Help (Not) Wanted
A few weeks ago, I was in the midst of a knock-down, drag out Migraine and I was not winning the battle. I hadn’t left the apartment in four days. I could really use a trip to the grocery store, stock up on some meds at the pharmacy, and realistically I needed to go to the ER. It was time to throw in the towel and admit defeat. But I couldn’t accomplish any of these tasks by myself.
I have an amazing network of family and friends who offer all the time to help out whenever I need it. But I have a really hard time asking. I’ve always been pretty independent, but the Migraines force me to rely on others. In this state, I can’t drive and I shouldn’t make big decisions on my own. Walking three blocks to the store or pharmacy is completely out of the question.
I just want my long-time boyfriend to take care of me. For him to stay home from work, make me soup and tell me when it’s time to take the next shot of DHE. I want him to decide for me when we should put me out of my misery and take me to the ER to try to break the cycle. He can translate for me when I’m in too much pain to describe what I need. With him, I don’t have to put on a brave face.
Expecting him to be a chauffeur, interpreter, nurse and pharmacist is unrealistic. He has a demanding job, works long hours and frequently travels. He has deadlines and important clients. I remember those days. It’s a full-time job for ME to take care of myself, so it’s got to be taxing on him to do double duty.
Unfortunately, this scenario plays out too often in my house. Knowing that he always wants to be there for me, I try to be aware of when I really need HIM or when I can farm out some of these duties to others. But I’m not good at it. In my mind, my friends have better things to do. They have babies, or it’s a time suck on them or I feel like a burden. They work hard too. Normally a social person, I also feel like I have to entertain people when they come to my house, but I can’t even remember to offer them a drink when I’m like this. Honestly, I don’t want anyone to see me like this. I usually haven’t showered in days and I look like death.
But my friends don’t care. My parents will still drop everything to help their 32-year-old daughter, who they’ve seen in this condition hundreds of times. Still, I feel like there’s nothing anyone can do to help me. Sleep is my true respite, which doesn’t require an extra set of hands. However, if I think about it, just a grocery store run is a tremendous help. Those who care about me truly want to contribute to my recovery, even if it’s just to pick up some medication.
I recognize that I don’t ask for help often enough. A primary caretaker can get burned out quickly with any chronic patient. By dispersing the load in the rough times, I can show my boyfriend that I appreciate what he does for me. It will also help me from feeling isolated when I let others stop by for a visit or by responding to a text from a concerned friend. I’m learning that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Asking for help is being considerate of those who care and worry about you.
I’ve decided that coming up with an Action Plan would help me in these times when I barely have enough energy to send a text.
- Who is available to help me? Ask in advance if I can call on them when the Migraines are severe.
- What tasks are they willing to help with? Grocery store, pharmacy, hospital? Each has a different time commitment.
- How often are they comfortable helping? Once a week? Once a month? Once a year?
- Compile this info with contact numbers to give to my boyfriend so that he can help me coordinate if I need it.
- For ER visits, I will bring a pre-printed list of all medications, doctors names, and a requested treatment plan so that I don’t feel lost without my translator/ boyfriend.
- Remember to send my helpers thank you notes or small gifts every once in a while to show my appreciation.
- Lastly, get over whatever issues I have about not wanting to ask for help. If one of my loved ones were in the same situation I would want to do whatever I could to help out.
For my own sanity and that of those who love me, I resolve to put this plan into action in the New Year.
How do you handle asking for help? Are there ways to improve it? What can you do to keep your caretakers from getting burned out? Share your tips or advice.