Monday, 14 November 2011

Help Me, Please

I can't do this on my own.

This is not an admission that I can't cope with life in general, just that some things are hard. Most of the time I have much less energy than would be required to complete my 'to do' list, along with numerous other symptoms that interfere with my daily plans.

Every day is a balancing act - trying to juggle the things that need to be done with my physical symptoms.

The smart ones among us get skilled at delegating and asking for help.

I struggle with my pride over this issue, and often leave it too late, ending up in tears on the kitchen floor, completely exhausted, overwhelmed and unable to do anything useful. It's not that I don't want people to help me, but just that I find it difficult to ask.

Friends often ask the generic question, "Is there anything I can do?" or tell me to let them know if I need anything. This is difficult because it then puts me in the position of having to ask. I may really need help with the laundry, or to wash and style my hair, but might be too embarrassed to suggest it.

If you really do want to help someone with a chronic illness, it might be helpful to follow your general question with some specific suggestions. This shows that you're not just offering platitudes or saying what you feel you should say in that situation.

Some ideas:
  1. Help getting to/from hospital appointments
  2. Meals - things that can go in the freezer, gift cards for restaurants that deliver
  3. Shopping - especially if you're going to the supermarket or other shops, ask if you can pick anything up while you're there, or if your friend would like to come with you
  4. Laundry - changing bed sheets, washing, ironing, folding
  5. Small DIY tasks - light bulbs, checking the smoke alarm, bleeding radiators, empty bins
  6. Company - offer to bring food/drink, DVD, games, books or flowers
  7. Personal care - washing and styling hair, make-up, painting finger/toe nails
  8. Food preparation - peel/chop vegetables, decant things out of heavy containers
  9. Child/animal care - this can be a major stressor when someone is very unwell or in hospital. Offer to walk the dog or host the children for the weekend, or to arrange a rota to pick the children up from school
I am so grateful for my support networks, both emotional and practical, but despite my gratitude, there are still times when I turn down offers of help. Don't be hurt or offended - I might be having a great week, ploughing through my to-do list, or I might be hibernating in bed, avoiding all human contact. Don't take it personally and don't be afraid to ask another time.

For my part, I will try to be better at asking when I need help and at being honest if I'm struggling.

Together, we'll get there!

This post was written as part of NHBPM - 30 health posts in 30 days:

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