There have been many times over the last several weeks since I broke my leg that I’ve had to ask for help and I’ve realized how hard this continues to be for me. It is either something about my innate personality or it came from growing up in a big family where there were so many people with needs, I seemed to get lost in the shuffle. I was a particularly shy child who loved nothing more than to cling to my mother’s leg. Hated going to kindergarten and cried all day every day for weeks until I finally accepted it wasn’t going to change anything. But I was fully committed to not asking for help and it followed me to first grade where I found one friend to be my spokesperson. I would tell her what I needed and she would tell the teacher. You might not be surprised to hear this didn’t go over very well and it ended with me repeating first grade.
By the time my youngest and fifth sibling arrived, nine years after me, my mother was eager for me to become somewhat independent of her. I had made a couple of good friends but was fearful of adults and she thought if she had me call to make my own dental appointments, this would help. Aha! Maybe that’s why I have always hated the phone! Yes, I made my own dental appointments, but that was where it started. From there she made me join teams, signed me up for dance lessons, prodded me to ask teachers for help, and the summer after eighth grade she concocted a disasterous idea to sign me up to be a candy striper. These were all efforts to engage me in the world outside of my shyness where I preferred to hunker down with a book. My worlds were big, they were just fictional.
As I think about all this, I am certain this is where the inability to ask for help comes from. My shyness was a symptom of the confidence I lacked and so I preferred not to allow anyone to know there were many things I didn’t understand, kept my hands under my desk while others were raising them to ask a question about something we were learning or to make a statement about it. I only talked when called upon and this was true right through college.
Maybe my accident was a sign from above that it is time to let go of this part of my personality. You shouldn’t be desperate to finally break down and ask for help which is what happened with my alcoholism. There finally came a point where I realized I couldn’t fix this myself and would need to turn to someone else for help. When I started writing about my brother’s suicide recently, I realized I would need help to process things as I was writing and started seeing a therapist to get honest about it. But still, asking for help – a ride, a request for something at the store from someone besides my husband was a hurdle I still needed to overcome. I think about how honored I am when someone asks me for help and realize that others are not offering in hopes I don’t take them up on it. They really want to help just as I do.
Asking people to pick me up for an appointment or to get me something from the store or to fetch me a tea are not small things for me, but every day I am breaking down these last barriers from my longtime impulse to be entirely self sufficient. I am even using the phone more, calling friends and siblings, reaching out to people I haven’t talked to in months and in this I am also reconnecting with a lost part of myself that got lost with the pandemic. These are small blessings, the silver lining of a broken leg.