I’m so glad that this regular reader of my blog has asked this question, partially because she ACTUALLY asked and partially because it’s brilliant.
How DO you ask for help, when you’ve been self-sufficient and looking after yourself for 60yrs?
But at the same time helping others and helping your community?
Here is her full question:
I have a subject you might want to write about, it’s how to ask for and to receive help. You are the first person I am asking for help. My husband will go home from the hospital tomorrow. As you know he will need my close attention for several weeks as he recovers from 7 broken ribs and a broken wrist and we need to avoid pneumonia by walking and getting him to breath as deeply as possible. I am not working so I am available 24/7. Still it is a lot to cook, clean, care for him around the clock and try not to worry about money.
I have a couple of communities of people that he and I are involved in, but not many close friends. I have always been self sufficient and since I am a person who has devoted myself to my family and I recharge by being alone, I have not had to ask for help much. I do enjoy cooperation and I do help other people when ever I can, but again I am not a really social person.
So now I will need help and I want to receive it. I feel fear about it. I fear being viewed as thoughtless, inconsiderate or something else undesirable because I ask for something wrong or make an assumption somehow, or put someone out and they feel uncomfortable. I can’t be responsible for other people’s responses, but I am not perfect either and may make mistakes.
I don’t know what is okay to ask for. Food seems okay, but there are four people in my house (my husband and I, my 32 yr old son and my 11 year old granddaughter). Should I just suggest a pot of soup? Not everyone knows there are four people to feed, do I have to say it or just be grateful for whatever they bring to share? How do I handle this when they volunteer to bring food or when I want to ask for them to cook something?
What work should I do and leave for others to do while I sit with and care for my husband; mow the lawn, watering my flower pots and garden, cook, clean the bathroom, do the dishes? I feel caring for him myself is my top work priority. Seems icky to ask someone else to clean the bathroom. Yes, my son will do some of the housework, but his idea of keeping house is a lot different than mine. I am thinking of asking my son to take on keeping track of the meds and doing most of the walking with him (my husband cannot fall with his ribs broken). My husband is walking fairly well, but we must be careful.
I get embarrassed if my house is dirty and cluttered when people come, and it is not an easy house to keep clean because it is over crowded, cluttered and needs new paint and flooring in the kitchen and bath so it looks dirty easily. I feel the state of the house reflects on me. How can I get myself not to feel ashamed or embarrassed?
Could you please give me some advice? Maybe your advice could help others as well and maybe even you your self.
The Gift Of Asking
Lovely, lovely J, from your posts, and questions I know that you help out the community a lot. But you have not been giving your community the gift of a chance to help you! This is not fair to them.
Think about it this way, by helping you they get:
- A guilt free chance of asking you for help in future.
- Or asking someone else in the world of ‘what comes around goes around’.
- The satisfaction of knowing that they have a purpose and did something useful.
- The opportunity to get closer to you
Not Being Really Social
Don’t be daft – you built up a friendship with me over the internet having not even met me! We are all social, in our own ways.
I know a lovely mummy blogger who believes she is not social (in fact several will now be wondering if I’m talking about them, as there are so many!). But she is ‘social’. Maybe she doesn’t go out lots, but has an active community online. Maybe she is nervous and shy, but nervous and shy people make good friends.
In fact the other day I purposely called my ‘not social’ brother, because he is just that – quiet, reflective and a listener. I’m not sure that he actually said much, but do you know what; talking is very over-rated!
Being Judged For Asking
People who are nervous of asking for help will probably judge you. In fact 50% of the world will always be judging you negatively.
Focus on the ones who wont be upset about it, and who will be chuffed by it – look at me, despite being up to my eyeballs, I’m so chuffed you asked, that I have written a blog post immediately for you.
The people who would judge you are frankly pants (hmm I think pants are trousers in american – I mean knickers!). Smack your hand every time your worry about them, because they are not worth it!
It is not something to be proud of that you are capable of doing everything! It’s not good for you!
Yes, there are people who I feel ask too much. It’s when they ask, and then don’t make any changes to their lives that I get tired of it. Or when they moan, but don’t want to do anything about it. This is not what you are doing; you have a specific reason, specific problem, and need specific help. It’s not like you are intending on throwing him off the roof once he is better so that you can do it all again!
Who To Ask and What To Ask For
Keep an open mind on who to ask for help. And regularly journal how you are feeling so that you can work out what the problem actually is.
For example, asking me is a perfect way to ask for help over the internet. Keep doing that – we might not be able to offer practical assistance, but if we can reduce your emotional burden it will all go a lot more easily. Plus you can ask for healing and prayers, which have been proved to help massively.
YOUR SON – it’s not helping him to let him get away with not understanding what you mean about housework. He is a grown man. So sit down and have a think about it and write very specific lists. When things are specific about what to do and what the end result should be, he should be able to get it. Yes, it is ideal to work to his strengths, but don’t let him get away with that male excuse of ‘oh but I’m not really any good at it’! If you think that he will absolutely keep your husband from falling, especially as he is stronger than you, then this is a good job for him. However, the role of carer and the forethought required is difficult; if he doesn’t have that skill then he will have to do the practical things.
Your grand daughter – I ran a whole household (3 brothers 20yrs older than me) when I was 10yrs old and cared for my sick mum; this was too much, but do not underestimate the self-esteem and experience she can gain from doing really helpful things around the house. She can cook, she can tidy, she can clean, and she can help your husband keep his spirits up.
Your community: I would ask for rest bite – times when people come to watch over your husband for an hour every week so that you get some time to YOURSELF. Otherwise you will only make matters worse by getting sick yourself! It is also wise to find new friends at any time of life, in fact it’s something I’ve been focussing on for the last 6 months and I can tell you it’s been a wonderful boon to me.
Food – a great idea. All you need to say is that if anyone could possible help in the next few weeks, you could really do with some soups, casseroles, stews, pies etc for ‘My family and myself’ – at that point they should realise that they are making for more than 2 people and give you a bit more. Weren’t you involved in a local food community? Is there a chance that there are people growing lovely vegetables and fruit that they could bring round for your son and grand daughter to cook?
Yes, you will have to reduce your requirements of what gets done and how often. Again see the ‘pants’ comment above for anyone who would dare to judge your house whilst you are nursing your husband.
Here is a list to give you an idea:
Bathrooms – once per week.
Kitchen worktops – every day. Rest of kitchen – once per week.
Hoovering – if you don’t have animals like mine, I bet you can just hoover half the house every other week.
Dust – seriously, dust just comes back! It doesn’t need doing every week.
Bedrooms – definitely can get away with once a month at a pinch.
But you do have the right to space. You do have the right to ask your son and grand-daughter to keep their stuff in their space. For example, you could ask that the main ‘visiting’ areas are on a daily basis cleared of ‘stuff’; the hallway and kitchen perhaps?
Tackle the decluttering later – I can help you with that too!
Just so you know you are not the only one, I have written about asking for help before. These posts might help:
Be careful the types of people you ask for help, they aren’t all ‘ideal’.
A time when I needed a mate to help brainstorm a problem and reduce my stress.
A time when I had to ask for help from in-laws and strangers
A time when I felt guilty about asking for help
I’m so glad and touched you asked! Give other people that chance to help you and get close to you. Remember:
No man is an island! (Or woman for that matter!).
To my readers: do you have any tips or similar experiences that you can share with J?
18 thoughts on “Problem Corner – How to ask for help when you have been self-sufficient?”
Hi, a brilliant question and brilliant answer Lisa, this is an issue I have struggled with myself VERY recently, and I know many fellow Army wives struggle with ‘coping with it all’ but then wondering how to ask for help when they need to. The main thing I found which worked for me, was to be as open as I could about my emotions at the time. You explain clearly above that you feel sensitive about how the house looks, and worried about asking for a meal for 4, so this is the information which I would try to convey to your friends, not just what you need, but why you need it, and that you are feeling vulnerable at the moment but find it difficult to ask for help. Once they understand the emotions you are feeling, they will be clearer about what you need and why you need it, and the help with hopefully come flooding in. As Lisa says, they will be benefitting from the wonderful feeling of helping you, and they will gain from your help further down the line.
It takes a lot of strength to admit when you don’t feel ‘strong’, and your friends will appreciate your honesty, because they will then feel they can be honest to you when they are in a similar situation. As I said, I recently felt this way myself, and I had to find the confidence to express my fears and emotions, to the people I needed help from so that they UNDERSTOOD how important that help was to me, that it wasn’t just ‘a favour’ which I may or may not appreciate, but rather a necessity, which I would be forever grateful for receiving.
Also, a last point, be careful of your expectations of your self (and other people), this is not a time for worrying too much about the house, or exactly what you are eating, or the clutter etc etc , it is a time for recognising what a great job you are all doing under challenging circumstances, be gentle with yourself, and proud of yourself for how well you are doing, and that you have had the good sense to ask for help.
Well done, I hope your husband gets well speedily, I will be thinking of you. Cat x
You are so right about the expectations @Cat – so often the ones we don’t expect are wonderful, and the ones that we do expect support from let us down.
Thank you Lisa and Cat for your time, wisdom and kindness. The fact that Lisa dropped everything to give me support was a great kindness to me and uplifted my courage. I decided to stop thinking negative stuff. I hit on a bright idea about asking about food. I decided to just “pretend I am talking to my sister”, and I got to try it out when a new friend offered to bring us dinner. I just pretended and the words came out easily. She brought dinner today and offered to help do more. I actually asked her husband to bring much needed compost for my garden which will make a huge difference to how my garden produces this year and my husband can’t get it done. It’s actually amazing! I will say that I did spend time cleaning my house while my husband slept, but I feel better now that it is clean. BTW my son mowed the lawn, made lunch and helped care for Dave. My granddaughter watered pots and plants in the garden and picked up the living room where Dave’s hospital bed was coming into. My granddaughter picked a rose some lavender and balanced some home picked strawberries on top. She tied a note with a ribbon of pink yarn, drew a pink flower on it and the note said, “Get Well Soon, or if that hurts take as long as you like. Raven (She’s 11). So I am feeling more courage and I am asking without pressuring myself so much. Thank you for the great council and emotional support. I got a lot out of the blog and the links you added. BTW Dave is improving, will keep you posted. 🙂
What a brilliant idea @Janis to pretend you are asking your sister. I think in many ways that this could be a great thing for your loved ones, and I wonder if you opening up to the community could actually lead to a few opportunities for yourself as well.
Well done! Great to hear how well you are doing and that “asking your sister” is working, great idea! Raven’s note is amazing, spot on! Cat xx
Thanks much Cat. I appreciate the encouragement. 🙂 Now I am having to deal with my husband’s healing process at home and it is scaring me out of my wits. During this I am receiving help and some admonishmentish comments (such as me hovering and it’s all normal for the condition). He developed a fever last night and had difficulty breathing. We are trying to avoid pneumonia so this is vastly unwelcome from my perspective. Though I was able to get a hold of a doctor who said as long as this, this, this happens it is fairly normal and not this this this meaning disaster. My sons helped and I did what was needed to help him improve, He pulled through and was better this morning. I have felt panic all day and cried a few times. This is hard. I do fear making the “wrong” choice or delaying too long to get help so I am asking for help on making decisions. There are so many choices to make. I am learning a lot and am doing my best to continue to trust that everything that is happening is perfect for him and for us. Feeling trust makes it much easier because the Universe is unfolding as it should and it is not all on my shoulders; Plus I do believe in and have known for myself the deep love of God that saturates every speck of his creation. I am taking one step at a time. Thankfully my husband is doing better. Thanks for your support and encouragement. 🙂
@Janis anytime just pop me a facebook message and I will send you some Reiki to help you deal with everything. I have absolutely no doubt in your ability to manage this, maybe you need to keep reminding yourself of how wonderful you are – pick a lovely mantra like ‘I know I have everything I need within me to help my husband heal’ and repeat it to yourself often.
Great idea Lisa, you are doing wonderfully Janis, if you ever feel self-critical please don’t allow yourself to, it is not helpful at all! Saying something like Lisa’s suggestion is perfect, my favourite is “I am doing my best, and that is just fine…”. Value yourself, don’t aim for perfection, its impossible! You are doing great, keep trusting, and keep going….hugs xxx
Just wanted to mention, I have a young mum ‘Caroline’ on my blog who really needs some encouragement and support at the moment, if anyone has the time to pop across? Hope it’s ok to ask Lisa?? I don’t want her to feel she is alone and I think she would love your blog. Thanks, Cat x http://www.staycalmandcontent.com/blog
@cat1978 sorry I haven’t managed to pop over yet Cat, I hope to in the next couple of days.
That’s ok, great if you manage to pop over some time. Cat x
“Replacing frustration with gratitude” – that sums it up for me Janis, you are doing so well under difficult circumstances. I will try to remember your phrase when I have times of frustration, which are pretty often at the moment! Keep going, you are doing so well. Cat xx
Update: My husband did develop pneumonia, but we caught it early and between the antibiotics and lots of love and care it receded. He is on narcotics to deal with the pain of 7 broken ribs with 11 breaks and a broken wrist and their are side effects. He is making progress in that his appetite has been improving and he is walking farther, both good signs. I am still prone to feeling scared as new things in his condition crop up. I guess I am just realizing as I write this that part of me doesn’t feel totally confident in his recovery. From all appearances though unless something really drastic crops up he should recover fully. It is just a matter of time and care. Today I am feeling a bit like I wish I could go to the beach as the summer sun is so lovely, but he needs me to stick with him and I want to. It has been 3 weeks now so I am feeling a bit housebound. I do get out in my garden and it is looking quite lovely. I do have times of self doubt, but I give my self a pep talk and feel better, and I am remembering to ask for help. It could take another 5 weeks the Doc says. Have been feeling a bit frustrated today about not getting some things done so please do send me some Reiki Lisa. Thanks so much. Sending love back at ya. I’m remembering it is all a process and everything is perfect as it is. Replacing frustration with gratitude. Thanks for your encouragement. Janis.
@janis sent you both some reiki last night – have a think about how this is helping both of you look at ‘vulnerability’. Totally understand how you feel – I remember the summer when I was 16, I’d just done some big exams, my Dad was still ill from a heart attack and my mum fell over and broke her hip. I pretty much went stir crazy nursing them all summer! At least you wont go out and rebel and start smoking due to it ;o)
Thanks for the mantras. I will try them out. 🙂
Let me know if you need any new ideas for them @Janis
New ideas for them? Do you mean mantras? I welcome all ideas.
This morning I woke up feeling wonderful. I felt I had received guidance during the night, because I felt confident, centered and happy and I have felt that way increasingly all day. I felt more present and not worried which is a big change over night. I felt light hearted today, like skipping through the sun shine :). Also, this morning as I was laying in bed just thinking a bit before I did my meditation I received two ideas for two projects that have been haunting me for months. The ideas were solutions that allow me to get them both done more easily and sooner. I say received because I wasn’t trying to analyze them, it just came to me. I am definitely not feeling vulnerable today. Thank you for sending me the reiki last night. Your efforts made a significant difference for me. I so appreciate your support Lisa and your encouragement Cat. 🙂 XOXOX