Friday, January 4, 2008

Classified Ad

I watched the Celebrity Apprentice show last night. In past Apprentice seasons, Donald Trump was looking for someone to hire into his company. He would take a group of 12 or so people, and hand out what was supposed to be meaningful tasks so that he could judge their suitability for a position in one of his mega-millions corporations. Each week, one of the apprentices, the one whom he deemed to do the worst job on the task, would be sent packing with his signature “You’re fired” statement. However, in Celebrity Apprentice, the B-list celebrities are not jockeying for a job, rather, they are seeing who can raise the most money for a particular charity they have chosen to represent. The person sent packing last night was singled out for not asking for help – help in the form of a donation from a rich contact. Although it is a pretty mind-numbing show and I should have been reading a book instead, that dismissal did make me think about the concept of asking for help.

I’m really bad at asking for help. I’m not sure why but I laid in bed dissecting that thought for a while. Am I afraid of being refused help? Do I worry about burdening someone else with my problems and issues? Have I been programmed as a woman that I should be strong and self-reliant and therefore not need help? Or, am I afraid that I will be seen as weak if I ask for assistance? I never arrived at a conclusion, but I do believe that I have become even more reluctant to ask for help since adopting my children with significant disabilities. And, the thing is, those adoptions have put me in a position to need help more often.

While trying to make sense of all this, I remembered a comment that Brooke’s Mom made on my blog post about isolation. She said “I never want to admit [I feel isolated] because I feel people who don't really understand will "blame" Brooke; I can not live with that thought so I just keep my mouth shut.” Somewhere in that comment is the reason why I am so uncomfortable asking for help. People who don’t understand why I freely chose to adopt children with significant physical, mental and emotional disabilities (which is at least 85% of the people I know), might feel the need to say “I told you so” if I admitted I needed and asked for help. They might blame my children for putting me in a position of needing help. And like Brooke’s Mom, I couldn’t live with that. But, by worrying about what people will think, am I doing a disservice to myself and my children?

If I truly need help, I shouldn’t be afraid to ask for it. At the same time, if my request is refused, I need to learn to accept that gracefully and not take it personally. My life would just be so much easier if people would figure out for themselves the type of help I needed and offered before I could ask! (Please know that the last statement was made sarcastically, and I don’t expect people to read my mind or figure out my needs.) .

I need some help now – help to figure out how to ask for help. Any ideas?


mommy~dearest said...

Ooooh...this is an area that I have no advice on. I'm just commenting to let you know that you're not alone.

Being the "black sheep" of my family, it has been very difficult to ever ask for help. I felt the need to have to prove myself. Regarding my kids, I spend so much time trying to explain Jaysen's disability, that I'm afraid if I ask for help, people will misinterpret it and throw out the ol' "oh, NOW you want my (insert assistance request here)?

I also suppose it would depend on who you were asking for help, and what kind of help you need?

For what it's worth...let me know if I can help! :)

Ashley's Mom said...

You already have just by responding and letting me know you understand!


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing your insight. It has never occurred to me the dilemma that this situation places you in. It certainly highlights the need to "walk a mile in my shoes". I know I will think aboout this post for quite some time. With helping and being helped, situations vary, people vary, even circumstances and time of the month/day! Often there is sometimes just a wrong combination, but gee, when someone is actually given an opportunity to help sometimes, it gives such a warm glow.Having said that, I remember my matryed mother spitting through clenched teeth that I" should have known" when she needed help.Managed to avoid that big time with my family.I admire you, but if all the admiration in the world is not getting the help you need, ask.Then wait for all those aforesaid combinations to twist around like a rubix cube! Good luck, know that you are doing a magnificent job, and everybody needs help sometimes. From p.t.

Ashley's Mom said...

Thanks p.t. I am going to try to work on this issue if no other reason than to make sure my children have the help they need. Sometimes that might mean having a well-rested, healthy and happy mom!

Casdok said...

No you are not alone. I also find it difficult to ask for help, to tell people how really hard it is at times, people think i smile because im ok - its just a mask. I suppose i dont want them to realise im not the super woman they think i am. That i am actually just human.
I find the difficult bit trying to fatham out what is the help i need to ask for.

Ashley's Mom said...

Casdok - exactly! I know we seem as superwomen to some people, but even that takes a massive effort as well as a massive toll on us. On of the hardest balances for me is to manage my rheumatoid arthritis while trying to be supermom and do all my children need. You can probably guess who comes out on top in that battle.

MMC said...

I wonder if this is a classic part of being a parent of a child with disabiities. I can see where you're coming from with the thought process of how people might respond to a request for help when you chose to adopt children who are challenged. Well, we tried to tell you. You really should have known better.

But when I stop and think about it, I rarely ask for help either. In fact, only two times come to mind at all. One was when I was eight months pregnant with my youngest, had the worst case of the stomach flu that I ever had and my oldest was about to be released from hospital with her classic "post-ictal psychosis" following a week of uncontrolled seizures. I was afraid I would get kicked or hit in the stomach and the baby would get hurt. The second was within the past month as I now deal with my mother's issues as well as those of my children.

But even then, I find myself 'screaming' for help, not to friends or others, but only to those who administer governmnent services. And it's certainly not like I haven't asked for help before because I didn't think or know that I needed it. So I wonder what it's really all about. What are we really thinking? Or not thinking?

And casdok, your comment about your smile being a mask ... oh yeah, how I can relate to that one!

Ashley's Mom said...

MMC, you're right. I have no problem screaming for help from the various government organizations that I think should be providing services. But, I can't transfer that same request process to friends and family.

Robert Weetman said...

Just a couple of brief thoughts:

1) DO ask.

One of the things I've really liked about person-centred planning is that it gives people a real opportunity to ask. I've seen a good number of situations where those asked said that the reason they hadn't offered help in the past was because they hadn't wanted to seem like they were interfering, or criticising (applies particularly to family).

2) Consider asking for something specific, rather than for 'help'. Even strangers are happy to help with specific, time limited stuff - and it's a good way to find people willing to come closer.

3) Talk often about your dreams and why they are important. Eventually you may meet someone who says "Interesting you should mention [swimming races], because I'm interested in them too, and it just so happens that [I have a space in my coaching schedule]."

4) You don't need to ask everyone for help, but on the other hand don't pretend to everyone that everything is just fine. There's no better way to put people off from offering help than an 'I'm just fine' mask.

Lest this should all come across as patronising let me assure you that I could do with taking my own advice by the way. These are just ideas I've come across that others have found helpful.

Ashley's Mom said...

Thanks Robert! Your suggestions are excellent and I am really going to try to ask more for help when I need it.