Last month, after putting it off for over a year, I had hip surgery to repair some serious damage in my left hip. It turns out that even the smallest things, like getting myself a glass of water, are almost impossible to do alone post-op. The doctors told me this would be the case but I didn't believe them until I woke up in extreme pain after the surgery.
As someone who has lived alone for years and prides herself on self-sufficiency – it has been a rough few weeks. I want to be able to do everything myself and do it my way.
Learning to Ask for Help
Asking for help has always been hard for me. Maybe it's the fear of surrendering control over a situation or the fact that I might not be able reciprocate the gesture right away and will feel indebted. This week I have had no choice but to pick up the phone and ask for help. Ask a friend to bring me water, to lift my legs, to brush my hair, to just sit there and distract me from the pain.
Here's another thing – I'm not in a cast. My stitches are minimal and currently hidden under sweatpants. Overall, I don't have many things that we associate with illness. People keep telling me how "normal" I look — "rested," even. They sit on my bed not realizing that the small movement of the mattress makes me wince in pain. It has been hard for me to ask for help because the pain I feel cannot be easily seen.
It makes me wonder about those with chronic illnesses who can't point to a spot and say "See, this is where I hurt." How can we empathize with people and make them feel more comfortable asking for help? We all have invisible wounds that affect us at some point in our lives. Why do we need battle wounds to show that we are deserving of assistance?
What I Learned
If I am right, I think it is very difficult for most of us to admit that we might need help. What I have learned this week is that most people actually enjoy helping others and are more than happy to offer assistance. People are constantly checking in on me and for that I am extremely grateful. When I have been sitting here shaking with pain I have not felt judged once. I have only felt love and compassion from my friends.
So, the purpose of this article is: ask for help when you need it. Offer help when you can. With a greater sense of empathy, the fear of asking for help can be diminished with a shared understanding that at some point we will all need help. I'm thinking that might be the answer. Or at least one of them.