness I need to do more than say, “Thanks, that would be nice,” and leave them to try and figure out what it is I need.

I have learned that when someone offers help, we owe it to them to be appreciative and to then ask them for specific things so they know what to do. Personally, if I offer someone assistance I try to be more specific by asking, “What can I do for you?” instead of “Let me know,” but most people do not think of the difference the phrasing of the question means.

Be honest.

“Thank you, I’d love your help. Maybe we could just have coffee and chat? I really appreciate it when people visit me and we can simply talk, I get really lonely sometimes! Maybe Monday, but can we confirm Sunday night or early Monday? Just in case either of us aren’t up to it?”

“I really love it when people text/call me. I do struggle with loneliness as I just don’t feel well enough to go out very often anymore. Those texts/calls have been such a blessing and make me feel loved which really helps me feel encouraged to keep going.”

Be specific.

“Yes please, would you be free Wednesday? I’m going in to day surgery, I need to be in town at 8 a.m. and haven’t sorted out a way to get the kids to school yet. If we were to drop them off at your home at 7 a.m., would you be able to run them to school? That would be such a big help to us all.”

“Thank you, I would really appreciate a meal for the family. Some nights I just feel too exhausted to cook, and feel so guilty when I’m offering up cereal for the fourth night in a row!”

“I need a script from the pharmacy, but am not feeling well enough to drive today. If you are in the area, I’d love it if you could pick it up for me and drop it in?”

Be appreciative.

“I appreciate it so much when you keep inviting me to events. I’m sorry I can’t often come, but it really means a lot that you continue to ask and make me feel so included. Thank you again for the invitation.”

“Thank you so much for inviting the kids to the park. It means so much to us all that you do kind things like that for them. I hope one day I feel up to repaying your thoughtfulness.”

Often when we feel lonely we tend to start isolating ourselves more and more. We may feel worthless and start to assume that others see us as worthless too. We might feel unworthy of help, so when others offer to help, we judge that they don’t really mean it. We might compare their lives to ours and assume that because they have their own issues, they don’t have the time, energy or resources to follow through with the help they offered.

It is not up to us to judge if their offer was sincere or not – we are not mind-readers and assuming we know is an unhealthy thought process. Let’s take our friends – and strangers too – on face value. Think of how much joy and satisfaction you get from helping another. It feels great, doesn’t it? While it would be nice if people just knew what we needed and offered it specifically, they cannot read our mind either.

There is a quote attributed to John Lennon that says, “When you’re drowning, you don’t say, ‘I would be incredibly pleased if someone would have the foresight to notice me drowning and come and help me,’ you just scream.” We must scream! If we wait for people to read our minds as to what we need, we are going to drown, and we also steal from them the joy of helping another person.

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Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash