I'm Not Pulling Your Leg, I Really Do Need Help
Last updated: December 2020
I recently wrote about how I hate having to ask for help doing things that I could once do on my own. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is remarkably good at robbing people of their independence. For some, it might happen very quickly, and for others, it might take years. Either way, it’s sure to generate feelings of frustration, anger, depression, helplessness, etc. I also mentioned how overcoming my pride in order to even ask for help was a challenge in and of itself. However, I had finally built up the “strength” to do so. That was definitely an accomplishment for me, but I’ve since discovered another problem when it comes to asking for assistance.
I'm not using my MS as an excuse
Again, having to ask for help doing anything that you could once do yourself sucks. Everyone living with MS probably knows that. But what really sucks is finally asking for help and feeling like someone doesn’t really think you need it. As if you’re asking for help only because you don’t feel like taking out the trash today. Maybe it’s all in my head, but there are definitely times where I feel like people think I’m just using my MS as an excuse to get out of something.
Wait, last time you didn’t need help!
Sometimes, when I ask for help with something, there is a brief moment of hesitation that follows my request. A moment that lasts only a fraction of a second but a moment that tells me so much. While I’ve never actually been told, “Wait, you didn’t need help last time,” it definitely feels like that’s what some people are thinking. I almost always get the help I ask for, but sometimes that help comes with an apparent attitude of frustration with me.
I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t need it
As someone who has valued my independence for as long as I can remember, I can assure you, I’m not just trying to get out of doing something. If I’m asking you for help, it’s because I need it. Period. I wouldn’t ask for help if I didn’t require it. When I ask for help doing almost anything, it’s probably my last resort. I typically try really hard to find a creative way to continue doing something on my own before I admit defeat.
I wish I could do it myself!
One of the other main reasons I hate asking for help is that I usually feel like I could have done it, in the past, better on my own. I know that sounds kind of conceited, but I imagine everyone can relate to that just a little. Or maybe it’s just my OCD and perfectionism talking?.
Wait, last time you DID need help
This works the other way, too. I’ve definitely experienced moments where I’ll be doing something, and I’ll notice a suspicious look from someone. A look that says, “Wait a second, last week you said you couldn’t do that, and I had to help you, but now you are doing it all on your own like a pro.” This causes me to sometimes feel like people don’t trust that I actually need their help. As if I’m just using my MS as an excuse to avoid doing something.
Most people understand
Luckily, most of the people in my life understand that how MS affects me varies from day to day. Unfortunately, this is not the case for everyone. If everyone in the world understood how dynamic MS can be from day to day, none of this would be a problem. But most people have absolutely no reason to know all about this illness because they aren’t doctors.
This skepticism is understandable
As emotionally frustrating as it is, I totally understand why some people might greet my seemingly random need for help with a small dose of confusion and/or skepticism. I mean, if someone told me that they can’t do something that I just saw them do last week, I would probably wonder if they are pulling my leg. So if I know that they probably aren’t as informed of how MS works as some of the other people in my life, I have to let that feeling go.
Informing and educating others
I understand that it’s up to me to inform people about these kinds of things. To explain how I have good days and bad days when it comes to my MS. How my level of independence and disability can rapidly fluctuate in such a small amount of time. It’s not like MS causes our skin to glow green when it’s acting up, so how could anyone know how we are doing if we don’t tell them? All they can see is someone who looks the same as they did a week ago. The way they looked when they could do whatever it is that they’re asking for help with all by themself.
What about you? Is it just me?
Again, this may be all in my head. It’s possible that I’m misinterpreting people’s responses because I’m somewhat sensitive to the subject. Maybe it’s like how someone that’s self-conscious about something might feel like everyone in the room is talking about them. Do you feel this way too? How do you manage feeling this way? Let me know in the comments below!
What does advocacy mean to you as someone living with multiple sclerosis? Please select all that apply: