More on Asking for Help

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I’ve been brooding about the issue of asking for help since I wrote the last post, so I decided to continue writing about my feelings about help in general.

A friend pointed out that this seems to be a topic that usually is mentioned only in passing; she had never heard of a whole workshop or book about difficulties in asking for help. Instead, it’s, “Oh, by the way, asking for help is hard for some people.”

Strange, because I know an awful lot of people who just suck it up and do without. In the US, at least, it seems to be a matter of pride to be self-sufficient and to never even think about relying on somebody else. We often act insulted if we are offered help, even when it is obvious we could use a hand.

I know the issue is a biggie for me because I don’t usually brood about such things. But it was on my mind so much that I started brooding about why I was brooding about it. Not helpful.

I wondered if the adults in the cult had messed with the word “help” itself and made it mean something else entirely. I remember how they ruined the word “safe” for me. They told me that I was so evil that I would kill all the animals that were being saved for sacrifice and might kill some people, too. So they locked me in a large steel box, which they called a safe, to keep the people and animals safe, and they only let me out when the ritual was over. So “safe” means, deep down, that I am a danger to others, not that I am safe from danger. 

I asked inside and didn’t come up with anything specific. It was simply the number of times I was refused help, given help in a form I objected to, was ignored, or was punished for asking for what I needed or wanted. Wanting help became shameful, and the desire to receive help became something to be carefully hidden.

Pretending that help isn’t necessary, or isn’t welcome, is a reflex by now. Another way of saying that is that denial is my preferred defense against feeling helpless. At least now I know it! Now I can take a moment to reflect – would it be better for me to receive help or do it myself? 

The shame has lessened, thank goodness. So has the fear, to an extent. I have learned that if a doctor tries to shame or bully me into doing something, there is no need to be afraid of changing doctors. I couldn’t change parents as a kid – although I spent a great deal of time daydreaming of living in another family – but I am in control now and have every right to refuse to be treated that way.

There is plenty of stigma attached to being old or being disabled in any way. When I am in a wheelchair at the airport, people talk to the attendant and ignore me. Do they think that just because I cannot walk to the gate, I cannot think or cannot talk? Why not assume I can, and treat me like everybody else in that respect? Stigma has nothing to do with having had a cult background. Everybody who has a disability or is a “senior citizen” is treated with condescension.

Yet I still, deep down, think I am being treated that way because I did something wrong. In the cult, I was told that it was my fault and that I deserved what I got. I was told the same thing at home, too, over and over again. Such words sear the soul.

Today I went to the pool at the Jewish Community Center, where I have a membership. The administration is kind enough to give two free vouchers a month for a cab ride to or from the JCC. I used mine today. Here’s what I thought as I was riding home:

“I don’t deserve these vouchers. There are others who need them more than I do.”

“I must have exaggerated my disability to get them.”

“It’s my fault I qualify for them. It’s my fault that I am disabled.”

I felt sad and agitated. Then I got mad! “It’s not my fault I can’t drive!!! I didn’t do anything wrong. There is nothing I could have done to prevent macular degeneration. It’s not my fault at all.” It felt good to get mad – it felt like righteous anger. The emotion blasted through me and left me calm again. I was finally reacting from present-day reality. The feeling-flashback had passed.

Age-related macular degeneration, by the way, is the loss of photosensitive cells in the middle of the macula, which is the part of the eye directly behind the lens. It cannot be reversed, but it can be slowed down by wearing sunglasses and taking special vitamins, which I have been doing faithfully for about ten years. It was this condition that made me stop driving. 

There are two kinds: wet and dry. The dry kind, which I have, progresses slowly. The wet kind, in addition to the loss of photosensitive cells, is characterized by the abnormal growth of blood cells, which can rupture and instantaneously wipe out a large number of cells. Once it is diagnosed, it can be treated by monthly injections right into the eye. About a third of people 85 and older have the dry type, and another eight percent have the wet type. (I’m 82 now.) So, my friends, wear good sunglasses every time you go outdoors, and while you are at it, wear sunscreen and a hat. End of lecture!

Back to asking for help – it would be wonderful if it were possible to spend a month say, working on this issue, and be done with it once and for all. It’s not that way, at least not for me. I know that asking for help will always be difficult and that facet after facet of the problem will present itself for examination. But I also know that I will deal with whatever comes up and that I, and the people around me, will find that living with my limitations will become easier and easier. 


Upcoming Holidays

10/13 Full moon
10/13 Backward Halloween
10/14 (?) Columbus Day
10/31 Halloween/start of the Celtic New Year/start of the dark half of the year
11/1 All Saints’ Day
11/2 All Souls’ Day
11/11 (?) Veterans’ Day
11/12 Full moon
11/28 US Thanksgiving
12/1, 12/8, 12/15, 12/22 Sundays of Advent
12/11 Full moon
12/21 Winter solstice/Yule/St. Thomas’ Day
12/24 Christmas Eve
12/26 Annular solar eclipse. Totality visible in Saudi Arabia, southern India, Sri Lanka, parts of Indonesia, Singapore, and parts of the Philippines.
12/31 New Year’s Eve

Dates Important to Nazi and Neo-Nazi groups
9/29 – 10/1 Rosh Hashanah (New Year, Day of Judgement)
10/8 – 10/9 Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)
10/16 Death of Rosenburg
10/13 – 10/20 Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles, harvest festival)
10/19 Death of Goering
10/20 Hitler’s actual half-birthday
10/21 Hitler’s alternative half-birthday (Note: Hitler was born on Easter, so Nazis celebrate his actual birthday and half-birthday on 4/20 and 10/20. His alternate birthday is celebrated on Easter of the current year and his alternate half-birthday six months later.)
10/21 – 10/22 Simchat Torah (celebration of the complete annual cycle of reading of the Torah)
11/9 Kristallnacht State-ordered pogroms against Jews in Germany and Austria)
12/22 – 12/30 Chanukah
(NOTE: Not all groups meet on Jewish holidays. Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lammas, Halloween, the solstices and the equinoxes)