Friday, March 20, 2009

A new kind of spring for me

I was raised to be independent.

To stand on my own two feet, and to never need help and never need anyone.

And never admit I needed help or anyone.

Which is not to say that I never asked for or received help. I did and I do.

But it has become increasingly clear to me that I don't do it enough. Or smartly. I think I've warped the basic concept a bit.

I remember when I was first living with my husband, and he asked me to help him hang up his shirts after he did his laundry.

I looked at him like he had two heads. "Do it yourself," I replied, appalled that he'd even ask. His arms weren't broken.

Years later, we talked about the differences between us in this realm. He said growing up for him, he always asked for help for whatever he needed and there was no guilt or shame in the asking. I explained that I thought it was a sign of weakness for a person to ask for help. Even with shirts or moving.

When B was born, we were overwhelmed. More specifically, I was overwhelmed. I felt like I was treading water in the middle of the Atlantic. I didn't really talk to my husband about it.

We talked about our grief at losing the "healthy perfect child," and our fears for B as he grew up, our fears he wouldn't grow up, but we never talked about the practicalities. All the extra services we'd need and how we would get them, coordinate them, pay for them.

J would try to bring up PT and OT, and I'd shut him down. He's bring up finances and budgets, and how are we going to pay for medical bills and also diapers, and I'd shut him down. What's that bird with their head in the sand? That's me.

Which I have only recently begun to understand. Which is shocking because I didn't realize I was such an avoider of unpleasantness.

When I discovered that about myself, I was stunned. Isn't that funny? It seems odd even now that I'd be surprised about such a glaringly obvious trait. I looked up why people are procrastinators and in short, either they procrastinate because they don't like the feelings associated with the task being avoided, and/or they don't think they are entitled to be happy and want to punish themselves.


I am definitely the former. I hate that feeling of being out of control, which is how you feel when your child is wheeled into surgery, or you stare at thousands of dollars in medical bills, or watch your child play with other kids and wonder. . .

But now I'm really wondering if I'm the latter, too. Which is an odd notion. I love me, don't I? But maybe secretly, I don't. Or not enough. I don't take care of myself. Is that why?

For example, something very frustrating happened recently, when I read a letter (can't give more details). I don't know what happened to my face when I read it, but J saw it, and was instantly all over me asking what was wrong. I told him, eventually, and he comforted me and made me laugh about it.

Which was really a lovely thing.

The unfortunate thing is, if J hadn't been in the room, I never would have told him about the episode. I would have internalized it, and let it eat at me and fester.

Not a very healthy way to live. Or conduct a marriage. Which is sort of very mental, I think.

Another example. Services for B. I don't frankly know if he gets some or not, because he qualifies or not. But I've been the one doing all the care coordination and scheduling and deciding what to do next for what and when. But I've been wondering how or where or who would give B PT/OT for his thumbs.

In the middle of my epiphany that I don't ask for help even when I need to, I received a letter from our county health services asking if we wanted help for B. Well, that's timely, I thought.

I called the number and spoke to a sincere, genuine nurse who works for the county. She sent me the forms and I filled them out. A care coordinator will come and see B, examine him, and figure out what he needs. That person will figure it out. I don't have to. Isn't that incredible? That's a great service to have. It's time now that we utilize it.

The frustrating letter issue: we are consulting an expert, and I'm letting her handle it.

These are not big accomplishments, I realize. But they represent enormous leaps for me. Asking for help from people, even when it's their job and you're paying them to do it, is something that has become foreign to me.

(I think one reason my husband was drawn to me was that I never seemed to need anyone or anything: I did everything on my own. I think it actually caused a [now healed] rift in our relationship when I and he realized (at separate times, of course) that I was not that person all the time).

So I'm admitting the following: I can't handle everything by myself. I can't negotiate the health care system. I can't pay everything right now. I can't process stress in any healthful way. I don't understand health insurance and what is covered and not. I ignore problems with the hope that they disappear. I worry all the time. I don't sleep well. I don't tell anyone everything that is inside my head.

Spring resolutions:
I will learn to ask for help from appropriate resources.
I will tell my husband when something keeps me up at night.
I will learn that asking for help - even from your own hired help - does not make you weak or needy.
I will not ignore issues that need to be addressed in any form.


Robyn said...

Wilber, I don't think that in this or any alternate universe could you ever be weak. You are a rock. Even rocks need help. Would you think less of B if he asked for help? I'm glad you are going to give yourself the same grace.

oh, oh, we need each other...

Tracy said...

You know what? We both sound alike in some ways. I've always been very independent and have been used to doing things myself. I've never seen it as a sign of weakness as I'm always telling my daughters " If you need help, just ask." Yet I don't always follow that saying very well myself. I tend to hold on to things and let them fester inside of me. Which isn't good either. I've been trying to tell people how I feel lately.
Though I'll admit not by choice , I am the one who has to coordinate everything for Maggie since our doctors don't know what in the world to do for her. Not even our ST could tell me if we could have TSS services (theraputic support services ) for Maggie for preschool. Because why? Because everyone around here deals with kids with cognitive and emotional problems. Not physical ones. Doesn't that stink? One top of it all I don't know everything there is needed to know on how to navigate healthcare system either. Without all the wonderful VACTERL families I wouldn't know what to do for Maggie.

Dayna said...


You are such an awesome lady. I really admire you in so many ways...seriously.

Alina said...

It's so hard to see yourself clearly sometimes. It's funny how something that is so integral to you can just suddenly become apparent. I love those epiphanies, even if they can be hard to face. My favorite epiphany, though, was when I realized that my youngest sister was a "real person" with real thoughts in her own little head. It hit me like a bolt of lightening when I was sixteen. ;)

I'm glad you came to understand a piece of yourself and hopefully can grow towards letting people who want to help HELP! :)

Jacque said...

"None of us has gotten where we are solely by pulling ourselves up from our bootstraps. We got here because somebody bent down and helped us."
Thurgood Marshall