Then things changed when I joined the SCI club 13 years ago. Yes, it’s been 13 years. It seems like it would be easy by now but I still struggle with those five words, “Can you help me please?” I’m getting better at it but those words still don’t roll off my tongue without some resistance. The funny thing is I find it easier to ask for help from a complete stranger on the street than from many of my friends and family. I think it is probably because I have had to ask for their help so many times over the years, I’m worried about becoming a burden to them. I also hesitate popping the question because I anticipate a bad reaction from them. I know there are times when it annoys them. Sometimes it even starts a spat when patience is thin but that is thankfully the exception.
Asking for help comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s accomplishing something that is now physically challenging for me - such as reaching something on the top shelf or picking up something I dropped on the floor. It may be asking one person or asking for help from a group of people. Like if I need help moving large furniture or doing yard work. Or it can be more personal requests like help dressing, bathing, eating or caring for me when I get sick. Sometimes the help may not be a physical task. Maybe the help I need is paying my bills when money runs short. That can be extra tough to say those five words about. Or maybe the help I need is just somebody to lend a listening ear or come hang out when I’m lonely.
My suggestion to new members of the SCI club is to have conversations with those close to you about how asking for help makes you feel. If you are like me, you don’t like it. I struggle because if I’m not careful, I let it make me feel inadequate, frustrated, impatient, weak, and even angry at times. I’ve had to learn that it is okay to ask for help and those close to me have had to learn it’s okay to say no. And I must accept that. We’ve had to come to terms with that in conversations about how things are different living with any kind of limiting disability. The time for that conversation is long before asking for help becomes any kind of issue.
I also find it important to only ask for help when I really need it. It’s important that I don’t take advantage of those around me on a regular basis. Kind of like the boy who cried, “Wolf!” If I don’t really need their help, I should do “it” myself for several reasons. For one thing it keeps me active and capable. For example, if one day I just got lazy and decided to quit picking things up off the floor myself I might lose flexibility and balance leaning over in my wheelchair. Over time that could cause me to lose confidence in myself. If I call for help when I don’t need it, too often people tend to become resentful and that is never good. Plus, I get a feeling of accomplishment by completing tasks on my own. It boosts my independence. However, there are times when I just won’t get a task completed or could even put myself in danger without asking for help. So, I’m a work in progress learning to recognize when I need to open my mouth and let those five little words fly... “Can you help me please?”
As a side note, it is also a good idea to include those FOUR little words immediately following those FIVE little words. You know what they are..... Don’t make me say them!
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The opinions and experiences presented herein are for informational use only. Individual results may vary depending on your condition. Always consult with your health care professional. This individual has been compensated by Bard Medical for the time and effort in preparing this article for BARD’s further use and distribution. BMD/BMDA/0319/0787