Advocating: its okay to ask for help

G’day, friends, and welcome to another weekend and another new blog post!!

Being disabled means you must constantly advocate for yourself, especially if you need any caregiving or extra care being taken by people if you are susceptible to severe illness.

Advocating for yourself can be incredibly nerve-racking, and it takes immense confidence to know your boundaries and communicate that in a way that people will understand.

It means being able to ask for help for things. For me, that looks like being able to ask for help off chairs, help to reach grocery items (that I think unless you are 6 foot 2, the majority of us can relate to!), helping me get off the loo in public spaces, swinging my legs onto the couch if my body is feeling weaker than usual, putting my hair up, help up steps, out of the car, putting shoes on and keeping me safe, helping me off the floor. Safe to say, there is a pretty extensive list!

Advocating is something that I have always struggled with. Growing up, I felt like a burden on my family (they never once told me that); I didn’t want to put anyone out by asking for help. At the same time, though, I always thought they wouldn’t need me to ask; they would be magical wizards and know precisely what I needed help with and when I needed it.

Looking at it now, I understand my frustrations about asking people for help that helped me daily. But at the same time, I wanted to be as independent as possible, and my family wanted to give me the chance to do that before they had to step in. It took me a while to realise that important little detail, but once I did, my frustrations quickly vanished, and as a result, I was slightly more confident in asking for help from them.

Did I still feel like I was putting people out? Yeah, I did, but I had to get on with my day, and struggling for 45 minutes trying to tie my shoelaces was not helping me start my day as peaceful as a lotus.

However, asking people who aren’t my parents or brother for help has been an entirely different story.

I have had times at the grocery store where I struggle to reach something, and people will go over the top of me to get what they are after and leave. People, at times, can make it abundantly clear they are not interested in helping.

I did have someone stop and ask if they could grab what I needed, and even offered to do their shopping with me so they could help me with whatever I needed. I can confidently say they either have someone with a disability in their family, or that person was raised right!

To mitigate needing help from strangers as often as possible, 99.99% of the time, I will not go out alone, whether to appointments on holidays where I know I will have to ask for help. I am with my incredible best friend, carer and best mum in the world almost always.

In the last 18 months or so, I have gone to Physio and EP sessions by myself, where my Physio and EP both know me well enough, and I trust them enough to help me. That isn’t to say where I go with my mum; I don’t trust them, I do, but there are times that I need my scooter, and I can’t drive. So tag along, she must.

In the last six months, I have only dared to go to a hair salon by myself! Previous hair salons were never fully accessible; the wash basins were usually up a step, and if I wanted to treat myself to some foils or shampoo, I would need help to get to the bay, sit up in the chair, and get back to my chair. So Mum would always come with me.

I tried going to the hair salon ‘by myself’ 6 months ago. My mum booked an appointment for the same time and was within earshot if I needed help. I didn’t need to ask for her once. I plucked up enough courage to ask my hairdresser if she could lift me out of the chairs, and immediately, without even blinking, she said, ‘Oh my goodness, yes, of course!’.

Throughout my 3-hour trip there, she poured my tea for me and checked in to ensure I was still comfy and didn’t need any help. I got in the car afterwards and cried tears of joy and relief that a stranger who had just met me was willing to do whatever to make my experience as stress-free and guilt-free as possible!

I went back there for a freshen-up yesterday. She remembered me and everything I needed help with. Even the apprentice and another stylist who tag-teamed the toning process spoke to them (I didn’t ask her to), and when they came over to me, they said, ‘How can I help? What is the most comfortable way for you?’.

Again, when I got home, I had a moment. Because that place made me feel what it feels like to be independent. I needed help, but they never asked in a condescending, childish tone; they treated me like an adult and never once made me uncomfortable asking for help. Going to places like the Hairdresser, Physio, EP Psychologist, and Equine assisted therapist all make me feel free. Those places, I am most comfortable in asking for help!

I have learnt over the past few years that while daunting, advocating for yourself can be the most freeing thing you could ever do. It has enabled me to learn more about myself and understand that I can ask for help whenever needed. But also understand that sometimes people don’t want to help you.

In the past, I have had times where I have gone to ask for help, and it just wasn’t given. At the time, I was incredibly hurt and upset and made to feel like I was burdening people. However, I realised that people have boundaries and that some help you are asking for (whatever it be) is not something they are comfortable with. Being in someone else’s bubble and such proximity to someone isn’t super comfy.

Sure, would it be nice for everyone to freely offer to do whatever for you, no questions asked? In the perfect world, yes. But everyone has different ideas, limits, and boundaries where they can help with some things, not others. And that is okay!

a photo looking at my brother carrying me across sad. Our backs are to the camera

What is also okay is feeling comfortable only to ask a select people you trust to help you. Even if that means turning down an offer to get you a drink and 2 minutes later having someone else ask if you need a drink and saying yes to them, those are your boundaries and what you are most comfortable with. Never let anyone make you feel bad for your boundaries and what makes you feel most comfortable.

Getting to a place where you still ask for help regardless of the answer takes immense courage, bravery and self-confidence. This is something that is still very much a work in progress for me, but I am getting better every time. Needing help and advocating for things isn’t something I am ashamed of. It’s a part of what will make me stronger and independent in my way.

till next week,


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