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Why I'm Choosing to Ask for Help Instead of Constantly Saying 'I'm OK'

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Why do I always say, “Yes, I’m fine. I don’t need help — I can do it myself?”

I love helping others, and I have for as long as I can remember. Growing up in The Salvation Army, with parents and grandparents as Salvation Army officers, service was all I knew. I took this to a new level in my teenage years — running youth groups and bands, collecting donations on the streets, helping siblings and counseling anyone in need. It was expected. It didn’t feel “busy” or “strange” because it was our “normal.” But with this ingrained service attitude, accepting help is not a strength I inherited.

I’ve always seen it as my job to help others, provide for my family, volunteer, lead, give more than is expected at work, and be “strong enough” to do it all myself — no matter the obstacle. However, as my body began to let me down, I could not keep up with my own expectations. For my family, my willingness to provide and serve was intense — and always at 100%. I wanted to “fake it” to ensure my service would not wane — hide the pain, cover up the tremors, and power on.

I did have some wins, though. My wife challenged me to lower my expectations and standards. I must admit that I saw this as a “bad” thing at first, and it was the headline in many of our disagreements over the years. She encouraged small things — maybe say “no” to doing that extra volunteer gig, leave the dishes in the sink and wash them later, remember that the entire cleaning regimen is not urgent. She also told me that my 10-to-12-hour workdays five to six days per week were not a healthy work-life balance.

All I knew was an “all-out” approach to tasks, but “all-out” led to burnout, and every few years, my body totally shut down. While I understood balance theoretically and encouraged others to practice it, I had no intention to. I pretended. I pushed. I hid the pain. I said things like:

  • “It’s OK.”
  • “No, I can do it myself.”
  • “My pain is not that bad.”
  • “Yes, I can walk those extra few kilometers.”
  • “I’m not hurting.”
  • “I don’t need help.”
  • “Yes, I’m sure I can do this.”
  • “Please don’t help me stand — I can do it myself.”

But why?

I love helping my family because they are my world. I love mentoring teams because they are our future leaders. I love researching and gaining knowledge — whatever the topic, reason, or challenge. And love to be busy — the “never sit still” kind of busy.

I don’t like to stop. If I reflect on the past seven years battling with mobility challenges, I have been a stubborn arse. I run, run, run — then my body collapses. Then, I do it all over again. This has happened six times so far, with many, many near misses that I have “soldiered through” despite my leg tremor, increased pain, and walking stick.

I don’t think my busy lifestyle is the cause of my functional neurological disorder — chronic pain is. However, my unwillingness to rest, recover, and pause affects my recovery. I think the stinger with this current flare-up and hospital stay is that I was slowing down. I had listened and saved some tasks for another day. I took time out of my busy schedule for self-reflection and learning. I tried this balance of exercise, rest, and recreation that my body needed to function.

However, it still wasn’t quite right.

I needed to ask for help today. I fell in the hospital and was stuck on the floor. I was vulnerable, stuck, and embarrassed. I don’t know how to feel about this, but I do know that I need to learn to say “yes,” “please,” and “thank you” more often. Allowing other people to help me could make my life easier. More importantly, it may enable my family to hold and show they care about me tangibly without me pushing them away.

“Life is about who is holding your hand and I think, whose hand you commit to holding.” –Taylor Jenkins Reid, Daisy Jones & The Six

This story originally appeared on
Getty image by gorodenkoff.

Originally published: September 26, 2022
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