Friday, August 19, 2011


Asking someone for help or accepting help when it is offered is not always easy. Especially if you are an individual with a disability who is trying to become independent for the first time. You are trying to prove to yourself and to others that you have the ability to be independent. It is important to understand that you are not alone. Everyone needs help at sometime in their life whether they are an individual with a disability or not.
As an individual with spina bifida I have always had a hard time with this. I guess I had the idea that I wasn't independent unless I did everything on my own without help. If family offered help I was often too quick to reject the help. I couldn't have been more wrong! It is very important to understand that a very big part of independent living is knowing how and when to ask for and accept help. Even after being on my own for almost 20 years, it still isn't always easy for me to ask for help, but I am much better than I used to be. Through my adulthood. I have not only learned how to figure out if and when I need assistance but also learned how to ask for or accept the help so I can continue living on my own.
Unfortunately sometimes I learned the hard way. There have been times that I didn't ask for help I needed or accept help being offered and because of that I ended up having problems. I moved into the college dorms right after high school and like many 18 year old men and women that is when I got my first taste of independence. Being away from my parents and not having them around to tell me what to do. That freshman year was an eye opener. Everyone (including me) started to notice that in order for me to keep my independence there would be times I would need assistance. Of course even though I may have noticed that myself, doesn't mean I asked for it or accepted it when offered!
In 2001 I moved away from family for my first real full time job as a social worker. At first it was great. I was keeping my place clean and I was taking care of my personal needs. As time went on my responsibilities at work increased. It was common for me to work 10 to 12 hours a day or over 60 hours in a week. With that came increased stress. When that happened it affected some of my decision making and eventually it affected my health. When family asked how I was doing my response was always "fine" or "pretty good" not realizing that I really should have asked for help. Again even at times like this accepting help is not easy for me. I lost track of priorities and which should come first in my life which is me. This resulted in me getting very sick and leaving that job as well as some very close friends. I moved back in with my parents in order to receive the proper medical care. In other words decreased my independence which could have been prevented. Looking back now I should have slowed down with work and focused more on myself and my own needs.
Before I moved into my current apartment, I made sure that I was ready. I didn't want to repeat things that happened in the past. I needed to have everything set in place including a support network. I told myself that it is ok to ask them for help or accept it. I knew I may need assistance with certain things like general cleaning or organization to prevent health problems or maybe just someone close as a support. I still have a very busy schedule so it is easy to loose track of things. At times that I am either stressed from work or showing signs of getting sick, someone close can remind me to do things to prevent health problems. For me this is especially true if I am starting to get sick and don't realize it.
It is important for everyone to understand that we depend on ourselves more than anyone! We know ourselves better than anyone else. Having the ability and strength to ask for and accept help when needed came with time for me. It showed me that I am strong and able to live independent even when things are not going the way I want.