I'm Fine: Learning To Ask For Help

Patient Expert

“I’m fine.”

When these two words are a lie, they may be the two most damaging words to my health.  When those around me ask how I’m doing and I do not openly communicate with them, I deny them the chance to lend me help and support.  With these two words, I am not only denying myself potential benefit, but I am bottling up emotion and isolating myself.  I deny the other person the opportunity to be there for me, to know that they are helping.  By repeatedly reinforcing this lie, its possible to create an environment where it becomes more difficult to ask for the help I need.

Need: another word I’ve found difficult to contend with since living with arthritis.  There is much that I need: time, quiet, energy, medication, support, and help.  The sooner I make peace with the idea that I will need much on an ongoing basis, the sooner I can move on to better living.

I need help. Why does this mere combination of words feel so self-defeating?  This statement can easily feel like a sign of weakness.  In the need for improved quality of life, I challenge our thinking.  Let’s instead think that by stating, “I need help,” we could be showing the greatest sign of strength.

By being honest with those around us, we release ourselves of worry.  Opening up this line of communication with friends, family, and even strangers, releases the chronically ill of unnecessary struggle and allows us to move on to the next moment life offers.

As I look forward to the holidays, I am excited by cooking old family recipes and experimenting with the new.  Though cooking is one of my favorite hobbies, it can quickly turn into meltdown status during the holidays when I try to do it all, control every minute, and refuse to let go of my pride.  Uncle Joe might not cut the carrots in the exact same way I do, but they will be cut nonetheless.

If I don’t ask for help, I can tell you what will happen to the purple yam pie I have been looking forward to making since last year.  I will bake the yams, struggle to scrape and mash them with cranky arthritic wrists.  Prepare and press a gluten free almond flour crust into a pan only to have my fingers stiffen into a claw-like shape. Then struggle with a too-heavy bowl, pour the mixture in, and attempt to put the pie in the oven without burning myself because my arms are now exhausted from the process.  You know what this pie will taste like? Struggle and pain.

Or, I could simply set my pride aside, involve a loved one in the joy of cooking, and ask for help.  While I give simple instructions for how to cook and assemble the pie, we will reminisce over long forgotten family tales.  I’ll swirl the creamy mixture together, marveling at the beauty of the colorful ingredients coming together — likely pausing to take photos to post to social media.  Then I’ll ask for someone to place the pie in the oven. You know what this pie will taste like? Joy and happiness.

When I don’t ask for help that I need, I bottle in all my frustration over the process and struggle of doing.  I get upset, and my emotional and physical pain increases.  I can easily create a bad cycle for myself, where I feel the need to prove I can do something – anything.  I struggle alone in my lack of communication.

The other person attempting to lend help struggles too.  They wonder how else they can help and why their offer to help was not accepted.  By denying people the chance to help us, we deny them the opportunity for joy too.

It’s no secret that helping others makes us humans feel good.  In fact, it is proven that philanthropy and volunteering can release those lovely feel-good chemicals in the brain. So this holiday season, I am challenging myself to ask for help, and to allow those around me to help.

How will I ask for help? At the first sign of trouble, I will first remind myself that I do indeed need to seek out help.  Next, I will identify where I can best receive this help. Is it from those immediately around me, or do I need to make a phone call?  Next, I will clearly communicate to the other individual exactly what it is I need, and how they can best help me.  Once the task is done, I will make sure to thank them.  Lastly, I will release myself of any frustration I may have experienced over the need to ask for help.

By learning to ask for help, we give those around us the gift of being helpful and loving.  Maybe most importantly, we give ourselves an easier and more peaceful life.  So this holiday season, let’s spread a little love and peace.

Now, can someone please help me cut a slice of that pie?

See More Helpful Articles:

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Understanding the Lives of People with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Learning to Live with RA: Adapting Your Life Plans