Asking for help is good for us and also helps others
I have lived with chronic pain from dystonia, a neurological movement disorder, for almost 20 years. For more than half of those years, I had a hard time asking for help. I was certainly helped significantly by my loved ones, but it came with guilt, until I put myself in their shoes. They wanted to help. They just didn’t always know how to help, and I didn’t know how to ask because I struggled with the reality that I had limitations.
As a competitive athlete, private business owner, traveler, go getter, nothing stand in my way kind of person, my life became the total opposite of that independent, self-sufficient person when dystonia hit and the severe pain took over. I needed help big time, but I still fought for my independence. Man, did it wear me out trying to do it on my own!
One of my emotional barriers asking for help was feeling guilty for having a condition where I needed help. I was living in shame and thought I could still do everything on my own, which was silly because I was literally barely able to get off my living room floor, where I spent most of the day because sitting or standing for any period of time caused screaming pain that made it near impossible to even prepare a quick meal, let alone drive, work, grocery shop, clean my house, do laundry, etc.
I was also negligent asking for help because I felt like a burden to others. Interestingly, those closest to me often felt guilty and a burden because they didn’t know how to help and thought they were making my situation worse by not doing more. Little did I know, we all felt helpless and guilty… for NO reason. This is where clear communication is vital by letting others know what we need, and letting them know that we are here for them as well. An open door policy to those close to us is so important.
Now that I needed help to do pretty much everything, I knew I had to break down my wall and ask for it. When I finally let others in, negative feelings about myself and my sense of helplessness and unworthiness dissipated. When I finally began to share my feelings and what kind of help I needed, the isolation and shame began to lift. When I finally realized that it was okay to ask for and accept help, and that I was not being a burden, my life and those around me began to change. Life became much lighter for all of us.
My sister recently had foot surgery and developed an infection that complicated the issue. She is in great pain and having difficulty walking, so she needs to rely on her family and friends to do a lot of things for her. She feels really bad for having to lean on everyone so much. One, because she hates being in this situation (which we can all relate to) and two, she feels like she is being an inconvenience. The reality of the situation is that none of us think twice about coming to her assistance any time of day. We love her and care about her, so we will do all we can to help her, just as she has done for all of us and will again in the future. It makes us feel good to know that we can be there for her. Something else to help put this into perspective, one of the main tenets of life and cornerstone of any religious teaching, is to be of service to others.
I learned that asking for help and relying on other people when necessary does not indicate weakness or failure. It is a sign of strength. It takes courage to admit we need help, especially when we are so used to an active, independent, fully functional life. It is also a gift we give to others. This is the part we often don’t think about. Most people who care about us want to help, and it feels good to help, but they don’t know how until we tell them what we need.
We also need to understand that help from some of our loved ones might take time. They may not be willing at first because the more they learn about or sometimes just think about our situation, the more it hurts to be reminded that we are suffering. The indifference they may show is often just a coping mechanism until they come to terms with it and are in a place where they feel comfortable diving into those waters with us.
What I also learned is that by exposing what I was struggling with and asking for help gave other people permission to open up about things that were bothering them that they were uncomfortable talking about. So we are not only doing ourselves a favor. We open the door for others to work through their problems as well. The other really cool thing is that there is an increase in serotonin when people are on the giving or receiving end of help or a kind deed. Thus, helping others, in any form, is a very healthy activity!
Many helping hands are there for us. We just need to reach out. To feel comfortable allowing others to help us, we have to come to terms with the fact that we sometimes need help, and that it is okay! All people do in one way or another, and as I mentioned above, sometimes when we have the courage to open up, it gives others permission to open up about challenges they might be experiencing that they have been hiding. Opening the door can lead to a great deal of emotional healing for everyone.
Tom Seaman is a Certified Professional Life Coach in the area of health and wellness, and the author of 2 books: Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey (2015) and Beyond Pain and Suffering: Adapting to Adversity and Life Challenges (2021). He is also a motivational speaker, chronic pain and dystonia awareness advocate, health blogger, volunteer for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) as a support group leader, and is a member and writer for Chronic Illness Bloggers Network, The Mighty, Patient Worthy, and The Wellness Universe. To learn more about Tom, get a copy of his books (also on Amazon), or schedule a free life coaching consult, visit www.tomseamancoaching.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dystoniabook1 and Instagram.