Trouble asking for help? Me, too.

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I have a hard time asking for help when I am unable to do something for myself. But this week, I am weak, attached to an in-house oxygen tube 24/7, and on steroids and antibiotics due to severe bronchitis and extreme asthma. I have had to face up to needing a lot of help. I'll find out in a week's time how long I have to do this. But for now, I am calling in the troops to help with grocery shopping, yard tasks, trash hauling to curb, and so on. It has slammed me face to face with a broken place -- a place that when in I am in need offers up shame or embarrassment as the main feeling.

Silly me. I write about such things. I sincerely and lovingly admonish friends to not feel embarrassed about asking me for help.

An yet in time of need for myself, I cave in to a shadowy place. Somewhere I got the message that I am not supposed to get sick, not supposed to ask others outside of family to help. (As my family is pretty much dead, except for an 86 year old cousin, help from familial quarters is not an option right now.)

Fortunately I am blessed with proactive friends who offer up help. They make it easier for me to say "Yes, thank you." than to have to initiate. (N.B. for the future: Do not just say, "Call me if you need anything." Just offer something. Go down a list. Many people need a lot, and one of the things we need is the ability to pick up that darned phone and ask.)

But this shadow place in me is troubling. To add embarrassment to a physical malady is just not sensible.

But then the armloads of ammunition come to the fore...I am a mature woman, living alone. I should be able to "handle things". I am a feminist, hear me wheeze (roaring is not an asthmatic option right now.) I should just press on, keep trying, do what I can. Somehow I should have magically avoided getting ill during this horrible pollen season.

My friends are busy people, with families of their own. I should not intrude in their lives. (Mind you, my friends have been practically falling over my doorstep with offers of help.)

It may have been a coincidence that this YouTube video arrived on my desk last week. Please listen to at least the first 2:45 of the video before proceeding.

There is something wonderful about that video. I am not suggesting that life is that simple, but what if bits of it really are that easy? What if when I reach for the phone, instead of castigating myself for needing to call someone for help, I "stop it", and instead , I thank God that I have that friend to ask. What if I substitute gratitude for shame? It seems as though I would be much happier, doesn't it?

Maybe I can take the little sniveling, shamed girl inside me to a better place, a place where she sees that genuinely loving people do want to help her-- that being ill is not her fault -- that being a proud woman doesn't mean having to be healthy and able 24/7.

Yet, in that moment of asking, in that display of vulnerability, I grow closer to those dear to me. I show them "the messy places" in my life, the inabilities. And in the asking, we grow closer, and they learn that they can ask me as well. The net of our connection grows stronger through the asking for help. The acknowledgment that we are not all little islands floating alone through life is powerful. Connecting the tears of one to the compassion of another is powerful. That union causes a small ca-chink in the universe as two things join that were meant to -- need and compassion.

It doesn't just take a village to raise a child. It takes a village to raise us all, every minute of our lives. We are all connected. We are all part of the same throb of life. And when I cannot breathe it all in, well, I have people around who help me. And when it is their turn to need help, I'll be there for them.

How hard is it for you to ask for help -- or even to admit that you need it? What stands in the way for you?


Jeanne, in her blog "The Assertive Cancer Patient" says:

Oh, that was hard. Not the past week, although that was hard too, but even harder was sending out an e-mail to my nearest and dearest asking for help.
You would think, after 10 years, that I would be comfortable asking my friends for help, but the truth is, I'm not.

She follows with the text of the very specific email that she sent. Well done, Jeanne!

She of the Sea captures the exact feeling by saying:

That's it. I'm going to have to ask for help with a household job, and I don't like it.

In my laundry room, I have a shelf that has a screw pulled out of the wall. I have tried several different anchors to fix it, and it keeps pulling out. I'm frustrated and I'm tired of it. There is no good reason why I shouldn't be able to make this shelf stay up, but I don't have the time, the inclination, or the skills right now.

Now, the sensible amongst you will say, "Why don't you ask someone to help you?" Reasonable enough. But I hate to ask for help, and it seems like I'm always asking someone for something.


Welshwmn3 struggles with hesitancy in asking for help. She says:

But I’ve been watching people I know who are both independent and who have a good sense of self esteem (at least, in my estimation they do). And I’ve noticed something, with even the most fiercely independent person I know. If they need help doing something, they don’t hesitate to ask.

It’s really opened my eyes to how much I struggle to do things by myself that could go so much faster and easier if I could only ask for help.


MamaRenew says :

As mothers, Asking for Help is sometimes one of our biggest challenges. We worry about imposing, how it might reflect on our ability to cope, creating obligation, seeming weak… The belief that we should be able to do it all runs strong.


Stephanie speaks of her hesitancy in asking for help as a teacher:

Sometimes it is so hard to say, “I need help”. I have found that after I ask for help I feel so much better. I know that getting over that initial hump is the hardest part but the rewards from collaboration outweigh my pride.


Christine eventually finds help from asking the Spirit:

For some cases, sure, that's what I can do and is what I need to do to learn that I can help myself. But for other situations, insisting that I take care of the issue myself just plain doesn't work out. I found myself needlessly stuck by being determined to resolve things on my own. These are places in life where I have the opportunity to learn the beauty and joy of asking for help from another person, and that no man is an island. And in many such moments of crisis, I get to learn to surrender, ask for and be open to help from the Spirit.


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