Why Is Asking for Help So Difficult?

Last updated: October 2022

Why as humans do we have such a difficult time admitting we need help? Maybe it’s because being vulnerable is an uncomfortable state for many people. Vulnerability opens us up to criticism, judgment, pity, and unfortunately, sometimes feelings of abandonment.

There’s a stigma still alive today that lies to us suggesting you aren't tough enough, strong enough, you’re a complainer, etc. if you ask for help. All of which is so untrue it hurts. Often asking for health is the smart, strong, and healthy action to take. So why don’t we do it especially when living with cystic fibrosis?

I need help to take care of me

The truth is failing to ask for help often gets me in trouble with my CF. Even though I am someone who takes airway clearance and medications seriously, my health status waxes and wanes. Often it correlates to how much I am attempting to manage on my own without the help and support I need. Various levels of stress and the inability to rest are two factors that put negative pressure on my health status. In some ways, I can help alleviate the effect these factors have on my health by doing something so simple yet challenging: ask for help.

However, I still find it challenging to know exactly how to ask for help and what type of help would benefit me the most.

How to ask for help with CF

Be specific

The biggest challenge for me when asking for help from others is I don’t know how to be specific in my requests. It’s like my mind blanks and I assume every task is too big of a demand on the other person. However, often people are so willing to help when there’s a tangible way to help. They just need some guidance.

Some specific requests that have helped me in the past is having meals delivered to our family, setting up regular childcare for a few hours a week, picking up items from the store. These are all easy tasks for people to complete and feel like they are making a difference.

Help vs. support

When I think of asking for help, my brain divides the type of assistance into two categories: “help” meaning assistance with daily life stress such as laundry, cooking, childcare, etc. And “support” meaning emotional and mental support such as therapy, supportive conversations, having a loved one attend appointments, etc. It can be helpful to think about which type of assistance would provide you some relief.

Often, these two categories are one in the same. Plus, they are not mutually exclusive meaning you can receive both at the same time. In the best situation, receiving help and support simultaneously makes the most impact on a stress and coming to resolution.

Support doesn’t have to be equal

Something that weighs on me during the times when I need more help and assistance is the idea I might not be able to pay them back. This is a really damaging thought process that I have worked on over the years to reframe. Firstly, people offer to help because they love you, not because they expect something back. Secondly, not all support is equal and that is OK and healthy.

For example, my sister is great at providing daily help to me when I am on IVs for example, i.e. watching my kids, providing meals, etc. However, she doesn’t need that same assistance back from me. I support her in other ways like talking through difficult situations, encouraging her, and being there in our friendship. Our help/support to each other is not equal and that is a positive factor in our relationship. Your needs are different from my needs and it's important to recognize that.

How to offer help helpfully

Often people use a blanket statement, “How can I help?”. Even though this is a well-meaning demonstration of support, it can often be overwhelming to the person in need of help. Many people, like me, don’t know how to answer the question truly or feel guilty responding. As a result, I often say everything is fine and turn down the help I truly need.

By being as direct and specific as you can when offering to help someone, you can make a difference. More helpful ways to offer assistance can look like this:

  • Can I bring your family a meal?
  • Can I watch your children Thursday at 1pm?
  • I would like to attend your CF appointment with you. What time should I pick you up?
  • I want to sterilize your nebulizers. Can you show me once how to do it?
  • I am heading to the grocery store. What can I pick up for you?

Next time you want to help but don't know how, try these responses. I bet you'll feel more prepared to support the person you love.

Do you find it difficult asking for help? What are some ways you have worked through this? Share with us below!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Cystic-Fibrosis.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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