asking for help

written by alison

I know some people that can ask for help and they always leave me in total awe. “Look how effortlessly she did that!” I’ll think to myself. “I wish I could do that…”

For a number of reasons, I am one of those that struggles with asking for help. First, it means admitting I don’t know everything and/or am not capable of doing everything — which is like nails on a chalkboard to me. How on earth can I be this super fantabulous person if I’m not 100% capable, 100% of the time?!

Occasionally I get over that silly thought pattern and land in the middle of “I don’t deserve” land. Have you ever been there? It’s the place that you ogle from the outside while thinking you’ll never get in because you simply don’t deserve to be. Because clearly you are less than/incapable of being loved/whatever other lie your internal voice is feeding you at the time.

When I ignore that internal voice, I land at this new spot of uncomfortableness around asking for help — not knowing what to ask for.

I’m sure that if I didn’t take the highway that ran by “I don’t deserve” land, it would be easier to come up with a list of helpful things that my support team could implement. I have no doubt that sometimes I can’t think of a list because I still don’t truly believe I am deserving of the help I am trying to ask for.

I also have no doubt that daily pain makes it tough to come up with helpful or beneficial ideas. Because there are many days where the decision to stay horizontal or go vertical is a really fucking hard decision to make. On those days, I’m not going to easily rattle off “the top 10 things alison monday desperately needs from other humans right now” list. On those days, I communicate in grunts and whimpers in-between hiding my entire body under the covers.

We all have those days, we all have our struggles. And some of those days, some of those struggles are bigger than our ability to ask for help. I’m currently doing my best to accept this instead of adding it to the “proof I’m a failure” column.

The best I can do lately is explain that while I absolutely love being in the kitchen, there are hours or days where I would do anything to have food just appear in front of my face. So I think, “good job, ask someone to help with making meals.” And then I realize that my vegetarian elimination diet means that unless I’m asking someone to slice an apple and douse it in Trader Joe’s Raw Crunchy Almond Butter, I’m asking them to spend hours making food that they are unfamiliar with. I’m also putting my health in their hands by hoping they know what is approved and not approved by my doctors for consumption. That is like a backhanded compliment – it’s asking for help by practically setting them up for misery.

Other times I find myself wanting to simply cry my way through my thoughts to someone face-to-face. And then the UPS guy puts the box on the porch ‘incorrectly’ and suddenly I want to go office space on that box and his face. (I’m still not sure if the rage is the chronic pain, the elimination diet, my Irish heritage or all of the above.) The last thing I want to do is ask for a buddy that ends up being my own personal punching bag. (Not literal, but any sort of rage taken out on a supporter is not a good idea.)

The thing is, when you are still learning the skill of asking for help, your brain isn’t always the most innovative. So my small suggestions, that feel like booby traps, are usually the best I can muster.

Earlier this week, I was asked if “help” could take the form of dictating instead of typing something I owed the other person. The idea NEVER would have occurred to me but was so helpful. Not only can I talk, but it means I can take a screen break, close my eyes AND not have the task lingering on my “need to get done” list.

And that act of kindness inspired me. I was able to ask my best friend to help me explain my delayed response time to clients. Because the dialog in my head went something like this — “My inbox is stressing me the fuck out. I should do something about that. I wonder if anyone can reply to my clients. No, I have to because I have to do the work. Should I just hire a temp contractor to knock all of these tasks out? How much will that cost? How many more emails have come in since I started panicking about this? Can I just close my eyes and make it go away? What would make me not feel like a total dickwad for not replying as fast as I normally do? Ooooh! I know! One time someone told me to explain that I got their message but hadn’t gotten to the work yet. Wait, what would I say? Do I explain the morphine? What should the subject line be? Omg, is this yet another email that people don’t need to get? I need help writing this.” Within the hour we had emailed all clients that needed to know about the delay. Within one more hour, 90% had written back thanking me for the email. Amazing how that works.

The moral of the story is — be patient with those that suck at asking for help. It might even be the most helpful for you to bring ideas or suggestions for ways you can and want to help. Because not only are you giving your friend the chance to not figure something out, but you’re also giving them some possibility they might not have realized existed.