One of the hardest things many chronically ill patients face is that moment when they realize they must ask for help. Why is that so hard? We live in a society that values self-reliance to the point, one might argue, that it becomes dogmatic. If you require assistance, you’re a taker. Everyone should be self-sufficient — or at least privileged enough to be able to rely on assets they may or may not have truly earned. But clearly, we cannot all be that fortunate, and certainly not all of the time. Reaching out for help should not be stigmatized. And one way to normalize the process is simply by practicing.
Another Month, Another Challenge
It is time for my monthly Self- Care Challenge, as an ambassador for the Health Storylines self-care program. This month, the challenge is to Just Ask. Every day, without being gratuitous, find something that you genuinely need assistance with and ask for it.
What Is Holding You Back?
While you are at it, ask yourself why you might not have sought help in the first place. Maybe you just did not want to trouble anyone. Maybe you figured you could do whatever it was “well enough” on your own. And maybe asking will not always get you the response you are hoping for. But are these actually reasons not to ask at all?
Or is it because of shame? Some people feel that revealing their need for help is a sign of weakness. Others face the fear of stigma. We all deal with our own insecurities that must be overcome. There is nothing wrong with sharing information on your diagnosis. There is nothing wrong with being open about your needs.
Help Is Closer Than You Think
It is surprising how many people really do want to help. But they do not always know how — or what — to offer. Often, people who have no idea at all that you need help will be the first to embrace the opportunity of offering it. You will never find out who those people are or how they will respond without asking. And if you are limited in your ability to connect to people in your daily life, there are other venues like online communities and social services that may be surprisingly effective in what they offer.
If you journal about your self-care in the HealthStorylines app or find that tracking your responses is helpful, I would love to hear how it affects your life. I am committing to acknowledging my own limits and trying to improve my own quality of life through simple requests. In the process, I hope to also make small contributions to the quality of life of those around me. I believe that it will improve my family life and even the work I do outside of the house.
That’s right: I actually believe that asking for help will increase my own efficiency, improve my relationships, and generally help to make other people happier. What do you think? I hope you will share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.
I also have some thoughts on this subject on my podcast, The Deep Breath.