Our society promotes that independence as well. The Protestant work ethic which is engrained in our nation’s consciousness dictates that everyone should work long and hard to achieve financial, career and social success. Strength is rewarded; the weak fall to the bottom of the heap. Darwinism confirms it.
Beyond those messages, the broader ideas of feminism have shaped many of us as we came of age. Feminism taught us that women don’t need men to be whole people. Women don’t need to be dependent on men. Women can do anything they set their minds to.
Except when they can’t.
All of us need help at times. When our arms are full, we generally don’t cringe at the idea of someone holding a door for us: We generally appreciate it. But what happens when we need someone to hold that door open for us all the time because our arms are too weak to open heavy doors? What happened to the idea of the independent, able-bodied woman who didn’t need a man (or any other person) to open doors for her?
For many people, the aging process can be scary, and elderly people are downright terrifying. Aside from fears of death, the general fear of the elderly is in part because it is so hard for us to see the decline of those we love. We remember those people as able-bodied providers who took care of us when we were young. They could do anything, or so we thought. And now that they are older, it’s unbelievably hard to watch that role change. For those who are losing their ability to care for themselves, unless they’ve lost their cognitive abilities along the way, it’s a very defeating situation to require so much help.
Most of us accept that the elderly need help despite our discomfort with it. Yet very few of us really imagine that in our twenties we might be disabled and require assistance at a similar level. Asking for help can become a very big challenge. One is still youthful but no longer independent. Suddenly help is necessary for almost everything in life.
For me, during the worst years of my disability, I was unable to go grocery shopping or shopping at all for that matter. I didn’t enter a store for six years. When I finally was able to go back into Whole Foods for a brief trip, it was such an amazing wonderland. I still have weeks when I don’t have the energy to handle a trip through Whole Foods and have to get someone else to do it for me. Even now, after I’ve been in stores again for four years, I still value each trip and see it as such a privilege that I am able to buy groceries for me and my children without physical assistance.
The need for help often extends further for those dealing with chronic or acute illness. Most of us have struggled with a jewelry clasp at some point, but when one’s hands become arthritic, help is necessary any time one wants to wear jewelry. And it goes further. Zipping zippers. Tying shoes. All these seemingly little tasks suddenly require asking for help. When it extends to even more personal things such as getting in and out of the bathtub, asking for help can be truly demoralizing to the person now faced with disability. The disabled individual must surrender their dignity and their independence in order to survive. That’s very difficult to do on an emotional level.
It becomes even harder to ask for help when requests are met with bitterness or when it seems like offers aren’t genuine. Some well-meaning people offer help only to then turn requests for help into means of applying guilt trips. Caring for the disabled can be a taxing job, one that most people don’t knowingly sign up for. It’s not hard to understand how one can run out of patience with helping someone who used to be self-sufficient, but it’s likewise very easy to know why being that person who has to ask for help is just as much of a life challenge.
The best ways to help those who are disabled are with genuine, specific offers. If you’d like to help a friend by listening, then tell them that you’re available whenever they want to call, text, e-mail or Skype. If you want to help by going for groceries, let them know that you go to the grocery store almost every Saturday and are happy to pick up what they need. Specific offers generally are more likely to be accepted than general offers of “if you need something, let me know.” Likewise, if someone asks you for help in a way you just can’t give right now for whatever reason, it’s ok to say no. You have to take care of yourself and your family first before reaching out to others. If you can help them find someone else to assist them, that’s often helpful, though.
Likewise, don’t presume disabled people always need help. Ask before you push someone’s wheelchair without their consent. Ask before you start cleaning someone’s house while visiting. The person may be having a rough day but may feel confident they can take care of the tasks before them tomorrow. Having other people presume they always need help can be demoralizing to those who are disabled.
I’ve also found that higher level help—from spirit guides, angels, and whatever higher sources of power you might believe in—is there, though not always in obvious form. I’ve learned that we often can’t access that help without asking. My spirit guides are always willing to assist me with things that will help in my protection or growth. However, because free will comes into play, they often won’t step in until I explicitly tell them, “I really need your help with this issue.” I have to make the choice to let them help me.
I have always found it so much easier to give than receive. My disability has forced me to surrender to accepting help from others. I still stubbornly try to do things on my own on occasion when I’d be better off asking for help, but I have gotten much better about accepting help when I desperately need it.
© 2014 Green Heart Guidance