Ancient Communities vs Modern Independence
Independence is a much revered trait in the modern human being. But total independence is a bunch of bullshit. To be completely independent is to live in a bubble in which you’d die within minutes. To be alive is to be dependent; every living being breathes, and that requires synthesis. Knowing how and when to ask for help is a valuable life skill that not only improves your quality of life, but also brings out the best in others. This in turn enhances the humaneness within society.
I was reading ‘Religion for Atheists, A Non‐Believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion’ by Alain Botton (note: affiliate link), and there was a chapter dedicated to ‘community’. He spoke about the communities we used to live in, where people got to know each other at a deeper level. They had to help each other out during times of mass adversity, whether they liked one another or not. The saying ‘it takes a village’ didn’t come from nowhere.
But communities such as these rarely exist in modern spaces. People hurry by each other. An approaching stranger stirs immediate apprehension. ‘What do you want from me?” “What snake oil are you trying to sell?” “No, I have no spare change.” “Red Alert – Avoid oncoming human being: Distance = Speed * Time.” Add in an angle for better probability of avoidance. I am guilty of doing this myself; my method is to smile, mumble ‘no thanks’, and carry on walking with a firm step.
We Were Made to be Social
But community is an important aspect of being human. We were made to be social, to communicate, and to form connections, whether you’re an introvert or extrovert. In modern terms, this is also known as ‘finding your tribe’. As Aristotle sums it up:
“Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god.”
This lack of contact in modern society is one reason why it’s so sick these days. Why depression and anxiety are rampant, with loneliness cited as a modern epidemic. Having a tribe to call your own brings about many mental and emotional health benefits, and contributes to your over all wellbeing. People who live within the ‘blue zone‘ territories are known to be happier and to live longer. There are many contributing factors, with ‘family connections’ and ‘right tribe/friends’ as major ones. To know that you always have a support network to fall back on is a big reassurance and reduces stress. In fact, it can even propel you to greater heights as compared to going at it alone in life.
An Act of Survival and an Opportunity to Bond
As opposed to what many might think, there is a difference between asking for help, begging, or bossing people around. The act of asking for help is to open up your heart to reveal your vulnerabilities, from one human being to another. We all have our weaknesses. To ask and to receive help is an opportunity for love, bonding, kindness and humanity.
It is also an act of survival. There is this quote that I love, “Asking for help isn’t giving up. It’s refusing to give up”.
That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it? You’ve reached a dead end, or you don’t have the strength to complete the race on your own, or you need an investor to give your business a chance. Whatever your need, reaching out to someone who has the capacity to give and is happy to do so, is what being human is all about. We’re all in this thing called life together, so we might as well make the most out of it. Remember, even mighty civilisations fell due to a lack of cohesion. And if not that, from climate change which brings us back to my initial point on how life is a state of interdependency.
Life Isn’t Fair, but We Have the Power to Make It a Little Better
I’m sure you’ve heard about the equality vs equity concept before. In brief, equality is where everybody begins at the same starting line, no matter their handicap or boost. A man with no legs starts at the same position as a marathon runner. Equity on the other hand, redefines that starting line based on what a person has or doesn’t have. Let’s admit, life will never be fair. But every person owns the power to make the world a little better to live in.
Revealing your weaknesses takes quite a bit of courage. Being labelled a pansy or loser isn’t very sexy, I don’t think. But no man is an island, and if you dare to be weak, then only are you able to be strong. It is about being aware that we all have weak spots, and that that’s okay. In fact, often our greatest strength is also our greatest weakness. As I wrote in another post, “call me sick girl”. Take that weakness that you’re trying to hide, and hang it out in the sun to dry. It will bother you less over time, and hopefully also weigh lighter, and evaporate at some point.
Learning how to ask for help is one of the biggest life lessons you learn when you live with chronic illnesses. It you want to live and live well, then you will need help. Full stop. Everyone in the world needs a little help, but being ill makes you more aware of this fact; it’s practically shoved right into your face every morning. There’s nothing like losing basic control of your body to alert you to this fact. Such as the days where you need help just to get from the bed to the bathroom, or when you need a nurse to shower you. Or when you’re unable to hold down a job, and can’t afford to pay for the medications you need.
Chronic Pain Changes the Rules of the Game
As they say, health is the greatest wealth. To be ill is to immediately forfeit all your god-given assets. It bankrupts your life of pleasure, quality time with friends and family, travel, and work. And also the ability to do things that you may not even like, such as housework. Yes, it can be depressing not being able to do something boring or icky. Life goals aren’t just something you reach out to pluck; they’re more like twinkling stars you try and reach out for during a rare good period. These good periods come and go like finicky toddlers. Life can become an empty husk if you let it, so you need to make an effort to maintain some sort of humanity within you.
Speaking from my own personal experiences, I started out as a very stubborn teenager (weren’t we all?). Of the seven deadly sins, mine was easily pride. Ego. I had to be the best at whatever, no matter. A real senseless waste of energy, if you ask me now. I have chronic pain to thank for that, it really is the best teacher you can get in life, besides grief. Day after day of being in immense pain will break any person, because there is no limit to it.
Being pushed around in a wheelchair for months was an eye-opener for me. Then the inabilities started to pile up over the years. I added new diagnoses, surgeries, symptoms, side effects, pain flares, A&E trips, one by one to the list. When you’re passed out on the floor, confused from a seizure. Or when you can’t even shampoo your own hair, because your fingers have frozen into claws. When you’re at your worst at almost all times. It’s quite impossible to go through all that alone, and I’m lucky and thankful that I have a good support network.
How I Learned to be Comfortable Voicing Out My Needs
My ex-partner and parents have supported me on this rubbish journey every step of the way. My ex was always proactive in lending a hand, which actually taught me how to be comfortable asking for help. He was always happy to oblige, and we even bonded over many of these painful situations. I’ve never been closer to someone else in my entire life and ironically, I have chronic pain to thank for that.
It now feels like a natural thing for me to ask for some help. Living with chronic illness trains you to be bold and to advocate for yourself, because the consequences are never worth it. There is no point pushing through pain, when I can get relief from it in one way or another. In fact, my request may only cost someone else a few seconds of their time, and take hardly any effort on their part!
Some Simple Truths to End (or Begin!) with
The simple truth is, as a person with (invisible) disabilities, I will need more help than others to get by in life. I have also learned that asking for help is not inherently wrong. What matters is the intention, what and why. This applies to both healthy and ill people alike – anyone who counts themselves as a human being. Life is about giving more than receiving, and there are no limits to some things you can give, such as gratitude and kindness.
Life is short, but it is also long when your pain or problems outnumber your capabilities, resources or threshold. There is enough suffering to go around in this world, and there are some battles you will have to fight alone. So give up the ones you can. Figure out what you could truly use some help with, then see if you can reach out to another human being to make a connection. Discipline your ego for a moment, and set this world ablaze with kindness, grace and meaning.
*Note: This article is meant for educational purposes and is based on the author’s personal experiences. It is not to be substituted for medical advice. Please consult your own doctor before changing or adding any new treatment protocols.
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- For More Insight:
- A New Idea of Self-Care (wellbalancedwomen.com): http://bit.ly/2TsUVBB
- What Is Community, and Why Is It Important? (ikedacenter.org): http://bit.ly/2Z2ieY8