Physically fit, good at school. That was me. Before the illness. At that time, I rarely asked for help, but rather I gave it to others, be it bw explaining a lesson not understood to someone, helping an old lady to get on the tram or giving her my seat in the metro, looking after my cousins, etc. In my mind I was helping, but not receiving help. Of course, I sometimes asked others for help. But only occasionally.
However, in a chronic illness you need help, even for basic things, especially when you are not feeling well. Overnight, I found myself needing help to carry my things, put on my coat, go shopping, etc. Accepting to receive the help I needed was a long journey, not always an easy one. I did it in three steps.
1. Acknowledging the need for help
Asking for help requires first of all acknowledging that one needs help. It is a first step, not necessarily a pleasant one, but an indispensable one. Indeed, recognising one’s need for help brings one back to face the disease and its reality. At the beginning of my illness, every time I found myself in a situation that wasn’t a problem for me before, but which now required outside assistance, I would think to myself: “Oh yes, it’s true, I can’t do it anymore. It’s all because I’m sick. That doesn’t feel really good”. Needing help constantly reminded me of what was no longer possible. And it was difficult.
But at the same time, in the first years of my illness, a time during which I wasn’t so well, not asking for help would have meant staying at home all the time, not being able to go to school, having dirty hair all the time – which, it’s true, is less embarrassing when you can’t leave the house anyway…
It’s one thing to need help, it’s another to accept this new position you find yourself in, to receive help and no longer give it (or at least much less or not in the same way as before). Acknowledging my need for help was a lesson in humility because I had to accept that, without others, I would not be able to do it, despite being able to before. At the beginning, this was not necessarily easy, nor was it necessarily nice. But I soon realised that it was the only solution if I wanted to continue doing the things that seemed normal to me before.
Today, compared to the first years of my illness, I am almost completely independent. But having learned to recognise when I need help, I now don’t hesitate to ask for it when I do need it.
2. Asking for specific help
Over the years, I have learned to ask for help, expressing specific needs. Saying to someone “I need help”, without more details, will put them in an uncomfortable situation because they don’t see how to do it. I understood that I had to formulate clearly and make it identifiable what I needed: a presence, a packet of biscuits, to lie in bed, to go to class, etc.
So now I formulate my request for help, saying clearly: “Could you bring me a glass of water please? “Could you help me with my shopping, please? or “Please draw me a sheep”. »
I have to admit that I ask much more of the first two things than the last one. Even if I try to keep a Little Prince’s soul, I must admit that having a sheep is not one of my basic needs.
Still, these requests for help are clear, precise and quantifiable. The person to whom I ask for help can assess whether they have the resources and time to do so and should not feel overwhelmed by a vague or overly general request.
3. Not hesitating to ask for help
This is another lesson that took me a long time to learn. I was always afraid of embarrassing or bothering others when I asked for help. I told myself that they had better things to do or that they didn’t have time. But in fact, I understood that one should not hesitate to ask for help because others never or almost never refuse. If one simply asks, leaving others free to accept, then they are also free to simply refuse. And then you can ask another person very easily.
If the request for help is clear, I believe that the others are generally rather happy to have an opportunity to be of service: they feel useful, and are indeed useful in the help they provide me. In the end, everyone wins. What I think is important, however, is to not ask the same person too often and to dose the amount of help one asks of each person so as not to create weariness or an unhealthy feeling of obligation.
It is an art to learn how to receive the help one needs, whatever one’s situation, but especially in a chronic disease where the needs may be greater, but also evolve with the symptoms and cycles of the illness. It is important to remember that there is no shame in asking for help. In the end, it’s quite simple, really. And when one is not feeling well, one can do so much more with help than what one would do alone. It would be a shame to deprive yourself of such an opportunity!