In Part 1, a generalised example was given of how one person's help is another person's hindrance.
In Part 2 of this blog topic, I gave reasons for not accepting unsolicited offers of help and to trust me when I say, "No, thank you!" to someone's kind willingness to help with my mobility equipment.
In Part 3 today, I want to continue in the context of chronic illness and disability with more examples from personal experiences of mine and of colleagues. The theme is one of respect when someone says:
"I can do it myself."
For many people with disabilities, it is important to do things independently whenever possible. Reasons for this can include:
- maintaining physical fitness ('use it or lose it');
- maintaining the dignity that a sense of independence brings;
- a sense of control.
People who regularly exercise notice the difference after being laid up in bed with illness or after being unable to continue their fitness routine for any length of time. Inactivity can quickly 'decondition' the body.
I live with a chronic illness (MCTD) and it is especially important for me to maintain as much physical fitness as possible because it helps my body to cope with the symptoms of illness. The fitter the body, the quicker it can recover from setbacks. I work hard to be as active as possible.
While it might take a healthy person a week to recover from an infection like a cold or virus, a person with a chronic illness is likely to need much longer to overcome it. For some people with disabilities a setback such as hospitalisation can cause irreversible deterioration of their conditions and increase long-term disability. Therefore, when living with illness or disability, it is extra important to maintain as much fitness and strength as possible.
A basic human instinct is the need to 'fit in' and find a sense of belonging. Anyone who is perceived to be 'different' in any way can find this difficult. The ability to fully participate in society is an important element in finding one's place in the world and having a healthy self-esteem. Being able to access employment, education, transport etc. and to be valued and treated with respect by others are important ways of fulfilling that need. This all leads to 'dignity' which is defined in my dictionary as 'worthiness'.
Anyone who has been unemployed for any length of time can describe the demoralising effects of having to rely on handouts and charity in order to survive.
It disturbs me when charitable giving is motivated by a sense of pity. Pity from others can undermine self-esteem and leave a person feeling devalued because it carries unspoken undercurrents:
- that there is something unfortunate or sad about one's existence; and
- the person who is doling out the pity is in a better position and thus superior, placing a sense of inferiority on the person who is being pitied.
Independence to earn one's own income and make decisions about one's own life brings confidence and self-worth through a sense of ability which is so important when society frequently focusses on disability. These issues are very much interrelated with the issue of control.
When one is sick or has a disability, one can lose control of many things in life, including one's own body. Do not underestimate the emotional importance of holding onto those remaining things in life that still can be controlled (although that doesn't mean that everyone with a disability is a 'control freak').
When a 'helper' insists on 'helping' in spite of being refused, the control of the situation is taken away from the person who is perceived to need help. If your offer of help is met with, "No, thanks," your quick acknowledgment of that while quietly going on your way is helping the person to maintain control but, more importantly, respecting them as a fellow human being.
I've seen situations turn into dangerous arguments where the 'helper' insisted that a person 'needed' their help. In these instances it is plain that the 'helper' does not respect the other person.
֎ ֎ ֎ ֎ ֎Here is a real scenario:
While walking in the city with a colleague, a stranger approached and offered to help her cross the busy street by pushing her wheelchair. My colleague refused politely but the stranger insisted despite me and other people attesting that the stranger's help was not necessary.
The stranger suddenly took hold of the wheelchair and started pushing it anyway! It was in a fast, rough manner and was very frightening to the occupant who was now unable to control her movement and was in fear of being injured or falling out of the wheelchair altogether!
There was no respect from the stranger who didn't listen to civil protests. In desperation, my colleague shouted a very, VERY rude instruction telling the stranger to leave her alone and where he could go! Unfortunately, it caused an embarrassing scene and the stranger stormed off, verbally abusing my colleague as if she were the rude party! In fact, the stranger was the rude one by not respecting the wishes and rights of another person!
֎ ֎ ֎ ֎ ֎
After all of that, please don't let all of these issues discourage you from ever offering help! It is important that people still offer to help when it is warranted.
Even if I don't need or want any help, it can occasionally be nice to be politely asked especially when I frequently need to ask for help in other areas of my life. It can be a nice relief to not have to gather up the courage to ask. It makes me feel more confident to go out, knowing that there are people out there happy to help should I need to ask for it.
That's a key (and a delicate one):
should I need to ask.
I have a voice;
I can use it
(and I will) to ask for help should I need it. (I can do it myself!)
Remember, not everybody is blessed with the ability to speak and communicate easily so I am lucky and don't take the privilege lightly (hence this blog). Be respectful to those who struggle.
If someone is neither asking nor obviously looking around for help, chances are that they are okay and don't need any help. Treat that person as you would any other regardless of disability.
Always check that people actually need help at all before making the assumption that they do. How do you avoid an assumption? If your instinct overwhelmingly tells you that someone is in desperate need, go and politely ask them!
If they do need your help, listen carefully–they might need you to do something unexpected–and make sure that you can help them exactly as specified by them.
Everyone is different:
- some people feel validated and acknowledged when offered assistance;
- others feel hassled or threatened.
Please bear in mind that many people with visible disabilities are frequently approached in public places by total strangers offering well-meaning help.
This can become a problem when it hinders a person from conducting their business; e.g. shopping, socialising, transport etc. It can be a physically and emotionally draining. It is a nuisance to be accosted by well-meaning strangers every time one ventures out. It's enough to make one stay at home! Please be aware of this.
Welcome assistance to one person is a rude violation of personal space to another.
It can trigger an emotional breakdown to be reminded by some well-meaning person that there's another part of your independence gone … thanks to a progressive illness you can't control …
So next time you offer people a helping hand and they say, "No, thank you," even if they seem to be struggling, your gracious acceptance as you move along quietly is probably helping more than you realise!
Most of the time …
I can do it myself!
Do you agree or disagree with these ideas?
What is your experience of helping
(either giving or receiving)?
(either giving or receiving)?
You are welcome to share your stories in the comment boxes below.
Related Posts & Links on Lupey Loops
"To Help or Not To Help (Part 1)", blog entry, 29 July 2016: http://lupeyloops.blogspot.com.au/2016/07/to-help-or-not-to-help-part-1.html
"To Help or Not To Help (Part 2): When to Say "No Thanks!", blog entry, 5 August 2016: http://lupeyloops.blogspot.com.au/2016/08/to-help-or-not-to-help-part-2-when-to.html
"Lupus (SLE) Resources", blog page: http://lupeyloops.blogspot.com.au/p/lupus-information-resources.html
"MCTD Resources", blog page: http://lupeyloops.blogspot.com.au/p/blog-page.html
"Scleroderma Resources", blog page: http://lupeyloops.blogspot.com.au/p/blog-page_6.html
"Sjögren's Syndrome Resources", blog page: http://lupeyloops.blogspot.com.au/p/sj.html
Delbridge, Bernard et al. [editors], The Macquarie Dictionary Third Edition, The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd, Macquarie University NSW Australia 1997.