Hands reaching out of a phone screen to help a hand reaching out of a storm cloud.

I Do Not Know How to Ask for Help

In the multiple sclerosis community, asking for help is highly encouraged! We are generous with each other. We share our time. We share our wisdom. We share our tips. We share our thoughts. Importantly, we share our hearts. Assistance is offered with caring and received the same way. I want to be a resource for my fellow MS’ers. I want to help and I find joy in it. As much as I emphasize to others how important it is to ask for what we need, I have difficulty practicing what I enthusiastically and sincerely preach. It is not that I do not want help. I am unsure of how and when to ask. If there is a correct way to do this, I am open to suggestions.

I wanted to deny my diagnosis

Early on, I wished my multiple sclerosis diagnosis was easily dismissed. I wanted to stand on a table and declare forcefully, “I do not have MS! That is fake news!” I could shake my fist at the sky and make it so. It was something inside that screamed I am not chronically ill. It was fierce and fiery. It was wrapped around a desire to not be ill. That was denial.

Reasons I refused help

When I declined help, it was for a couple of reasons. One was that old denial story. The second was not wanting to inconvenience others. In my mind, I was imposing on another’s time or energy or resources or all three. While I enjoy being helpful, I made the assumption that any reciprocity was done grudgingly.

Recognizing that help is good

After struggling and failing to complete a task that required help, my friend challenged my thinking. Why was I the only person allowed to be nice? Was I positioning myself as a saint and my friends as selfish jerks? It was an obnoxious belief that disrespected those who love and care for me. I need help and there is no shame in asking. Score one for me!

Where is all of my help?

After my revelation, I was a willing recipient in search of help to be offered. I was intellectually ready to ask for what I needed. If I were an athlete, I would be stretching on the sidelines. I was flexing my asking-for-help words ready to jump into the game. I waited and watched for a time when I could happily accept help graciously and without guilt. Visions of a perfect royal wave of acknowledgment danced in my head. The way my wrist would twist genteelly as I said waved a thank you. Wait. That’s the wrong dream! In my asking for help fantasy, I smoothly ask, help is provided, and I say thanks. The “You are welcome” completes the process. So. Hmmm. Where is this magical help? It appears when you stop hogging all of your needs.

Family and friends are willing to help

There is not a dearth of people willing to help. I am constantly presented with lovely people who offer themselves. I know I can depend on a positive response from them should I ask for help. There is not a question in my mind that I am overly blessed in that department. Identifying the resources around me is not hard. I am lucky. There are capable people who can pick up slack for me.

I had to let go

But first I had to let go. Not every task needed my hands on it, around it, or in it. Depuffing my ego a bit meant admitting that the world would continue to spin if I took a break. The next step is looking at my needs differently and seeing what things that only I could do. I was surprised to learn what I was not needed for. Research can be shared. Slide creation or phone calls had people who were good at them besides me. Trust in other people was the next obstacle I overcame in my assistance journey. I have on occasion gotten help. It was politely pushed on me after there was a problem. Proactive is the word of the day, folks!

Asking for help with MS

When I start to ask for help I get stuck. Questions crowd my head, and I second guess myself. Am I asking too early in the process? Will I look lazy? How do I ask? Email might be too cold. A phone call might interrupt at a bad time. Pigeons are not even a consideration. In the fog of doubt, I scrap the email and phone call. The stress of not knowing how the phrase that first step keeps me from asking as often as I should. Asking for help means being honest about what I can do well and acting proactively when I know I cannot. I am bad at asking for help, so I am proactively asking YOU to help me figure it out. Can please you share your tips, tricks, and suggestions? I would be appreciative and proud I asked.

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