Having a chronic illness is hard. Asking for help is even harder. For years, I suffered in silence, did without, barely got by; all because, I refused to ask for help.
After talking with others who suffer from debilitating chronic illnesses, I realize that I’m not the only one. It’s taken me many years to get to the point where I can, not only ask for help, but feel good about it.
I’m hoping that my experience will save you precious time and energy by exposing the false beliefs around asking for help as well as giving you practical ways to get your needs met.
What Are False Beliefs?
False beliefs are a set of principles that we have created over time based on our life experiences that we hold to be true. These false beliefs affect our decision-making, our perspective, our actions; and, many times, limit our potential.
“Life Is Out To Get Me” is an example of a false belief that many people carry, because they have endured difficult or even tragic life circumstances. On the surface, it may seem that life is truly against this person, but the irony is that the belief itself can keep them from seeing the beauty and potential in their life and overcoming their difficult situation.
If anyone had a right to hold this belief it was Victor Frankl an Austrian neurologist and psychologist who was imprisoned in several concentration camps by Nazis including Auschwitz. Dr. Frankl witnessed the murder of his mother and brother at Auschwitz and later his wife at another facility.
During this time he started writing his best-selling book, Man’s Search for Meaning, in which he chronicled his experience and the discovery of the importance of finding meaning in every form of existence even a brutal one.
Many believe it was this belief that kept him alive during these horrendous years. What if he’d held on to the false belief that “life is out to get him”? What if he believed that his circumstances were never going to change?
I believe that he would’ve died at Auschwitz and never written one of the most amazing literary works ever published helping millions of people overcome difficult circumstances.
False Beliefs About Asking For Help
There are so many false beliefs around asking for help. Everyone out there may have their own set of false beliefs. These are just some of the most common ones I’ve discovered.
Asking For Help Means That I Am Weak
Before my illness took me down, I was known for my independent spirit. I was self-reliant and proud of it. I was more than happy to offer help to those who needed it, but I never imagined that I would be on the other side of the equation.
It took year, YEARS, for me to let go of my pride and start asking for help. I realized that it took a LOT more courage to ask for help than it did to give help. One of the bravest things you will ever do is put aside your pride and ask for help.
Asking For Help Will Be An Added Burden To Others
Most people who know us and love us want to help, they just don’t know what to do. I remember how amazing I felt when I was able to help someone out, back when I was healthier than I am now.
We can’t assume that we will be placing a burden on someone else. It’s up to them to let us know if it’s a burden. Sometimes, people truly do have too much on their plate to help at a particular time. I’ll show you how to find out and how to ask a little later in this article.
Asking For Help Will Strain The Relationship
One of the most helpless feelings in the world is watching someone you love suffer and not knowing how to help them. How frustrating to ask them what you can do for them and repeatedly be told that there is nothing that you can do.
It’s up to us to communicate our needs clearly to those around us. If we can give them some direction in the right way, it helps both parties to become closer and actually strengthens the relationship.
Changing False Beliefs About Asking For Help
False beliefs can run deep and wide in our subconscious meaning that we don’t even realize that they’re there even though they control 90% of our behavior.
According to Gary van Warmerdam author of the book, MindWorks, and the creator of the website, pathwaystohappiness.com, some beliefs are harder to change than others, but he gives four basic steps that he’s used himself as well as with his clients in order to change false beliefs.
- Become aware of the emotion that is evoked by a belief.
- Release the emotion that is held in those beliefs.
- Shift your perspective so that you can see the identity as false.
- Break the bonds of faith that make an idea or thought powerful.
He goes into detail about each step in this article on his website entitled, “How To Change A Belief”. It may take some time and energy; but, in the end, it will completely change your perspective and possible your life.
How To Ask For Help
Decide What Your True Needs Are
I realized something recently. I’m so used to being in pain that sometimes, I don’t even know what my true needs are. I finally felt well enough to go get my hair cut by a professional. (This has only happened a few times over the last 6 years).
I have a lot of neck pain from central nervous system issues and when my stylist was washing my hair, I was in a lot of pain. Instead of asking for a towel to put under my neck, I just chose to be in pain. It didn’t dawn on me until she was almost finished that I could’ve asked for something to help with my pain.
So, really think about the things that cause you the most pain. What are they? Are they something that you can do something about or are they something with which you need help?
I totally had the power to ask for help with my neck issue at the hair salon, but there are many tasks that I just can’t do right now. Depending on my energy level there are times when I’m not able to go to the grocery store, cook meals, wash my clothes, and cleaning the house always falls to the bottom of the list. Your list may look very different from mine.
Right now, I want you to get a blank piece of paper, a notebook, or make notes on your phone. You’re going to make two lists. If you’re working with a pen and paper, make two columns.
In the first column, make a list of all of the things with which you need help. In the second column, make a list of all of the people who may be available to help you. These could be family, friends, acquaintances even. Anyone who has offered to help in the past or that you think would be willing to help.
Now, draw lines from a task to a person that you think would be good at doing that task or even enjoy that task. For example, maybe you need help organizing your paperwork. (Please tell me I’m not the only one!)
You know that Susie is an accountant and loves organization. So, organizing paperwork is right up Susie’s alley. She loves that kind of stuff.
If you’re not sure what someone is good at or may enjoy, just give them a choice between two or three tasks
Some examples would be: cooking meals, running errands, picking up the kids, driving you to doctor appointments, grocery shopping, house repairs, house cleaning, washing clothes, organizing medicine/supplements, walking the dog, cleaning out a closet, and probably a thousand other tasks.
Seriously, don’t finish this article until you’ve completed this step! Ok, so you promise to go back and do it, right?
Ask For One Task At A Time
Ok, so now that you have your list, this is going to be so much easier. Prioritize the tasks from most urgent to least urgent. For example, cooking always trumps cleaning for me. You can number them or rewrite the list in order of importance. However, you want to do it, just start with the most important.
Let’s say making meals are at the top of your list. You know that Leslie loves to cook. Instead of asking her to cook one meal a week for you for the next year, just ask her to cook one meal and see how it goes.
Make It Easy For Them To Say Yes
If you’ve completed the action step and made your lists, matching up each task with the person who is most likely to do it, then your chances of them saying yes goes up tremendously.
Next, is the actual asking. Make it as easy on them as possible. For example, “Hey Leslie, I was wondering if you would make this recipe for me this week. You could double the recipe and keep half for your family. What do you think?”
Or, “Hey Jane, could you pick up a few items for me the next time you’re at the grocery store?” Leslie will already be cooking dinner and Jane will already be at the store, so it would be easy for them to help you out.
There is no shame in asking for help. We covered this earlier when we were talking about false beliefs. As a matter of fact, it takes a great deal of courage. Continue working on changing this false belief. It’s important to try to separate any emotion when you ask for help.
You wouldn’t apologize to the drive-thru person for ordering a meal, so you should not apologize to anyone for asking for help. By the way, I hope you’re not going through a drive-thru. It was the only example I could think of on the fly.
Which question do you think would get a better response?
- “Hey Susie, I’m so sorry to bother you. I know you’re so busy. I’ve been trying to get my paperwork organized. I’m so bad at that. I can’t think straight. Looking at that stack of papers just makes me dizzy. I’m sorry to burden you with this. I know this would be the last thing you would want to do, but could you help me get these papers organized?”
- “Hey Susie, I know you’re an organizational whiz, so I was wondering if you could organize my paperwork for me sometime. I know you’re busy, and I totally understand if you can’t, but I thought you’d be the best person for the job.”
Question one is subconsciously already making Susie want to say no. She may say yes, but I guarantee that she won’t be looking forward to it. Question two is building Susie’s confidence and makes the offer much more attractive.
Communicate Your Needs Clearly
Even though your needs are obvious to you, they may not be obvious to everyone else. We think that others should be able to know what to do, because our needs are so obvious to us.
That is not true. Only you know what your true needs are, and it’s very important that you communicate your needs in a graceful way to those who want to help you.
One of the worst things we can do is to get upset with those around us, because they don’t read our minds and intuitively know what to do for us. This is a good way to derail anyone’s motivation to help.
Communicate Your Gratitude
Communicate your gratitude for their offer to help before actually giving them a task. Even though our loved ones are not offering to help us because they want our gratitude, it strengthens the relationship when they know how much they are appreciated.
Give Detailed Instructions
Give them short, detailed instructions of not only what to do, but how to do it. Just because we are thinking nonstop about all of the things that we need to get done and how to do it, doesn’t mean that those around us are thinking the same way.
We need to assume that they have never done this before and need careful instructions. Of course, if it’s something that they do all of the time, like go to the grocery store, then I think you can skip this one.
If it’s something very personal like doing your laundry, you may need to tell them when a garment needs special treatment and what that needs to be.
Give Them Grace
Never get upset because someone didn’t help you exactly the way you intended. This is one of the best ways to derail a relationship. Of course, no one is going to do things exactly the way you would do them, and you should make allowances for that. Work at showing genuine appreciation for any help that you get even if they totally screw it up.
Always Give Them An Out
We don’t want to approach people with a sense of entitlement like they owe it to us to help us. You could say something like this, “Hey Kate, I know you’re busy, and I totally understand if you’re not able to do this, but… I was wondering if you could pick up a few things for me the next time you’re at the store.”
What If They Say No?
Always, ALWAYS, be understanding if they can’t help you! Don’t take it personally. Don’t get mad at them. And, don’t write them off of your list of people that could help you. Now, if they can’t help say 3 or 4 times in a row, then maybe take them off of the list.
What If I Don’t Have Anyone To Ask?
I know that the longer we’re sick the more people disappear from our lives. I have lots of wonderful online friends, but I don’t see or really talk to any of my friends from when I was healthier.
I know it’s very disappointing when friends drop out of our lives. I try to remember that they didn’t change, I did. There is absolutely no way that they can understand what I’m going through or how horrendous are the effects of this disease. And, I DON’T WANT THEM TO!
Living with a debilitating chronic illness is something I would NEVER wish on ANYONE… not even my worst enemy; and, definitely not someone with whom I used to be friends.
It’s taken me a while, but I’ve had to let them go and let go of the hurt and disappointment along with them. Holding on to those negative emotions are only serving to hamper my healing.
It’s best to think about the good memories that you shared with them when you were friends and wish them well as they go about living their lives. I’m still a work in progress.
I admit that I still get jealous of people who are living normal lives. True confession… one of the hardest things for me is to see a notification that a “friend” on Facebook is going to attend an event that I would love to attend.
Sometimes, when there is no one that we can ask, we have to turn to strangers. Believe it or not, there are people out in our communities who have dedicated their entire lives to helping others. We just have to find them.
How To Find Help When We Don’t Know Who To Ask
The United Way is an organization that connects people in need with groups that can help. Just dial 2-1-1 from any landline or cell phone to find your local office or visit the website and type in your zip code. The United Way can help you find shelter, clothing, food, utilities, and even cash.
Sometimes, reaching out to local churches can connect you with your community and provide some much needed relief. I’ve listed a couple of nationwide organizations that may be able to connect you with a local church in your area.
The GuideStar Directory is a national database that has over 1.8 million non-profits that you can search in order to find an organization in your area that may be able to help you.
Did you know that your power company, gas company, and water company have funds set up to help those in need? All you have to do is contact them and apply for assistance. One less financial burden will free up resources so that you can put them toward healing and take a little of the pressure off.
Organizations Specific To Your Disease
Whether you have Lyme Disease, ME/CFS, Fibromyalgia, or any number of other debilitating diseases, do a search for organizations in your area that help people with your specific disease. We have a wonderful organization in my city for people with Ehlers-Danlos where they can find help with medical resources as well as emotional support and more.
To Sum Up…
Asking for help is one of the most courageous things that you can do for yourself. It requires debunking the false beliefs that have sprouted and grown roots in your subconscious.
There is a right way and a wrong way to ask for help. You have to know what your true needs are before you ask. Be unapologetic and always show gratitude.
I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve discovered some great resources while writing this article that I plan to take advantage of. I hope that you do the same.
How do you ask for help? What resources have you found helpful in your health journey? Let me know in the comments.
Also, we have a lively Facebook Community where we discuss the latest health information, recipes, safe skincare options and more. We’d love to have you! To protect your privacy, it’s a closed group, so just request to join, and I’ll approve you asap!
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