Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Asking For Help With Neuropathy

Today's post from neuropathy.org (see link below) talks about the importance of swallowing your pride, or reluctance or embarassment and just asking for help when you need it. As we all know, neuropathy is by and large an 'invisible' disease and is not immediately apparent to people on the street. If you're worried about getting strange looks if you ask for assistance, a quick explanation (eg 'I've got nerve damage in my feet') should be enough to persuade someone to help you willingly. You'd be surprised how many people will be sympathetic and certainly won't think any less of you for asking. Sometimes with neuropathy, we find ourselves in a position where we've done too much, or just need to take a time out and asking for a little help becomes unavoidable. It may not feel good but asking for help shouldn't be a hurdle.

Asking for Help
By Leslie MacGregor Levine

This column, written by neuropathy support group leaders Leslie MacGregor Levine and Linda McIntosh, aims to provide insight into the questions and concerns people battling neuropathy have. It also addresses—through experiences of people living with neuropathy in the community—the importance of asking questions, seeking answers, and finding the strength to fight back against neuropathy.

Many of us don’t like asking others for help; and, even when we need it most, we have trouble asking for help. Truth is, asking for help makes us feel: vulnerable; like we are losing our independence; like we are imposing on others. However, when dealing with a chronic disease such as neuropathy, asking for help does not mean giving in to the disease; it means finding the strength to fight back, to make daily tasks a little easier, to make time to rest...

We recently spoke with Herb Fine (leader of the Neuropathy Association’s support group in Silver Spring, Maryland and a neuropathy patient) about some of his insights on asking for help. Herb shared this experience of a stranger stepping in to help him even though he did not ask for it: “I found myself driving home one afternoon after running errands and being on my feet most of the morning; I knew I had overdone it, but I believed I could make it home safely. En route home, I was stopped by a policeman who had noticed that my car was weaving in and out of its lane. I explained to the policeman that I was very tired, having over-extended myself despite my medical condition; the policeman was sympathetic and did not give me a ticket. Instead, he followed me to make sure I got home safely.”

We have all been in situations where we needed help; but rather than relying on others to notice we need help or offer assistance—as the policeman did for Herb—we must ask for help. The following are a few strategies for asking for help:

- Make lists of the tasks you need help with (e.g., groceries, babysitting, and changing a light bulb) and of family members and friends who have offered to help. Using these lists, match up the task you need help with the person you believe would be most likely to help;

- State what it is that would be helpful and be specific. People generally want to help…but they need to know exactly what is expected of them and they need advance notice (e.g., Could you please pick up the kids after work? or I am having a bad day…could you take care of dinner?); and

- Acknowledge and thank those who have helped you by sharing with them just how many their efforts are making your day easier. And if you'll need to ask for help again, they will be happy and willing to help out.

Neuropathy limits our stamina and ability to perform tasks that we once considered routine or even effortless. Accepting that to live life to the fullest extent possible and to minimize stress (which can worsen our symptoms), asking our family members and friends for help is key. There will always be people who cannot deal with our illness or offer support; in time, they may come around. Asking for help allows our family members and friends to be supportive and not feel powerless in the face of our health challenges.


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