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Catherine

Nurse Catherine Asks...

Do you have trouble asking for help when you need it? Do you turn it down when help is offered? Many people have difficulties asking for help, and when you have multiple sclerosis, you might be even more reluctant to do so. You may feel it’s a sign of weakness—after all, you’ve always cut the lawn so why stop now? Or maybe you don’t want to think about the fact that your multiple sclerosis might be progressing. What’s important is that you listen to your body. You may need to learn to make some modifications. What good is it to cut the lawn if afterwards you’re not able to do things you really enjoy, like taking a nighttime stroll with your partner? It’s all about balance and accepting help when you need it. What helps you gain perspective and encourages you to ask for help?

Stewart Answers...

The importance of asking for help when you need it and taking it when it's offered

I always took pride in being self-sufficient, and still do my best to remain independent, but sometimes swallowing my pride and asking for help is the safest, smartest alternative. I am fortunate to be functioning at a high level at this point in my life, but as the disease has gradually impacted my balance and stamina, I’ve become much more cautious and much more conscious of risks and rewards. Could I mow the yard on a North Carolina summer’s day? Probably, but is it worth the risk? If I have a finite amount of energy, do I really want to burn it all behind the mower?

MS One to One Ambassador, Stewart, cleared his driveway of snow, but later realized he should have asked for help.

Several years ago, when we lived in northern Virginia, my wife was traveling and I awoke to three feet of snow. For some, that’s an average winter, but for a guy who grew up in the South, it was stunning. Our house had a rather long driveway that we shared with three other homes and I took it upon myself to dig out our portion. Several hours later, I got it done, but was using the snow shovel as a cane. Later that afternoon, one of the neighbors, who owned a landscaping business, showed up with a Bobcat to clear the rest of the driveway! Although it was gratifying to finish the job, I could have saved a great deal of effort by just asking around to see what resources were available. In retrospect I was home alone and I ask myself what would have happened if I had been injured? Not only did I waste a lot of energy, I placed myself at risk.

MS Ambassador, Stewart’s, dogs in the snow

I find that it’s easier to ask for help from someone I know than from a stranger. Because I am still in a good position, functionally, people who don’t know me seldom realize anything is wrong. I don’t hide the fact that I have MS, but I sometimes feel self-conscious about explaining to a stranger why I need assistance, because I look healthy. It took me a while to understand that many people are more than willing to step in and lend a hand. In many cases, it seems they either didn’t recognize the need or don’t want to imply I’m incapable of doing whatever task is at hand.

Maybe it’s a guy thing, but asking for help is still a challenge for me, but I’m working on it. My mental compromise is making a clear distinction between getting assistance and asking someone else to do it for me. If I ask for someone to help me with a task, I try to stay involved and do what I can as well.

See What Pam Says
Pam Answers...

The importance of asking for help when you need it and taking it when it's offered

I like to do things myself. Just ask my mom!

I am told, some of the first words out of my mouth were, “I do it myself!” I was only 13 months old when my twin brothers were born. (Surprise!) I also have an older brother and sister. My mom’s hands were full! She has told me again and again, that my independent personality was a huge blessing for her.

I am wired to want to do things for myself. Maybe this is why it had been a struggle for me to “bother” someone by asking for help? It finally occurred to me, if I get so much joy from helping and encouraging others, why wouldn’t they feel the same about helping me?

My hesitation to receive help might be rooted in losing a sense of control. I always wanted to come across as independent and strong. When life seems to be spiraling out of control, we clutch onto whatever control we still do have. I’ve learned to be someone who can ask for help and receive help graciously by letting go of my control issues.

So, what changed for me?

It was a hard lesson to learn. But its value continues to reward me.

I believe it’s human nature to desire to help one another. It gives us an opportunity to feel as if we could make a difference and it gives us something tangible to do, to comfort and encourage someone. By turning down any offers of help, or hesitating to ask for help, I recognized that I was potentially robbing my friends and family from those feelings, limiting the joy they might feel by helping me. By relinquishing control, I admitted that I needed help. It was difficult and humbling. It became easier after I realized that people genuinely wanted to help me.

MS One to One Ambassador, Pam, and her family

I can’t tell you how grateful and thankful I felt for each person in my life that helped me along the way. Why did I hold onto the “I can do it myself” attitude for so long? Knowing that there was a whole community supporting each other has made me feel loved and supported. It only fuels my desire to help those in return when it becomes their turn to need a helping hand.

My family and friends are my strongest support. They are a strong safety net that can hold the heaviest of burdens and keep me from falling on the ground.

This has been one of the most humbling life lessons that my MS has taught me. I am very thankful to have learned it early on in my journey.

See What Stewart Says
Catherine

Nurse Catherine Sums It Up

Pam and Stewart both learned through trial and error that accepting help is important, and sometimes necessary. It’s good to know when it’s the right time to push yourself and when you need to save your energy. Only you know what your limits are. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. And in return, you can help your loved ones when they need it.

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