Asking for help is something that can appear so much harder to do when you have Crohn’s Disease or any other form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). I think that this is because IBD sometimes makes us creatures of extremes. One one hand, the disease takes so much from us that we refuse to willingly abandon any kind of independence we have left by stubbornly refusing help when it is offered. To accept help would mean that we are weak, incapable and at the mercy of other peoples good nature. In some cases, this can even foster an obligation to help the person who has assisted you because you somehow feel indebted to said person and that you “owe them one.” To be completely honest, this used to be my prevailing attitude because I was a ridiculously independent individual and I refused to go to the other extreme of being that person who is always asking for help. In my estimation this was almost tantamount to having a victim mentality and I was most certainly not going to be a victim of IBD.
Suffice to say that my attitudes have changed dramatically since being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease back in 1997. I initially treated Crohn’s Disease as something I could get over – kind of like getting over a head cold or viral infection. I was very much in the camp of “I’m fine, I can handle this and don’t need anyone’s help thank you oh so very much.” That particular extreme was my comfort zone. To a large extent it was a product of my ignorance, stupidity and outright denial of a condition that is impossible to “get over.” As with so much in life, anything taken to extreme is not a good thing. Thankfully over the years of living with Crohn’s Disease I have come to appreciate that the best course of action for me is establishing a harmonious balance in all things. This includes my diet/nutrition, exercise, spirituality, medications and – yes – the ability to get over my own stubborn pride and actually ask for help when I genuinely need it. With the benefit of hindsight, my realisation was that:
Asking for help is NOT a sign of weakness – it is a sign of strength.
Do not underestimate what Crohn’s Disease can do to you. In a heartbeat it can take you from what you perceive to be a good day and have you flat on your back – literally!!! Refusing help in those situations can prolong your suffering and potentially make things worse. This being the case, how is asking for help a bad thing? Ah…. well that depends on who you are asking for help, doesn’t it? In my experience, help falls into three broad categories and will depend on the depth of the proverbial medical hole you find yourself in:
- Self help.
- Friends and family.
- Medical and professional.
Self help is when things are “bad.” One or more of your symptoms are exacerbated and you feel like crap. In this instance, I fall into a routine of drugging myself up, sleeping it off or researching what else I should be doing.
Friends and family is the next step up on the help scale and can be the most awkward. Admitting that you need help to your nearest and/or dearest can put a severe dent in your pride. However, these people want to help you. Shutting them out by refusing (or refusing to ask for) their help can make them feel bad. So have a heart, admit that you are as human as the next guy and actually ask for help.
Medical and professional help is often a sign that options one and two have been unsuccessful. At this point I have absolutely no problem invoking the might of the medical fraternity because a) I have done all I can to alleviate the problem including the stuff that my Doctor would initially advise anyway, and b) medical and professional people get paid to help and have access to treatment options that I do not.
The moral to this somewhat long and rambling story is that there will be times in your Crohnological life when you need a bit of help to get, or stay, in remission. I don’t think anybody really likes asking for help, but there is a time and a place when you simply have to let go of whatever is holding you back and have the good sense and courage to ask for the help you need.
Editor’s Note: Stephen Dempster is a monthly contributor to our blog. You can find Stephen on Google+, on Twitter @sdempsteruk, and his blog at Stephen Dempster on Medium. Stephen also is the creator of the Flipboard Magazine: A Little Behind The Times