How I Viewed Assistance in the Workplace
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
These words haunted me when I was an able-bodied participant in the working world. As a highly independent and driven overachiever, the thought of someone stepping in and lending a hand to complete a project absolutely floored me; although I succeeded quite well in containing my emotions. Never did the request have ANYTHING to do with the individual asking. It was more about how I internalized the situation. I viewed the idea, not as an insult per se, but more as a suggestion of weakness on my part. ‘Was I not fully capable of finishing a project in which I invested so much time and effort?’ Also, the idea of being in control factored heavily into the equation. I wanted to be in the driver’s seat and have things done MY way!
On the flip side, this was a question I frequently posed to my coworkers when I had any free time to spare. I thought it a kind gesture and also considered the many potential learning opportunities that may arise. Assisting someone to complete a task at work afforded me “people time” as well. Because more often than not, my fellow employees were very friendly. I had fun pitching in and quite frankly it just made me feel good!
Unfortunately at the time, I could not see the HUGE disconnect in my thought processes surrounding the concepts of giving and receiving assistance. It was almost second nature for me to lend a helping hand, while I begrudgingly accepted the aid of others. And sadly this mindset continued, following me from the workplace into my home life, during the early years of my chronic health issues.
How I Viewed Assistance in My Personal Life
Various symptoms of my chronic health conditions began to seriously affect my abilities to perform certain physical and mental tasks. Consequently, I was no longer able to continue my professional endeavors. The notions of independence, control, and weakness permeated my very being. That one innocent little question, “Is there anything I can do to help?” drove me absolutely mad! At this point in my life, there WAS anger felt toward the individual asking and I wasn’t quite as good at keeping it in. I was so thoroughly frustrated at the real lack in my ability to complete various tasks, that I felt others viewed me as weak and incompetent.
My perceptions of independence and control over the most basic functions of my life began to fade as well. I had resigned myself to the fact that reliance on others for help with certain tasks was a necessity. However, I balked at the mere suggestion of using assistive devices to aid in my tasks of daily living— instead of considering the benefits.
If I succumbed to using such objects, what personal power would I have left?? Stubborn and determined, I was going to do things “on my own” regardless of how much more difficult and painful it would make life for me and the ones who cared for me!
The Wheelchair: How My Views on Assistance Changed
One day, I finally gave in to my neighbor’s insistence on lending me his late wife’s wheelchair. He had seen the struggles of me and my mom as we would leave the house for physical therapy and doctor appointments. I would roll myself to the front door using a desk chair. My mom would hoist me onto her back and then proceed to piggyback me to the car, where she would then turn and “gently” set me down onto the car seat. Bear in mind that my mom was a little over five feet tall, lugging around her adult child who weighed about 175 pounds! Transferring me back-and-forth to the car from the house in this way was absolutely ludicrous and completely unsafe; but my mom, being the AMAZING caregiver that she is, did what she had to do.
After a month or so of this charade, my neighbor dropped by the house and left the wheelchair. My mom brought it inside and it sat in the kitchen for weeks. I simply refused to use it, claiming it would only make me less independent. Instead, I chose to have my mom (or whoever was available) assist by picking me up and bringing me place to place throughout the house or by means of piggybacking me to the car as mentioned above. It was beyond absurd!
Then for some unknown reason, one day I experimented with the wheelchair. The ease with which I could move about amazed me. And then it was as if a light-bulb went off in my head. By using the wheelchair I’d actually be MORE independent and have MORE control because I could decide when and where I wanted to move about the house, without having to ask someone to bring me! Certain tasks had become physically easier for me and my caregivers. I had achieved a higher degree of independence. And I felt a bit more in control of certain aspects in my life. And all because I decided to accept the assistance of a neighbor and his late wife’s wheelchair!
But I still had a LONG way to go…
Counseling: How My Views on Assistance Changed
While the wheelchair experiment opened up my eyes to the positives of receiving assistance, I wouldn’t REALLY understand until I allowed myself to engage in professional counseling. As I worked through my frustrations and fears of losing control and independence, I realized something very important…the whole concept of assistance is truly a gift.
Both providing assistance and receiving assistance can have positive effects. Both can elicit feelings of joy, compassion, gratitude, and love. And if done right, these feelings can be had by both parties at the same time.
And that realization was the missing piece to the mysterious puzzle of “embracing assistance”.
Embracing Assistance: My Current Views on the Subject
Thanks to a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering and finally dealing with my internal issues, I am embracing assistance with open arms. I no longer have that disconnect when thinking about giving and receiving aid. When someone seeks to help or suggests some sort of solution to a problem, I am able to view the situation from several perspectives at once. Offering help is a kind gesture. It gives a sense of purpose and just makes people feel good inside! Accepting help usually makes life easier. Tasks are often completed more timely and more efficiently, which is of great benefit. Allowing someone to assist can also promote a positive atmosphere of learning, trust, and comradery. And lastly, providing and receiving assistance afford each individual precious time to spend with one another. The way I see it, this is a win-win situation!!
So what are your views on the ideas of embracing assistance—both the giving and receiving aspects? Is it easy or hard? Any ah-ha moments you’d like to share? Let me know what you think.