04 Mar When you find yourself suddenly incapacitated
When you find yourself suddenly incapacitated
What happens if you have kids, work or other responsibilities and you are suddenly struck down with illness or injury? You need help and support, but it can be hard to ask for.
So, I recently found out what happens when you are unexpectedly injured after I fell up (yep, fell UP, and boy did I fall with force, that takes some skill you know) some stairs on my way to take my kid to a yoga class.
So the first thing that happened to me was that I felt frightened. I knew I had broken something because when I put my hand on my shoulder I could feel 2 bones where there was supposed to be 1, so a pretty good sign. Also, I was in a huge amount of pain. I also felt overwhelmed by my responsibilities. I had 3 children with me that I was responsible for and yet I felt totally vulnerable.
I then had the unhelpful thought running through my head “don’t make a big deal out of this and don’t put people out” WT actual?
My thoughts were running with “How will I manage work with this injury”, “What am I going to do about the kids, right now and in the coming weeks?”, “Will I need surgery?” along with “You don’t need an ambulance because what if it’s just bruised and you waste everyone’s time?”
I was very lucky that a few of the other Mums and the yoga teacher came in and helped me out. One comforted my eldest child who was very distressed whilst my 6-year-old took this as an opportunity to play on the iPad unnoticed and unpoliced, a rare occasion for him.
They took control and took me to the hospital and helped to soothe and reassure me. I was so lucky to have this as I wasn’t going to ask for it. So why wouldn’t I ask for the help I knew I needed?
Because we are often isolated in our own bubbles and worlds and there seems to be an expectation that we can deal with whatever comes our way and we will, alone. The crazy thing is I know that I can’t. I know I need the help and support of a tribe when it comes to raising my kids, being my best self and living a full life. I am fully aware that we are built and hardwired for human connection yet I still found the situation immobilising and I didn’t know how to ask for help.
After being taken to emergency by one of the wonderful parents mentioned above, to the equally wonderful Bowral Hospital https://www.swslhd.health.nsw.gov.au/bowral/ a broken collarbone was diagnosed on my dominant side meaning I had no use of my right arm and hand. I was told I would have 4-6 weeks healing to do and no driving during this time. I plunged into despair again, “How can I be incapacitated for 6 weeks? How can I manage getting the kids to and from school and me to and from work, how can I cook meals, how can I write clinical notes, how can I shower and dress myself…” I was also very aware of the fact that I was insanely lucky.
I live in a part of the world that has access to healthcare and I am recognised as someone who is entitled to it (not everyone is, I am painfully aware of that and it makes my heart sad). I am also immensely lucky to have a loving family and friends who wanted to help. I also had an injury that was very likely to heal in a matter of weeks.
After a frantic call to Tina (our super powered practice manager) telling her of the situation, she tried to help me see things clearly, she reminded me that this was something I had no control over, that I had been in an accident and that accidents happen. That what we needed to do was accept this and inform our clients.
I started to realise that I was not seeing things clearly and I needed to accept the support of people around me who were seeing things clearer than me and also had capacity to help in areas I couldn’t help myself in.
So, whilst I understood from a logical perspective that I needed to accept help because I couldn’t:
- Wash or dress
- Open my medication
- Write or type
- Easily get up from a seating position
- Lie down
It was hard to ask for it. As someone who regularly reflects on the benefits of accepting support and help, it was confusing for me why I was finding it so hard and made me realise that if I find it hard it must be hard for lots of people.
I was worried about ‘using up my help credits’ like my friends and family had an account running and they may tally up all the help I’ve needed and tell me I am overdrawn, then what would I do?
I also worried that people may think I was overreacting or acting sorry for myself? Why was this I was wondering, as I knew that I needed the help and I knew deep down it was okay to ask for and accept it.
That little voice, your inner critic
A major factor was that I was feeling low and vulnerable and that is when you need help but it is also usually when you are most likely to be hearing from you inner critic, that voice that tells you that you are not worthy, or you are putting people out or you are being annoying. I was hearing it loud and clear. But I am really acquainted with my little inner critic so I was able to recognize its voice. I was able to acknowledge what it was saying and understand that it was probably rearing it’s head up because I was low.
So, I asked for help. I asked my husband to wash and dress me, we said it was practice for when we are older! I told myself that it was okay in the first few days for me to ask him 6 times in one hour to help me get food, medicine, water etc. I told myself it was okay that he had to do 99% of the kid wrangling, it was just necessary.
I told myself that when friends offered to take the kids to school for me, it was okay to accept it as many times as I needed it. They wouldn’t keep score and I could help them one day when they needed it.
I told myself that when friends said “let me know if there is anything you need” that it was okay to ask them to drive me to a specialist appointment, it was okay to ask them to cook a little extra and bring around leftovers (although a few friends went WAY over and above this and provided gourmet, chef cooked meals!)
We need each other
As I mentioned earlier we are hardwired for human connection, as Tiny Budda writes in this great article https://tinybuddha.com/blog/6-reasons-we-need-each-other-the-power-of-community/. We need each other. Although it has become tricky to navigate how and when to reach out and show our vulnerability because we are not used to it.
So, what’s the solution? Practice it, and know that each time you do it, you are modelling it for someone else. You are allowing someone else to see how it’s done. You are giving them permission to let you know when they need you too.
I am aware that not everyone has family and friends to lean on, but the principle is the same. Ask! Ask your therapist to recommend services, ask your community nurse where else you can get support from, ask your neighbor, ask your GP. Don’t feel you need to stay isolated and do it all yourself, because honestly, no one can. It’s a myth and it’s not one I want to perpetuate.
To any of my amazing loved ones reading this…a HUGE thank you for helping me out and for continuing to do so whilst I heal. To anyone who has struggled finding their voice when you have needed help in the past, know you can always reach out for a chat with us about working through why it’s been so hard for you.