Breaking The Pride Barrier

Refusing to ask for help when you need it is refusing someone the chance to be helpful. – Ric Ocasek, musician

Help WantedAsking for help is a touchy subject for Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy. It’s not that I don’t know how to ask for help. Living with rheumatoid arthritis for the past few years has without a doubt shown me that there are some things that are not as easy to do as they used to be.

For me, the difficult part about asking for help is the fear that I may get too dependent upon this support. But, I know that the mere fact that I am aware of this issue is probably the best thing I have going for me, in terms of preventing myself from developing any unhealthy dependencies.

There is always that little voice in the back of my head. “Do it yourself, don’t ask for help.” I must admit, what I am hearing at times is also the voice of others. More than once, I have been told that I should try to do everything on myself without asking for help – no matter what the cost.

Well you know what? I have figured out that sometimes the best thing for me to do at times is to ask for help. I have also learned that while I may indeed be able to do something myself, doing so may actually bring me more pain and cause more harm.

Yesterday, I asked for help in getting dressed. I got out of the bathtub – doing so was slightly more difficult than usual, but my secret twists combined with the built-in grab bars got me back on my feet. I sat on a tall stool as I brushed my teeth and shaved. It was time to get dressed when, out of seeming nowhere, my hands decided to once again go on one of their inflammation-fests. (It’s a good thing it wasn’t a rave, that would have lasted all night.)

As I walked back to my bedroom, I told myself that I had three choices.

The first option was to get dressed right then and there, no matter what the final cost to me was going to be.

The second option was to get in bed under to covers, and wait in bed for the worst to pass – which could be up to an hour. Trust me, I have done this many times in the past…but with lunch waiting to be served, this wasn’t necessarily the best option.

The third option was to ask for help.

I chose door #3.

And within ten minutes, I had all of my braces on, I was fully dressed, and I was sitting at the dining table eating my lunch. (And I was in a slightly sour mood…but it passed soon enough.)

I am glad that I asked for help. When my fingers and wrists get to the point where they were at yesterday, even pulling apart Velcro is painful. (A lot of my braces have Velcro straps.) Sliding elastic bands onto my elbows exerts too much pressure. Come to think of it, even my physical therapist once told me to please ask for help and to not over-exert my hands when they were in such a state.

Asking for help is an interesting topic. I think there is this overwhelming belief in our society that we should be as independent as possible and not ask for help. If we stop and look at things, we ask for help all the time in so many different ways – whether we want to admit it or not.

I visit my psychologist once a week in order to focus on cognitive therapy skills. In a way, I am asking for and receiving help.

I visit my rheumatologist once a week in order to review my disease progression/regression, medicines, and lab tests. In a way, I asking for and receiving help.

But if I need to ask for help in tying my shoelaces or cutting my food, I should feel ashamed? I used to think so, but now I know this should not be the case. I am in a time where my needs are different. At any given moment without rheumatoid arthritis, doing these items would be a breeze. When I am dealing with the symptoms of my illness, they turn into some of the biggest challenges that I encounter. So why not ask for help?

Just as drinking a beer every now and then does not make me an alcoholic, neither does asking for help around the house every now and then make me dependent upon other people.

Only I know when I really need a helping hand. When I reach this point, I will ask for help – without feeling ashamed. I deserve nothing less.

Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!

18 Comments
18 comments
  1. Julie says:

    That is a huge struggle for me as well. I don’t know why I can’t get past it- but I still take “option 1″ far too often for my own good.

  2. Millicent says:

    People are usually wondering how they can help & more than happy to do what they can. Asking for help enables them to feel useful. If the situation were reversed, you would be more than happy to help another. I notice this in places like the grocery store where older folks are doing their best to remain independent & get their shopping done. It affords me great pleasure to help them find something or reach an item for them. And since I am short, I often have to ask for help reaching things on that top shelf (tho I have been known to hang on to the ledge, plant my feet on the bottom shelf, & go for it on my own). I think that asking for help is really a sign of strength.

  3. Julie says:

    LOL- Millicent. I use the “toss something up to knock the thing I need off the top shelf” method to overcome my vertical challenge. ;-)

  4. Seeking Solace says:

    I thinks it’s that we so want to be as independent as possible. I struggle with this too. Part of it is that I am such a Type A person. But, I have learned to let go and that it is OK to ask for help.

  5. Cathy says:

    Last summer I was sharing with my mom how weird it was that two people had come into my life that didn’t think twice about asking for help. One friend even posted to a large group that she needed help cleaning her house. Can you imagine? I couldn’t. I couldn’t even accept someone helping me clean my house when I was having a huge flare-up and I was hosting an author in my home. But I watched these two friends and saw how people didn’t mind helping. In fact, they seemed to like it. These friends were unknowningly great role models for me in the area of asking for help without feeling like the world would come to an end. I am glad you asked for help and were able to enjoy your lunch!

  6. Vicki C says:

    I too suffer from the guilt of asking for help and overexertion due to my own stubbornness. Thank you for writing and reminding me I am not alone in my feelings.

  7. Millicent says:

    Julie–that’s funny! You & I would make quite a grocery-shopping team, wouldn’t we?

  8. Diane says:

    LOL, I’m quite tall, but still stand on the bottom shelf at the supermarket to reach items off the back of the top shelf. In some ways its been great whilst I’ve had my crutches because I can hook things with them – the staff hate it!! I was recently using a wheelchair [post foot surgery] and I was amazed how people were willing to help – and equally amazed because almost without exception people wanted to know what was wrong with me!

  9. Rachael says:

    Learning to say “no” has been the hardest part of adjusting to this disease for me. Sometimes I get down because it feels like I’m giving up a lot of my old life, but I just try to stay positive and congratulate myself for the little things I still accomplish. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

  10. Corinne says:

    i am short and always ask for help. Having RA for me is just another challenge- asking for help may be hard- but you learn to take it as you need it. you willfind some helpful people out there. The hardest part for me is the ups n downs, and not knowing what sets off a down day. somedays i maneuver stores just great! you can always ask store staff- if you give them a list- they will actually get all the items! my GM had RA too, so i leraned a lot of tricks form her

  11. RA Guy says:

    It’s good to know that I’m not alone when it comes to the challenge of asking for help. I think the best thing for me at the moment is to know that it’s not always a yes/no issue. I need not NEVER ask for help, nor I need not ALWAYS ask for help. I’m in between these two extremes, and this works for me.

  12. Mallen says:

    I HATE asking for help. As a single mom of three with RA for several years now, I really struggle with asking for help. However, I learned a nasty (and expensive) lesson last year. I needed to get some groceries for a New Year’s party, but I was having a terrible neck flare and had troubles turning my head. I did NOT want to ask for help so I decided to try and drive myself. I justified it being that there was only three turns. Well, I got in a little accident. That was a big kick in the pants for me….

  13. Helen says:

    I struggle with asking for help, too, and I usually end up going for option 1 and regretting it later. I have a hard time getting past the idea that I’m “whining”, even though, in my head, I know that’s not the case.

    When I had to stop taking Enbrel for a few weeks last year I was forced to ask for help with some things. Although it was difficult, it did show me that people around me are more than willing to help me out when I need it.

  14. Florida Sue says:

    I just feel relieved that I have found your site. I am about to start the DMARDS, and even though I was a nurse in another life, I am scared. I am scared of the sudden onset of this disease and I am scared of eventually losing my independence. I feel mystified at the level of pain I have been experiencing and I feel downright ticked off at my fatigue. It’s a whole new ballgame and I don’t know the rules. I have had many patients with RA in my career, but none of that matters in trying to sort this out in my own head. I am avidly reading your previous posts and comments. Thank You.

    Sue.

  15. Kim H says:

    Oh jeez — this is such a difficult matter, isn’t it — especially when you suffer from an invisible disease ( a ala “But you don’t look sick….”). I have struggled with it, too. But in the end, I’ve just asked for help. Still, it bites.

  16. Barbara says:

    New to your site although not to RA(25 yrs. & running). Just want to say that I am enjoying your humor inspired spin on issues we all can relate to. You are very inspiring and I will look forward to keeping up with you. And it never gets easier to ask for help!! Thanks to everyone for sharing.

  17. mur says:

    Asking for help is very difficult for me too. I am here at Disney with my boys, and have brought along the ‘CHAIR’…the hardest thing for me is having to make others wait while I get boarded on the bus. First thing I notice is the bus shimming down lower to the curb, then the driver pushes some magic button and this ‘contraption’ folds out an inclined platform, allowing my oldest to ‘roll’ me up…while my youngest starts humming some ‘Darth Vadar Emperor’ type music…(he’s a lil’ stinker). I didn’t realize how ‘prideful’ I am. I will try to be better at accepting help. I was able to have a nice time with my boys, and my ankles did not swell up like they use to. So, I am grateful I swallowed my pride, dealt with the chair and I am now hopeful for more vacations. Thanks RA guy for your sharing. You and the others have really given me the encouragement to ‘keep on keeping on’. May God bless you all!
    Love,
    Mur

  18. betsy says:

    oh, yeah, i know this feeling so well! in fact, 2 of my boys, age 22 and 26, have decided that if i don’t ask for help, it’s their role in life to lecture me! therefore, now i sometimes ask for help…it beats the alternative!

    thanks, RAGuy–you are truly a superhero!

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