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Asking for, and Accepting Help

By Stephanie Buxhoeveden, RN, MSCN—December 10, 2015

Accepting help is not something I’m good at, but I excel at being stubborn! I am fortunate to have people in my life who would drop everything and lend me a hand, the only problem is that I never let them. I’m a fiercely independent spirit and it crushes me to make excuses, cancel plans, or ask for help. However, as you all know, when you have MS there are times when you need to put your health above your pride. MS has been a humbling experience for me. No matter how relentlessly I tried to deny its presence, or to push through the pain it always seems to be stronger then my willpower. I finally began to see how self-defeating it was to suffer health consequences out of sheer stubbornness.

I get frustrated easily when I find myself vulnerable or in need of assistance. This can spiral and lead to a complete breakdown in communication with those around me. MS has taught me that spouses are not, in fact, mind readers and that you do need to actively communicate with them…I know, shocking! But I’ve found that the most challenging part about communicating my needs (aside from the fact that I don’t want to), is that they change from day-to-day! This is just as frustrating for him because unless I explicitly tell him how I’m feeling, and what I need help with each day, he is stuck trying to guess and anticipate my ever-changing needs. He always rushes to my aid whenever I work up the courage to ask, and helping out makes him feel good because he cares about me. The problem is that it makes me feel inadequate and weak to need help opening a jar or with taking out the trash. However, I’ve learned that when I refuse his help and stubbornly insist on struggling on my own, or if I work myself into the ground, it makes him feel inadequate. I’m starting to see that when I let go of my feelings of inadequacy and my fear of showing weakness, I get a stronger relationship and partnership in return. Luckily my husband is very patient! In fact, the only time he yells is when he sees me not taking care of myself or refusing help. This used to baffle me because he loves my independent spirit and strong will (most of the time)! Then I realized that when I choose to neglect myself, I’m really choosing to neglect our partnership. The days of pain and fatigue that follow my “overdoing it” effect us both, and impact both of our lives.

In addition to my husband, my friends and other family members are the key to my success. They often ask what they can do to help, but more often then not I don’t really know what to ask for in the moment. I’ve heard similar feelings from other people with MS, or even from families going through a hardship. People always offer assistance, or say “let me know if there’s anything I can do to help” but we hardly ever have a meaningful, productive response at the ready. Then, inevitably, we come up with an idea later after the moment has passed. Well, why not have a few ideas at the ready? Next time someone throws out a “let me know if I can do anything to help” I’ll have a few suggestions in my back pocket. Can you pick me up from my MRI? Do you have any suggestions for a good book to read during my infusions? Are you willing to pick up a few items for me at Costco the next time you go (I love Costco, but it’s an exhausting errand!)?

I still have a lot to learn, but I’m starting to feel like I’m on the right track. Does anyone else struggle with asking for or accepting help?

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by MULTIPLESCLEROSIS.NET
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length 
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