Why do I always say “Yes I’m fine; I don’t need help; I can do it myself?”
I love helping others, and I have been for as long as I can remember. Growing up in The Salvation Army, with parents and grandparents as Salvation Army Officers (Ministers of Religion), service was all I knew. I took this to a new level in my teenage years, running youth groups and bands, collecting donations on the streets, helping siblings and counselling anyone in need. It was expected; it didn’t feel busy or strange; it was our ‘normal’, it was just what we did.
But with this ingrained service attitude (note I do not think this is all bad, but there is merit in balance), accepting help is not a strength I inherited. I’ve always seen it as my job to help others, provide for my family, volunteer, lead, give more than is expected at work, to be strong enough to do it all myself, no matter the obstacle.
However, as my body began to let me down, I could not keep up with my own expectations. For my family, my willingness to provide and to serve was intense, and always at 100%. I wanted to somewhat fake it to ensure my service would not wane (hide the pain, cover up the tremors, power on).
I did have some wins.
My wife was challenging me to lower my expectations and standards. I must admit I saw this as a bad thing, and it was the headline in many of our disagreements over the years. Small things she encouraged; maybe say no to doing that extra volunteer gig (note already doing 3-4 anyways), leave the dishes in the sink and wash them later (not while people are still eating), a reminder that we don’t live in a hotel and the cleaning regime can be backed off just a little (i.e. instead of mopping and vacuum five days per week, how about we do it together on a specific day for a shorter period). That my 10-12 hour workdays 5-6 days per week are not a healthy work-life balance.
All I knew was flat out, but flat led to burnout, and physically every few years, my body totally shut down. While I understood this theoretically and encouraged others to practice balance, I had no intention to.
I pretended. I pushed. I hid the pain.
I am more of a …
- It’s Okay
- She’ll be right
- No, I can do it myself
- My pain is not that bad.
- Yes, I can walk the extra few KMs.
- I’m not hurting.
- I don’t need help.
- Yes, I’m sure I can do this.
- Please don’t help me stand; I can do it myself.
- I love helping my family, they are my world.
- I love mentoring teams, they are our future leaders.
- I love researching and gaining knowledge, whatever the topic, reason or challenge.
- I love to be busy; the crazy, never sit still kind of busy.
I don’t like to stop.
If I reflect on the past seven years, battling with mobility issues (whatever label you want to put on it). I have been a stubborn arse. I run run run; my body collapses; I run run run; my body collapses. This has happened six times so far, with many, many near misses that I have ‘soldiered on’ despite the leg tremor, increased pain, and the addition of a walking stick.
I don’t think my busy lifestyle is the cause of my functional neurological disorder; chronic pain is. However, my unwillingness to rest, recover and pause affects my recovery; my reluctance to rest, recover, and pause extends the duration of my recovery.
I think the stinger with this current flair-up and hospital stay is that I was slowing down; I had listened and saved some tasks for another day; I took time out of my busy schedule for self-reflection and learning. I tried this impossible balance of exercise, rest, and recreation that my body needed to function. However, it still wasn’t quite right.
I needed to ask for help today. I fell in the hospital and was stuck on the floor; I was vulnerable, stuck, and embarrassed. I don’t know how to feel about this, but I do know that I need to learn to say yes, please and thank you more. Saying yes, please, and thank you more will make my life easier. More importantly, it enables my family to hold and show they care tangibly without me pushing them away.
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