Help is a difficult word for many people.
We would often rather strugle alone than admit that we need help and support with a task or situation.
I know I am guilty of this, and always have been.
I have had several reminders of this over the last 24 hours so I thought I would get some thoughts out and see if you can relate.
Yesterday my husband, son and I went to a barbeque at a friend’s house. It was only local so my daughter (15) asked whether she could stay and get some work done and relax so we agreed.
When we returned home it was clear something had happened.
I won’t go into details but she was upset and worried and it was all over nothing. No-one was hurt, nothing was damaged, but her mind had run away with her and she had had half an hour of worrying when if she had just called and spoken to us we could have set her mind at ease.
I was heart broken that she hadn’t called me but she didn’t want to interrupt us and doesn’t like to ask for help.
How can I be mad about that when I am so bad at asking for help myself?
All my life I have been stubbornly independent.
I didn’t like being helped, I could do it!
If I didn’t know how to do something I could find out. It has caused more than a few arguments with my very patient husband over the years.
Then, when I was very ill, I couldn’t physically do everything alone. I tried, I really tried, but the combination of pain, chronic fatigue and a toddler made it impossible. I was convinced that if I didn’t do everything myself it wouldn’t get done (or certainly not the way I wanted it to be done – me control freak?).
Imagine my frustration when I had to spend six weeks convalescing at my parent’s house, a hundred miles from my own little family! For the first time in my life I had to trust other people to care for the most precious thing in my life, my daughter. She was only 3 years old and still needed so much help. She was also already stubbornly independent, but she needed feeding, her clothes getting out, taking to nursery… I could do nothing to help. I could barely walk to the kitchen to get a drink let alone drive a hundred miles and make my daughter one!
But do you know what. She survived. Better than that, she thrived. She was spoilt a little, but that’s ok sometimes, she was dressed and fed and happy and all without my input.
That was the moment that the world wouldn’t stop spinning if I didn’t do it all alone.
From then on I stopped worrying about being the “perfect” mum. I put my own wellbeing before the need to appear to be coping.
I asked for help.
Did I ask for help as often as I should?
No, of course not! None of us do. But I don’t struggle with something if I know there is someone who will be able to do it better/quicker/easier than I can.
I ask my husband to cook tea if I’m tired, I ask him to make a graphic in photoshop if I need it because he is so much better and quicker at that! I ask my children to help with housework. Everyone in our house does their own laundry. It isn’t laziness, it is contributing to the house you live in, and at 10 and 15 years old they are more than capable.
“Dependence starts when we are born and lasts until we die… But in the middle of our lives, we mistakenly fall prey to the myth that successful people are those that help rather than need, and broken people need rather than help.”
Since my diagnosis I have had to be realistic about my limitations. I might want to live in a perfectly clean and tidy house all the time but sometimes I have to decide between using my energy to have fun with my family and using it for work, when faced with these choices, using it for housework doesn’t get a look in!
There are some jobs I find almost impossible. For example scrubbing things or very close work like sewing. My hands cramp very easily and I struggle with anything repetitive. I try to make sure that I eat the right foods for my body and take supplements to help my joints, but unfortunately they were damaged by my acromegaly before my surgery so they will never been as good as they should be.
Being forced to ask for help sometimes though has taught me that it isn’t as scary as I used to think.
It isn’t admitting defeat. It isn’t a sign of weakness. It is just an acknowledgment that you have a lot to do and that there are some things that you could be helped with rather than doing it all alone.
This morning my best friend, Callie, sent me an email (as she does every Monday) with an oracle card from Colette Baron-Reid’s “Wisdom of the Oracle” Deck. Every week she sends a newsletter with a message for the week.
This week’s message was all about asking for help. It resonated with me so strongly. The next couple of weeks I have a lot to fit in. I have trips, meetings, writing, resources to create for my schools, meals out with family, even a trip to the West End. Once upon a time I would have been heartbroken if my family had arrived for the weekend and the house wasn’t spotless. Now, I will make sure the beds are up and clean (there will be 10 of us sleeping here this weekend), I will make sure there is food in the cupboards and I will have a quick clean and tidy round.
I won’t beat myself up though if I run out of energy and can’t dust everywhere. Or if I can’t present them with a show home. They are my family. They love me and they know my physical restrictions. They would definitely rather I have the energy to enjoy our trip to London on Saturday than spend a few hours in an immaculate house! Let’s be realistic, by the time my children have come in from school and their shoes and bags have been joined by another six visitors with bags, shoes, coats and tranklements (as my father in law would call them) it won’t be tidy and clean anymore anyway. At most it will last a few minutes.
The important thing about this weekend is quality time spent together, not how clean the carpet is, not whether you can see your face in the taps. Time and memories are so precious. Priorities can be blurry sometimes, but let me tell you, you will never regret spending quality time with loved ones. You will never regret putting your wellbeing before your need for the appearance of perfection.
The problem with trying to do everything alone is that we aren’t designed to be lone wolves. We are pack creatures. We function better in ever way the we play to our own strengths and when we share the emotions and stresses of life. When we attempt to do it all it can cause physical and emotional stress and you don’t need me to tell you that this isn’t good for you.
What can you ask for help with today?
Perhaps like me, you need to ask a friend to collect your son from school one night? Maybe you could ask someone to help you with something at work? Whatever it is, take a deep breath and ask for help.
The more you do it, the easier it gets.
Helping others gives us a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. Why would we deprive our friends and loved ones of the joy of that feeling when they are able to help us?