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Asking for Help instead of Bearing Pain Alone

“Pain is not a sign of weakness, but bearing it alone is a choice to grow weak.” ~Lori Deschene

When given the chance, I would much rather bear pain on my own, thank-you-very-much. It’s incredibly difficult for me to be vulnerable and ask for help. To share my pain with someone else.

I think partly it’s from my upbringing—living in the U.S. self-sufficiency is valued. We so often praise the individual who has done extraordinary things and see it as a sign of strength that they accomplished all of it on their own.

I can understand that; it’s led to a lot of independence and innovation. However, I’m also noticing a shift in understanding, of how no one is an island, we are all interconnected, and everything we do affects others.

It’s easy to want to hole up and hunker down when the going gets tough, to “grin and bear it” and keep others in the dark. Being human means I’ve had my share of pain, but I’m also coming to value sharing my pain with others.

I’ve come to believe we are not meant to bear pain on our own.

A few years ago while adjusting the volume on my cellphone, I tripped down the stairs. (Note to self, pay more attention when walking down the stairs.)

My ankle swelled up to the size of a grapefruit, and I had ugly purple and black bruises to boot. I tore some ligaments and had a suspected fracture. Needless to say I would not be running any marathons in the immediate future.

It was painful not only on a physical level, but also an emotional one. In my experience, being basically bed-ridden brought up all the issues I normally didn’t have to face—one of those being humility.

I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t do laundry because that required going down stairs, I couldn’t grocery shop, I couldn’t do anything but lie in my bed with my ankle propped on what seemed to be a thousand pillows.

As someone who prides herself on being independent, this was excruciating. The very last thing I ever wanted to do was ask for help, and there I was, needing it in a very big way.

I’m not an expert on this topic (if such an expert exists!) so the only thing I can do is share with you my own experience.

Humility is not thinking I am inferior or superior to anyone else; it means understanding who I am and what I am capable of.

When I sprained my ankle I wasn’t capable of very much, which leads me into three tips for asking for help, because ultimately, bearing pain alone is a choice to grow weak. We need help.  

1. Admit what you’re incapable of.  

While immobilized, I realized I was literally incapable of doing things I used to take for granted. That humility took me off the “should” train (i.e. I “should” be able to wash my dishes) and put me on the track of asking for help.

2. Swallow your pride.

This is closely aligned with step one but it’s not exactly the same. It’s fine and dandy to admit I couldn’t wash my own dishes, but I was still tempted to try anyway. Swallowing my pride meant not only was I unable to wash my dishes, but also admitting someone else could.

3. Ask for help.

The previous two steps finally culminated in asking for help. I called my dear friend, crying, because I had a sink full of dishes and couldn’t stand long enough to clean them. She was happy to come over and wash them for me.

I think quite often in U.S. society there’s an emphasis on doing. It’s often advised that we get out there and help others, that we be of service, that we put aside our own troubles. But not much is talked about being the receiver.

A friend of mine reminded me there are two parts to service: giving and receiving. That means somebody has to be on the receiving end. Somebody has to ask for help. Somebody has to say, “I can’t do this alone.”

I know this post focused on physical pain, but it applies to mental, emotional, and spiritual pain as well.

I dream of a world where we all ask for help when we need it.

A world where we understand it’s weakness not strength that binds us. A world where we see true strength and humility is about knowing when to ask for help. A world where we understand we were never meant to suffer through pain on our own.

Because of my own change and transformation, I know another world is possible.

Photo by BaileyRayWeaver

Avatar of Rebekah Moan

About Rebekah Moan

Rebekah Moan is a professional writer and editor. She blogs every Sunday at Another World is Probable. Her book Just a Girl from Kansas: One Woman's Dreams are Ant-sized Compared to What Lay Ahead is available in bookstores now. 

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  • http://www.motivation.net.au/quotes/life-quotes Life Quotes

    It is a very
    innovative idea. It should be followed by the urban community all over the
    world.

     

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=22424066 Alexa Hansen

    Such a great article Rebekah! I was just talking about this with my friend yesterday. It’s hard to admit you need help with things, especially when you feel like you will look weak in the eyes of others. Our culture is so focused on being strong and never showing any gaps in the armor, but I think true strength lies in asking for help when you need it. Admitting you need others is just human nature. Babies don’t care that they cry when they need things; because they have an instinct to reach out and be taken care of.

  • Nicole

    I can totally relate to this in terms of emotional support. I started to believe that to seek for help is not a sign of weakness but strength. To be able to take the first simple step of opening ur mouth and ask for help takes a lot of courage and bravery sometimes. It’s not easy. I truly everyone has the rights to ask for help when they need to… If you can take the first step to seek for much needed help ่you are being responsible of taking care of yourself well and not let yourself suffer alone. As you mentioned we are all interconnected, if you need help and you give the chance to others to earn some good karma by allowing them to help you (provided you are willing to do so). Of course don’t get me wrong thinking u are doing someone a favor by making them to help u in everything too.

  • Joanna

    Thank for sharing, I had a serious riding accident in my twenties which meant that for nearly a year I was reliant on others – I had gone from independent & highly competitive to totally dependent .. Pride was chucked out the window ;) I think that sometimes learning to ask for emotional help can be even harder than the physical …

  • Rebekah Moan

    Thanks Alexa. And you are so right — just because we get older doesn’t mean our need for others lessens, it’s just a bit different. =)

  • Rebekah Moan

    You are so right Nicole!

  • Rebekah Moan

    So true Joanna!

  • Carmelo

    Not only are we interconnected, we’re all equal at the core. and if we don’t “share” in the way you’ve written about we encourage a feeling of inequity.

    You talked about the receiving end mostly … which is the point of your post. But, isn’t it frustrating when you try to do something FOR someone and they resist? That’s just as “selfish” feeling as if you, yourself don’t ask for help.

    Thanks for the post Rebekah … good for you!

  • Pennie Cuevas

    After two kids, I’m well practiced at knowing when I can’t do physically and to ask for help. But don’t know how to ask someone to wash my emotional dishes ;) Great article! I’m the same way :)

  • http://twitter.com/AmyPutkonen Amy Putkonen

    Sweet, Rebekah. I really liked this humble story. Yes, I have broken my leg before so I definitely know your plight! It was tough, but I did get used to it. At some point, you just do what you have to do but it certainly taught me about all the people that are out there helping others. It was very wonderful to see how people wanted to help once I got up the nerve to ask them. 

  • http://10stepstofindingyourhappyplace.blogspot.com/ Galen Pearl

    There were several times in my life when I tried to soldier on through physical and emotional challenges instead of asking for help.  I’ve finally learned to ask for help and to appreciate it when offered.

  • joychristin

    Beautiful, thank you :)  Asking for help is allowing the experience of trust/faith to guide you beyond “what you know”…I had to learn that was not a “weakness” but a wonderful way to honor flow…*and* to be as gracious a receiver as I was a giver.  Thank you for this beautiful affirmation!

  • http://IrvingsJourney.com/ Irving Podolsky

    Dear Rebekah,

    Here’s the sad truth nobody wants to remember: Getting old, and getting sicker and sicker along with it, as medicine stretches our lives, puts many of us into that place where we’ll need help just getting out of the house. I see this with my ninety year-old parents and their friends. And I mean “friends.”

    They all help each other, as handicapped as they are. They burned away “self-reliance” ego years ago. Things get pretty basic when you can’t even stand. The priorities of your life: getting through the day, LIVING another day, honoring the people you love and who love you, all snap into focus very fast.

    No one wishes for incapacity at a young age, or any age, but with it comes a gift of wisdom and gratitude. 

    Thank you for this post, Rebekah. It was another reminder to appreciate what I have, AND my health, AND my loved ones…even with that sprained and swollen ankle that doesn’t want to get well.

    Irv

  • Sarah Atwell Williams

    This came at the right moment.  Things work that way, don’t they?  I am not in physical pain, and I don’t know if pain is the right word here.  But I do need to ask for help, and am finding it hard to do.  My life just seems like it is at a stand still, and I don’t seem to be able to get out of the malaise I am in.  And then I read Rebekah’s post, and I think, aha, this was meant for you, Sally.

    Thanks Rebekah.
    Peace

  • http://furries-happyclub.com/ The Furries & The Happy Club

    I don’t need help.
    I never feel pain.

    I’m not human.

    More wisdom…

  • http://topvincent.com/book.html Chris-Vincent

    Appreciating that sharing pain with the people who genuinely care is important to finding a way to reduce pain…Being self sufficient, independent and all that do not come under compromise when help is sought for at such times (necessary time). Failure to ask for help when you have to does not add any value or happiness to your existence, but rather makes you feel you are one big lonely island that no body cares about!

  • Rebekah Moan

    Thanks Carmelo! The way I look at it is I can’t force someone to accept my help, but I totally hear ya, it can be super frustrating if they refuse.

  • Rebekah Moan

    =) Thanks Pennie!

  • Rebekah Moan

    Absolutely!

  • Rebekah Moan

    You are welcome! Thank you!

  • Rebekah Moan

    Thank you Irving. You are so right about appreciating what we have.

  • Rebekah Moan

    You’re welcome Sarah. Thank you so much and I’m sure the help you need is coming to you. =)

  • Rebekah Moan

    Agreed!

  • Carmelo

    Oh, for sure … it’s the ONLY way to look at it. And I’ve found that people do about as well as the really WANT to do given where they are mentally, emotionally, physically. They ask when they’re ready … and that includes me, I guess, huh? ;-)

  • http://twitter.com/Tamara_Epps Tamara Epps

    While I understand your point, short-term pain is completely different from long-term pain (such as chronic disability). The problem is, of course, that for those of us who have to live with it for the rest of our lives we don’t want to be turning our friends and family against us by needing them all the time. Besides, after a few months, many people no longer wish to help so asking is futile and can actually cause more pain for others. It is only good to share pain with others when they will actually stop and help, otherwise it simply causes more pain that we have to bear alone.

  • Jonathon Wilson

    Hi Rebekah

    Your a great writer and I enjoyed this post thoroughly, it was a pity about your ankle, tho imagine if you never learnt this lesson and you weren’t able to share it with the world, Now that would have been an even bigger loss.

    I come here today to share my insights on asking for help, what’s even better is they differ from yours so it makes a great contrast for your readers to enjoy. I hope you don’t mind.

    Thank you for you time and consideration

    http://scucessful.blogspot.com.au/2013/04/to-proud-to-ask-for-help-its-not-sign.html

  • Rebekah Moan

    Hi Tamara, obviously I haven’t been over to Tiny Buddha for a long time. Sorry about that! You are right, short-term pain is completely different from long-term pain but I still don’t think it’s necessary to suffer alone. I hear you about not wanting to burn out friends and family by needing them all the time. However, isn’t this what support groups are also for? So *no one* has to suffer alone? Not everyone is going to *get* the demands of long-term pain but the people who share it sure will. Also, help comes in many forms, sometimes just being heard goes a long way. Just my two cents.

  • Rebekah Moan

    Hi Jonathon. Thank you! I don’t mind a bit. The more the merrier I say. =)

  • Tamara Epps

    You are absolutely right in that no one should suffer alone, and I thank the gods that I live in a time with the internet as without it I would be unable to meet new friends who understand how I feel; but they can only help on an emotional level. The physical kind of help you are talking about is where I have a problem, especially as my disability isn’t visible, and is variable. I have lost many friends simply because I couldn’t deal with the social life I had enjoyed with them. This has the bonus of finding out who my true friends are but, while I know I can turn to them in an emergency, I do not want to risk my lasting friendships by being constantly needing and receiving when I am unable to be giving. Granted, in a few years I may be able to pay back that support, but then again I might not, and I know most people are unable to hang around offering support and never receiving it, no matter how good friends you are. (I hope some of this makes sense as I have a feeling I’m going round in circles a little.)

  • Rebekah Moan

    I hear ya. It does make sense. I can understand not wanting to burn out friends. It sounds like you have great awareness of who you can ask, when, and how often. Asking for help (like everything else in life!) comes down to balance I think. Thanks for pointing that out.