Do You Let People Help You?
It might be a silly question, but I have a reason for asking: Do you let people help you?
Maybe it’s not that simple. Sometimes yes, sometimes no depending on the situation, or your mood, or ten other things?
I don’t need help
I used to say no to help most of the time. Years ago when I was much less disabled by MS, I could do most things and insisted on it even if it was more difficult than before. I just did it. Maintaining independence makes life feel more normal despite what the MRIs show. At that stage, I really was mostly able. Later on, when my collection of limitations had grown it felt like mild defiance, the kind that made me willfully miss the point and cover up what might have been plain self-pity. I caught myself thinking things like: MRI-schmeMRI, what do I care about gray dots on a scan? I’m no celebrity with an entourage, not even an MS celebrity like Jack Osbourne or Montel Williams. I’m just an invisible woman with an invisible disease, a chip on my shoulder, the taste of sour grapes on my tongue — and an overwhelming belief that I don’t need help of any kind.
Suggestions versus commands
Not surprising, then, that at this late stage — twenty years into my disease journey — letting people help me feels like a big fat manipulation. I mean, yeah, there are plenty of times I really can’t do the thing myself such as light plumbing and carpentry, picking up a chair and carrying it to the bed of a pick-up truck, stuff like that. But ever since my brother moved up here and took the apartment next to mine, he told me he wanted to help. So I let him bring in my groceries. Before he was here, I wheeled a little shopping cart out to my car, loaded it, and pushed it into my apartment. It was difficult, but I did it. Now I don’t even try, I just text him one word every time I pull in to the driveway: Groceries? Always the same word and always with a question mark. It seems less demanding that way, more a suggestion than a command to take care of me. It seems like a good approach karma-wise, too, in case I’m laid up in a nursing facility someday and totally dependent on an aide. Bed pan? Puke tray? I mean, it’s better to be humble just in case they’re having a bad day. I’m a good listener and I’ll retain that skill for the home, to be sure. I take nothing and no one for granted. Quid pro quo, baby. See, I want my pubes shaved once a week. That’s asking a lot, I know. If I play my cards right maybe they’ll change the blade every month, too.
Practicing being helped
Which brings me to the reason why I asked if you let people help you. I just described how allowing people to help me is very much a walk along a thin edge, balancing need, convenience, humility, and gratitude with the hope of getting through it with a minimum of self-loathing and guilt. Practicing being helped really does make it a tiny squidge easier the next time and the time after that. Not only accepting help but asking for it like I do with my brother.
Taking a while to trust
These gestures have also been a bugaboo in my past; my ex-husband did similar things with the same helping attitude —at least, on the surface. Near the end of the marriage, I discovered that everything he did for me put another nail in the coffin of his love and desire to stay with me. Because of that, it’s taking a while to trust that my brother isn’t going to bail on me.
MS is tougher
The long-winded point I’m trying make is that if you hesitate to accept help because you don’t feel deserving or because you’ve been burned in the past, I hope you’ll reconsider and take the risk. Things really can work out differently. Although people can be tough, MS is tougher. So tough that I need people to get me through it.
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