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When Asking for Help Seems Like Too Hard a Task

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Asking for help is hard. Really hard. People say they understand that. When someone is brave enough to ask for help when they are in a desperate situation they are congratulated on recognizing they can’t do it on their own. But do people really understand what it takes?

It’s common for people not to ask for help when they need it, but to wait until they’re past needing it. When they’re desperate. That’s when there’s no easy solution. How many times have I had my someone in my support system sigh and roll their eyes, while telling me if I had done this action or that weeks ago I wouldn’t be in this situation.

I wish that those people that help understood just how hard it is when you have a chronic illness and have to ask for help all the time. Humility is hard learned.

I was a dancer. I did ballet for 15 years. I loved moving and exercising, being outdoors, and interacting with my young cousins and all my pets (the similarity being they both love to be chased after and very physical play). Then that changed. Pain makes it difficult for me to bear much weight or have any stamina.

I have always loved intellectual pursuits. It was and is a large part of how I identify myself. But with medication comes stalled thoughts and lost words. The chronic fatigue causes me to experience daily fatigue that has some similarities  to “sundowning.”

All of this causes me to need help daily. I hate asking for it. I have to admit to myself that I cannot do something. That is so hard to do! I could do things that others couldn’t before my chronic illness, and now I am very limited. With the best of intentions, I try to do things myself before I ask someone to help. Often my husband will chide me for not asking him right away and hurting myself in the process of trying. That’s common among caregivers. I have heard time and again from caregivers who get so frustrated having to help only after the person has made the situation harder for themselves. It makes me think that when people applaud you for asking for help, do they really understand what it takes for you to do just that? What a sacrifice it is?

I feel humiliated when my swollen knuckles keep me from being able to put on my own shoes. I feel guilty when I ask my husband to go to the kitchen for me because walking the length of the house for a drink seems too daunting a task. Every simple task that I am now unable to do is a giant hit on my ego. I feel like a failure. Like I am not worth the trouble. And I try to just go without before the weight of the need bears down on me and forces me to concede to it.

From we, the chronically ill, to you, the caregiver: Thank you. We appreciate you more than we could ever express. But please take care when you are frustrated with us and wish we would change. We wish we would, too. When we go too long and end up causing more trouble than originally necessary, please be kind. Know that we never did so with the intention of hurting you. Indeed, we are trying to save you trouble! The trouble that we know we cause, and wish we didn’t. Please tell us often that you love us anyway, and that we are worth the trouble you go through. Let us know that you would never have us go it alone.

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Originally published: October 29, 2016
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