How to Get the Right Kind of Support

I hate asking for help. Not the kind of help that I need when I download too many files to my desktop and my computer can barely function, or help moving heavy furniture, or taking out the trash. I struggle asking for help achieving my deeper needs and desires.

When hearing stories of my childhood, I am often told of how I learned to walk at just 10 months, and whenever we went out in public, I kicked and squirmed until I was set free. I wanted to be out and about; exploring and roaming on my own! That adventurous, independent spirit has stuck with me my entire life. I don’t mind asking for help with unpleasant tasks, but when it comes down to it, I want to know I can make it on my own. It feels essential to my self worth, that I would be able to survive in the somewhat unlikely chance that I was stranded alone in the wilderness in a foreign land. Perhaps this comes from my obsession with adventure stories, or my desires to travel around the world as a solo female (read: Amazonian Queen), but wherever the root of that need comes from, it has tailed me my entire life.

It is strange that this desire to “survive”,actually goes against, what should be, my natural survival instincts. We need other people, both on a personal level and as part of a greater community. I know that getting love, support, and connection from close relationships is incredibly important to my emotional well-being and sanity, and I also have a strong desire to stay connected to my community.

Yet, for some reason it still goes against my nature to ask for the kind of support I need most. I want my friends and family to either provide the right support through psychic knowledge, or not at all. Asking for the “real” kind of help, makes me feel vulnerable and afraid, which can increase symptoms of illness and fatigue.  However, showing that vulnerability, when it is well received, deepens the relationship for both people involved and creates a sense of empowerment; for me, for knowing and asking for what I need, and for my supporter, for finally being able to help in a way that is well…actually helpful.

Here are some tips that have aided me in learning to ask for support, I hope they help you as well!

  • Ask the Right Person. I know you felt a sparking connection with that guy you met at the cocktail bar, but as you lucidly tell him how no one understands your problems and think he is the one to make you feel better, he will immediately begin looking for ways to slip away unseen. We want to be there for the people we love, but being a supporter involves a lot of emotional commitment. It will only make you feel more vulnerable if you ask someone for help and they reject you. This can be avoided by choosing the relationships that are already built on a foundation of trust, love, and support. Find the people already in your corner, and they will be glad you asked.
  • Figure out what you need. Sometimes, I think I want help with a task or decision, but what I really need is someone to sit and listen to me while making sympathetic gestures and sounds. Before you ask for help, it is important to figure out exactly what you will ask for, or you will both end up feeling confused. For example, do you need help with cooking?  Housework? Office workload? Child care? Massages (always)? Or just someone to listen and not try to solve the problems they can’t really understand.  This can often be the hardest one to ask for, as it is strictly emotional support, and as a woman, men often have a hard time grasping this one. Write down what you will ask for before you begin the conversation with your supporter, and be very specific.
  • Ask Directly. This is no time to rely on your ESP and hope your friend or partner can figure out what you are trying to say. They have no idea what living with CFS is like. You need to explain it to them, and be direct in your requests. Most of the time your loved ones are just confused at your erratic symptoms and don’t know how to help. They will not think you are being too forward or rude, they will be happy that they finally have a way to help.
  • Show Appreciation. Maybe your ‘dinner’ turned out to be a dry, chewy chunk of meat, or the office administrator did not edit the copy to your standards. That sort of thing happens.  Show your GENUINE appreciation for the effort they have put in. Positive reinforcement is more effective than negative reinforcement, so if they feel that what they are doing is appreciated and helpful, they will continue to offer help and support and your relationship will continue to grow.
  • Give Feedback. If appropriate, you can give some feedback, (‘honey, maybe next time cook the pot roast for half the time’, or ‘you’re attention to detail is great, and you need to focus more on punctuation and your use of commas’). Remember that not everything needs to be perfect or as you would have done it. Having something done well at 80% is better than having something not done at all at 100%. Giving constructive and positive feedback can help build trust and open lines of communication!

Do you have trouble asking for help? How do you get the support you need?

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11 thoughts on “How to Get the Right Kind of Support

  1. I really relate to your adventurous, independent spirit! I also found it really difficult to ask for help when I was first ill. However it was a great learning for me to find out how much you can deepen a relationship by being willing to accept help! It can be a gift to allow people to act on their love!

    I love your tips, I would add one more though: don’t take it to heart when people can offer the help that you need. We take responsibility for our needs by asking for help if we need it, others must be free to take responsibility for theirs and say no if its too much for them! perhaps they can offer you some help at another time when they are not so overloaded.

    • That’s a really good point! It’s easy to get caught up in what you need and the kind of support you want from others, but we can’t forget to also give our loving, caring support to the people we are asking!

  2. I can really relate to this post. I must admit, I do prefer the ESP style of obtaining help. You know, it’s that damn thing we call pride. I’m going to have to break down and start doing it exactly like you stated in this post. I hate asking for help. I hate asking for company. I hate asking for anything that has to do with me needing something from someone else, but I will get started on this new method since the ESP method isn’t working so well, then I just get all sad and feel like no one cares. So wish me luck! I really enjoyed this post.:)

  3. Exactly! I’m lucky in that my boyfriend and family are super supportive. It was a learning curve to ask for help with the cleaning and cooking, but once I did it I was so relieved! The sky didn’t fall in, they didn’t hate me or resent me, and the bf is even learning (slowly) how to clean the shower! But I struggle with the asking for company and sympathy. I can’t tell my friends how lonely I am, and how much I miss them, and how much I wish it was the way it was a year ago.

    • Yes definitely a learning curve- that’s great that you have a supportive family and boyfriend! I find that often my friends don’t mean to isolate me, they are only respecting my boundaries- but it can be hard not to take that as rejection. Things like planning a sweatpants and movie night at my apartment have made it easy to be social in a comfortable way! Good luck!

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