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Single, Sick, and Shy About Asking For Help? Do a Worksheet. May 19, 2014

Posted by Onely in blog reviews, Everyday Happenings, Food for Thought, Just Saying., Reviews, Single with chronic illness.
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Copious Readers, as you can see from recent posts, Onely’s new Thing is writing about singles with chronic illness. Our goal is to encourage a wider dialog on this topic. This is especially important in light of the fact that unmarried people are already legally discriminated against in many ways. And then a chronic illness necessitates dealing with additional heartless bureaucracy, especially the parts that already favor married people–most notably health and disability insurance and Social Security. Single and sick: potentially a double downer, at least as far as life logistics go. (Although sometimes it’s easier to be single and sick, or at least to live alone and be sick–we will write about this in a later post).


helpOnely has been in touch with a number of bloggers and writers who are also interested in what happens to unmarried sufferers of chronic illness (and we hope that more interested parties will contact us, please!). Today, though, I wanted to flag one particular interesting resource for any socially or legally single folks out there who are constantly sick.

It’s sometimes hard to ask for help from people who are not in your immediate/nuclear family, because our society tends to teach that it’s ok to ask parents, children, or a spouse--especially a spouse–for all sorts of care and assistance–even the ongoing care and assistance often required by a chronic illness.  So single people without that specific support system may feel odd or uneasy about asking their own, unique support systems and loved ones for help, even though those people would probably be happy to assist.

Beth O’Donnell at Single and the Sweet Side of 40 has created some workbook charts, called HELP THEM TO HELP YOU, that assist you with wrapping your mind around certain important issues and decisions in your life. The Chronic Illness workbook is not out yet (we’ll let you know as soon as it is!), but two of the other workbooks actually provide guidance and insight that could very relevant to a single person dealing with an unrelentingly irritable body.
In order to get the workbooks, visit SSS40’s support page and opt in to the email list, or contact O’Donnell via her site. The two Help Them Help You guides most relevant to chronic illness are: The Broken Heart Edition and The Heavy Lifting Edition.

First, The Broken Heart Edition: The phrase “broken heart” usually appears in the context of a separation from or loss of a loved one. But the loss of your body as you once knew it can also break your heart. You might need as much moral support as if you had gone through a terrible breakup. And as helpful as hugs and phone calls are, O’Donnell points out that “Moral support is great, but if you really want to help, clean my house.” (Or, in my case, “If you really want to help, go to my office and. . . well, do my work.”)
Don’t worry about sounding demanding–remember, people want to help, and the housecleaning and other suggestions are couched in the form of a whimsical “TLC for Me” letter. It’s a tongue-in-cheek, but effective, guide for writing a letter about how someone could care for you. Sort of the way you’d leave a note for your petsitter. Except funnier.

As a cat owner, my personal favorite is:

The vacuum is _____________________on the___________________floor.

As someone whose body seems to hate her, my personal favorites are:

The odor in the house is most likely:
a) dead food
b) dead mouse
c) me
d) ___________

I’ll take a shower when:
a) water doesn’t hurt
b) my hair is so dirty it can be sculpted
c) I get out of bed
d) ___________

I’ll get out of bed:
a) when I wake up
b) for five minutes, to walk the dog
c) tomorrow
d) __________

 

Second, The Heavy Lifting Edition:

Frustratingly, if you have a chronic illness, common household chores like changing a high lightbulb or hanging a mirror or patching the hole you’ve kicked in the drywall may seem as elaborate and energetic as setting up base camp. O’Donnell describes “any seemingly simple household task requiring another set of hands, legs, or eyes” as “heavy lifting”.  She points out that if you need help, all you have to do is Ask–but sometimes, Asking isn’t simple. We can be shy about asking for help. We might exhaust (pun accidental) all other options, and sometimes drop the mirror on our head, before asking for help.
How to feel better about requesting assistance with some task that you can’t accomplish on your own? Remember that people *do* like to help. Most notable for those of us who hesitate to ask for help, the worksheet contains a list of suggestions for “Helping the Impromptu Helper” which might help you feel less uneasy about “imposing” on him or her. For example: If the helper seems to want to leave, make sure they leave, even if the job isn’t finished; provide assistance within reason; offer drinks and snacks; etc.
There are also guidelines/options to make an “Enlisted Helper” more comfortable and, by extension, make you more comfortable. For example: work within their schedule; defer to their expertise (except in matters of taste); pay them with money or wine or food or a review on Yelp or whatever; provide supplies and have the work area prepared as possible; etc.
Much of this is self-evident, but it helps to have everything written down in worksheets, especially if your mind is muddled from pain or exhaustion or too many mochas.
–Christina

Photo credit: saiyanzrepublik

Comments»

1. RachelAB - May 22, 2014

A couple years ago, I sprained my ankle so badly that I could hardly walk across the room. So I broke down to call my son to get me some milk. He was very happy to do it. But the incident made me pause: I was in tears asking my son for help! What would I do if I had to ask a friend!? Maybe these workbooks will come in handy! (For now, I am working on my balance so I don’t sprain my foot again ;) )

2. crtruelove - May 22, 2014

I so can relate to this as doctors are trying to figure out if I have RA, lupus, or what… Consequently, this single gal Needs to rent out my house and move in with my folks, who live over an hour away, because some days I can barely climb a set of stairs let alone do anything meaningful. I’m making the most of it, but discovering an auto-immune disorder and moving in with the ‘rents was definitely was not on my New Years Resolution list! ;)

3. antigonesroom - May 31, 2014

I’m single and on disability and it sucks. I’m also gay which can make someone even more alienated. I contacted you guys before please feel free to contact me again. I don’t have the energy to write more but would be glad to talk.

4. Heather - June 4, 2014

I happened to read this while in the chair getting a chemo treatment for breast cancer. My family (parents and sister) are on the other side of the country but my mother has come out a couple times to help. And I’ve had to impose on a friend to leave work to pick me up from chemo today because the hospital won’t let me leave on my own. It’s very hard for me to ask for help as I have taken care of myself my entire adult life. Bur cancer robs you of that to a degree. I’m still working on it.


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