Giving Help, not Receiving Help

Original Hardaway painting Accept HelpI’m very good at giving help, not receiving help.  I knew that about myself but I didn’t understand how it was impacting me until this hospital stay.

It’s natural for all of us to be good at one thing and not so good at others.  I’ve learned that often our competence and incompetence are mirror images of each other, opposite ends of the same spectrum. In my Gestalt leadership training we called it polarities – two ends of the pole.  Like outspoken and quiet, or detail oriented and big picture – opposites from each other. Giving help, not receiving help.

I’m very practiced at giving help professionally as a teacher, leader, and executive coach.   And certainly I have becoming practiced at giving help personally.

Too good, perhaps.

It’s become an overused competence.

It’s my default behavior.  It’s like I’m sitting at the very end of a see-saw of giving and receiving help.  There is no balance.  When Larry was admitted to the hospital from the ER a case manager asked if I wanted home health help when he went home.  I said “no, probably not.  We’ll see.”

Really?  What was I thinking???

I was thinking I can take care of him. No big deal.  This is just a little more. I should be able to take care of him. I’ve been taking care of him.  Plus I’m uncomfortable about strangers coming in and out of my home.

After two nights of no sleep I had to be told by Larry’s hospital nurse to call friends for help.  Any number of friends would have come but I didn’t think to call anyone.

I have a very well developed competence of giving help, not receiving help.  Plus I have a highly developed competence of being independent.  Maybe the combination is a recipe for a disaster.  Caregivers have a greater risk of getting sick themselves, of developing dementia earlier than non-caregivers.  I don’t want either of those consequences.

I know I have to find balance.  I need to learn to receive, to remember how people who love Larry and me want to be able to give to us.  How we would want to give to our friends or family if they were in our situation.  How much we have given of ourselves to others at different times of our lives.

I know I need to learn how to be a little less independent.  Though it’s served me well through my life, now it’s getting in my way.  I obviously can’t even see when I need help, because I say no when it’s offered.  GRRRRR.

I’ve heard of a yes game, where you have to say yes to whatever is offered, the idea being to open yourself to new things.

Maybe I should try my own version, saying yes to every offer of help that comes my way.

Photo of our local friendsOur great local friend group have offered prayers and help.  I’m going to say yes.  I’ve gotten a bit of a start these last few days as the friends who rescued me in the middle of the night, Pam and Michael Burke on the right in the photo, have asked me to stay at their home while Larry is in the hospital.  They’ve insisted on taking care of me.  I’ve said yes.

I hope I can continue to say yes once this crisis has passed.