I can do it myself, thanks.
Who likes asking for help? It can make us feel needy, or weak, or lazy. Nobody wants to feel that way. Even the thought of asking for support can be scary for some people because it means thinking about a medical condition in ways that are uncomfortable.
Potential symptoms, changes in our appearance, or the side effects of treatments all echo inside the head of someone admitting he or she just might need help. These “needy” images often come from our experiences with people suffering from similar or identical conditions.
You’ve seen it before, so why will you be any different? This can be terrifying. Will you need help using the bathroom? Will someone have to nag you every day to take your medicine or do your exercises or eat the right thing? Are you terrified of the people you feel you should be taking care of, suddenly having to take care of you? Do you imagine yourself a shadow of your former self? Isn’t that the way it happens in the movies?
These are all legitimate concerns and very real, so you don’t need to tell yourself you shouldn’t think what you are thinking. Your thoughts are what they are, but they don’t have to bang around inside your head alone. Maybe they could stand with some organizing, however.
This is the time to ask yourself an important question: Are you set for outside resources to help you in meeting the support needs that may arise? If you have a crew all lined up to step in when you give the word, excellent. But if you are like most people, you may be feeling that you are lacking in a few areas. Either you don’t have people you can depend on, or you don’t want to depend on the people you have.
Chances are, you haven’t been in a situation where you have needed the level of assistance that your medical condition may now require, so you may not know what to expect from the people in your life. The idea of calling upon anyone in your circle of friends and family may seem out of the question. How can you ask them to step in?
Keep in mind that your loved ones may be as uncomfortable about offering their help, for fear of how you will respond, as you are in asking. They may be craving the chance to help you, and they may feel you are shutting them out. Are you? The people who love you probably are experiencing, or will experience, their own brand of helplessness. They don’t know how to help you any more than you know how to get help, and they may fear you don’t want them to help you. And they may be right.
Your first line of potential supporters may be people you would rather not reach out to in this way, like family members, whom you may feel you will overburden, or that you really don’t enjoy being around all that much in the best of times.
Are you really going to call your parents now, when you have finally established your independence? Will your brother or sister judge you, or make you feel weak, like when you were a child? Will your children feel like you’ve called on them too soon to help you through weakness? Will your friends stop wanting to hang around you because you won’t be fun anymore, but a burden to them? These common thoughts can be overwhelming motivators not to ask for help, so be aware when they arise.
You may be feeling that your support options are limited, or that you have virtually no one that you can call upon. This too is common, and frightening. Yet no one is entirely alone, no matter how alone you might feel. This chapter will help you to find the support you need.
Your community can provide a rich selection of resources, too. For the spiritually minded, these include your church or synagogue, but your workplace and local social or professional organizations you belong to may have untapped resources to help you with many aspects of what you now must face.
Your labor union, organizations focused on your specific condition, support groups you can find through the Internet, and your local public and private service agencies all might be great sources for help, friendship, and an understanding ear, from people who understand exactly what you are going through right now.
First and foremost I would encourage you to take a realistic look at the kinds of support that you may need as you cope with your condition, beginning with conquering your fears of helplessness and dependency so you can move on to a calmer, clearer understanding of exactly what support means to you.
As you make this assessment, let me reassure you that you are surrounded by resources you haven’t even considered, and people more willing than you might suspect to be there for you, just as you would be there for them: friends, relatives, and community services that you can mobilize once you know exactly what you need.