Guidance for living well with a serious illness or injury

Guidance for living well with a serious illness or injury

You may not be given guidance for living well with a serious illness or injury: what to do, what to avoid, etc. And in the early stages, a lot of your energies are focused on treatment, surviving the ordeal and recovery.

But then a few months or even years after the medical crisis, there’s that part of you that doesn’t feel quite right, definitely not the same as before. Living in a changed body and that experience of losing control can take its toll not just on your physical body, but your mind, heart and soul. I am writing this post to speak to that part of you.

 

Healing your heart, mind and soul

 

I believe that to bring healing to our hearts, minds and souls, we have to get to know ourselves in ways we may not have had to prior to the illness or injury.

People often say they love people watching and learning about how ‘people tick’. The work I am speaking about is learning about how you tick so you have greater control over your emotional, psychological and soul health.

I want to share with you some questions which will help you get to know yourself better and thereby develop your own set of guidance for living well with a serious illness or injury.

I came across these questions whilst travelling across the internet. They were created by John O’Donohue, an Irish poet, author, philosopher and one-time priest. He is no longer with us, which is a shame as his work is lovely. I learned they come from the book To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings. So of course I immediately purchased it to add to my collection.

 

Pic of book To Bless The Space Between Us

New book in the house!

 

The book offers thoughts or ‘blessings’ for periods of change in your life whether that be marriage, birth, new job, new home, adulthood, illness or something else. They are meant to help you on your journey from the known into the unknown, which a transition such as a serious illness or injury is all about. It’s very good. And it’s a book you dip into as and when.

Here are the questions.

 

At the End of the Day: A Mirror of Questions

Copyright © 2007 by John O’ Donohue

What dreams did I create last night?
Where did my eyes linger today?
Where was I blind?
Where was I hurt without anyone noticing?
What did I learn today?
What did I read?
What new thoughts visited me?
What differences did I notice in those closest to me?
Whom did I neglect?
Where did I neglect myself?
What did I begin today that might endure?
How were my conversations?
What did I do today for the poor and the excluded?
Did I remember the dead today?
Where could I have exposed myself to the risk of something different?
Where did I allow myself to receive love?
With whom today did I feel most myself?
What reached me today? How deeply did it imprint?
Who saw me today?
What visitations had I from the past and from the future?
What did I avoid today?
From the evidence – why was I given this day?

 

Thought provoking aren’t they?

 

Pic of woman reading thought provoking questions which get her to think about how her day was

Reflecting on how your day was

 

If you wish, buy the book. Put the questions somewhere where you will see them every day. It may be enough to glance over them and keep them in mind as you go about your day.

For others, you may wish to use this to explore yourself more deeply and write responses to these questions. Particularly if you are on a quest to change something about yourself (even if you don’t know what that is yet). How often you write your responses is up to you. Some of you may wish to do it every day, or every few days or once a week.

These questions provoke deeper thought, the kind of reflection that helps you identify patterns and themes and identify the changes you wish to make. Self-reflection promotes self-awareness, one of the critical components of change.

 

Pic of formula of change equals self-reflection plus intention plus action

A formula for change

 

What’s it like for you?

 

What do you think of these questions? Which ones particularly resonated with you? Are there questions you ask yourself which you don’t see here? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you are living with a serious health issue, which may be a serious illness or injury or chronic illness, or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to return to a sense of wellness, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

 

Help with research on acceptance

 

If you or a loved one experienced a serious health issue in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering if you can accept what has happened, I would love to speak with you. I am researching the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of a serious health issue by collecting people’s experiences with it. Click here to find out more. And in exchange, I offer you a free 1 hour coaching session.

 

Pass it forward

 

Although I wrote this blog in the context of living with a serious health issue, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. If you think someone you know would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

Questions by John O’Donohue. The rest of the blog is written and pictures drawn or photographed by Barbara Babcock, 2018.

 

References

As published in the USA – O’Donohue, J. (2008) To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings. New York, USA: Doubleday.

As published in the UK – O’Donohue, J. (2007) Benedictus: A Book of Blessings. London, UK: Bantam Press.

 

Depression and serious illness are not a good combination, aim for positivity

Depression and serious illness are not a good combination, aim for positivity

Depression and serious illness or injury is reckoned not to be a good combination. Being positive is often seen to be the better choice.

For example, I often hear people say, ‘Well, you can either get depressed and upset or you can be positive,’ in relation to living with the impact of a serious illness or injury. Many times, the person presents it as being happy is the right choice. Because who wants to be depressed and upset, right?

I get that. The fear that depression and sadness can overwhelm us and once we go there, we won’t be able to get out, is very real. So, we don’t go there at all. We shut that door and double lock it. Depression and serious illness won’t get us.

Picture of a person trying to lock out the depression and sadness of their serious illness

Locking depression and sadness out

 

I acknowledge this works for people.

I also want to acknowledge that for others, ignoring how sad and/or depressed they feel and striving to focus only on being positive may not. And I want to tell you why.

If you are one of these people, you may find what I share here will help your thinking around this and restore calm in how you feel about yourself.

Is it wrong to feel depressed when living with a #seriousillness #chronicillness #seriousinjury? Is it better to focus on feeling positive? What are your thoughts? tell a friend

 

Why the choice between depression and serious illness or being positive may not work for you

 

It’s a choice between two ways of being. An either-or choice. Be sad or be positive.

You only have two options.

On top of this, depression and sadness can have a negative connotation in our society so being positive is the ‘correct’ choice.

 

Your choices are laced with judgement

 

Have you selected the right choice or the wrong choice?

It’s not fun to be seen as the person who selected the ‘wrong’ choice, i.e. being sad and depressed. It also assumes that is an active choice we make. But sadness and depression doesn’t work like that. They can creep up on your unnoticed. Or come unexpectedly to be your new companion.

Pic of a person telling a sad person to snap out of it

If you only you could just snap out of depression and serious illness. But it doesn’t work like that.

 

So of course you plough on, trying your damndest to be positive, because you can’t let the illness or injury ‘win’. Yet inside, there is a well of sadness filling up that you keep trying to push down.

Pic of a person trying to keep a lid on the sadness they feel.

Pushing down your sadness means it will keep coming up to the surface and spilling out.

 

You are expending your often times limited amounts of energy in these opposing directions. How long will your energy last? In my experience, not forever. Here’s an alternative.

 

Rather than give yourself a dilemma, give yourself a trilemma

 

This is what a tutor from my first coaching qualification told me. This was an important learning that has helped me (and others) in coping with difficult situations like a serious illness.

When we say we have a choice between this or that – being sad or positive for example – we give ourselves two choices, or a dilemma. Sometimes this is referred to as ‘black and white thinking’.

What if you gave yourself a third choice? Or a fourth choice? So you have a trilemma or a quadlemma.

This is about moving from

either this or that

to

either this or that or that or…

You can give yourself as many choices as you wish.

Pic of the either-or dilemma and giving yourself more choices

Giving yourself more choices

 

When you have more than two choices, you give yourself more possibilities.

When you have more than two #choices, you are giving yourself more possibilities. #seriousillness #seriousinjury #chronicillness tell a friend

 

These possibilities open up new ways of being and doing which may better meet your needs. You are no longer stuck with two choices neither which may be right for you.

When you have several possibilities, you have a choice to select one that is appropriate for you at that time. This helps to build your muscle of flexibility. And the ability to be flexible and move among choices is so important to living well with the impact of a serious illness or injury.

More possibilities also help to take away the judgement of seeing your choice as being right or wrong. It becomes the best choice for you in that moment.

 

Giving ourselves choices acknowledges the many ways we feel

 

Importantly, when we give ourselves choices, we are acknowledging that there are many ways we can feel at any particular time.

If we just give ourselves only two choices laced with the judgement that one choice is correct and the other wrong, then we discount something very real we may be feeling.

It is NORMAL to feel incredibly sad when we are dealing with the impact of a serious illness or injury. Acknowledging how you feel gives validity to your experience. This validity can be very healing.

Acknowledging how you feel about living with a #seriousillness #chronicillness or #seriousinjury gives validity to your experience. Validity helps the healing process tell a friend

 

Acknowledging your sadness, depression and serious illness also develops your self-awareness. You are in a better position to recognise what you need and then make a choice to meet that need.

When you meet your needs, then you are much less likely to end up unpacking and living in the sadness and depression.

So I encourage you to acknowledge the many ways you feel – desperately sad some moments or days, hugely depressed on others, sad but not huge amounts at other times, pretty good on other days, downright happy and thrilled in other moments, etc, etc.

Give yourself choices in how you feel, your needs and how you meet those needs.

Pic of a person saying that acknowledging their feelings brings benefits of validity and choices

 

What’s it like for you?

 

How do the thoughts in this article resonate with you? How are you at acknowledging the many ways you feel in relation to your, or a loved one’s, serious illness, serious injury or chronic illness?

If you are living with a serious health issue, which may be a serious illness or injury or chronic illness, or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to return to a sense of wellness, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

 

Help with research on acceptance

 

If you or a loved one experienced a serious health issue in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering if you can accept what has happened, I would love to speak with you. I am researching the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of a serious health issue by collecting people’s experiences with it. Click here to find out more. And in exchange, I offer you a free 1 hour coaching session.

 

Pass it forward

 

Although I wrote this blog in the context of living with a serious health issue, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. If you think someone you know would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

Managing your expectations of yourself when returning to work after a serious illness

Managing your expectations of yourself when returning to work after a serious illness

Managing your expectations of yourself when returning to work after a serious illness or injury is key for a successful transition. But because it is about you managing your expectations of yourself, it can be one of the hardest things to do.

You are someone who believes in doing a good job. And you will go the extra mile to make that happen. After all, you have high standards and are proud of that and the work you do. It gives you great satisfaction.

You may also feel the need to prove to others that you can still do your job and do it well. And you enjoy your job and are keen to continue in your role.

So you try to do your job as best you can, as close as possible to how you did it before your illness/injury. But despite your best efforts, you are finding you can’t. You’re tired, maybe feeling dejected and not feeling like yourself anymore. You wonder if you can still do your job. And you may be afraid others are thinking you no longer can. You try to find the energy to plough on, to keep going in the hopes your recovery will kick in and you will soon feel like your old self.

Managing expectations of yourself when returning to work after #seriousillness or injury is key for a successful transition. Yet it can be one of the hardest things to do #returntowork tell a friend

 

It’s understandable

 

You don’t know any different. As I often say, you don’t know what you don’t know when you are seriously ill or injured. We know what the doctors and nurses tell us and the messages society gives us around health, illness and disability (the latter which may not be relevant to your situation or correct). We know how different our bodies feel. But we often aren’t given info on how to live well with the ongoing impact of a serious illness or injury including returning to work.

So how can you stay in work doing good work and being happy with that whilst dealing well with the impact of your illness or injury?

As I said up front, managing your expectations of yourself at work is key. There are four things you can do which will help.

  1. Adjust your expectations of yourself
  2. Learn how to live in your changed body
  3. Learn how to manage the impact of stress
  4. Set your boundaries with others on what you can and cannot do and stick to them

 

Four things you can do to manage your expectations of yourself when returning to work

 

These may feel like pretty chunky steps. And they are. This is an ongoing process. Not a tick box exercise where you do steps 1, 2, 3 and voilà you are a new person. So for a start I just give you some key tips for each and refer you to related blogs I have written on related topics. What I do know from my personal experience and that of my clients is that these steps work.

Read about the 4 things you can do to manage your expectations of yourself when returning to work after #seriousillness or #injury #returntowork tell a friend

 

Managing your expectations of yourself requires you to adjust your expectations

 

Adjusting your expectations of yourself requires you to acknowledge the changes you have experienced as a result of your illness or injury. The changes may include what you are no longer able to do or unable to do as well or as quickly. You may have very much valued what you were once able to do.

They could also be new things you have to do because of your illness/injury. Like having to know where the toilets are where ever you go outside your home due to having bladder and/or bowel issues. Having to inject insulin before every meal due to diabetes. Or eating more healthily and exercising more.

Acknowledging the changes you have had to make may or may not be easy as I mentioned in an earlier blog on returning to work. It depends on the type of change and whether you would have welcomed the change pre-illness/injury.

Adjusting your expectations of yourself at work requires you to acknowledge the changes you have experienced as a result of your #seriousillness or #injury #returntowork tell a friend

 

Linked to this is redefining who you believe yourself to be. This is about change at the core of you, your sense of identity, which is a fundamental change. This is a journey and can take time. Being willing to try on other ways of being and doing in the world can help you move through this stage with more ease and less emotional turmoil.

 

Redefining your identity is a fundamental change in belief about who you are

 

Managing your expectations of yourself requires you to learn how to live in your changed body

 

The blog I wrote on preparing for your return to work has tips which will help you learn how to live in your changed body.

Pacing yourself to manage your energy levels is a key part of this. Clients have said learning to do less at work, not trying to be the hero and fix everything, and taking regular breaks helped. Also, being willing to use aids that helped them manage their symptoms, such as a hot water bottle or a fan to cool themselves. Which aids you use will depend on the ongoing residual symptoms you live with.

Setting goals for your rehabilitation and returning to work will also help. As well as listening closely to your body and making adjustments to your routine as a result.

#pacing yourself to manage your energy levels is a key part of learning to live in a changed body after a #seriousillness or #injury and will help you adjust to the work routine #returntowork tell a friend

 

Managing your expectations of yourself requires you to learn how to manage the impact of stress

 

It’s important to manage stress because it can exacerbate any residual symptoms you may be living with. This is stress from external events and self-induced stress.

I’ve seen with clients how stress at work kept then awake at nights, the lack of sleep contributed to their fatigue, the fatigue meant they could not work or work as much as they would like, etc. It became a vicious circle.

Self-induced stress often comes from our habitual ways of being and doing in the world which no longer serve us. But we might have not yet realised that our habitual strategies have outlived their useful life. It’s important to identify these and make changes. One client made changes by identifying what was in her control to do and as a result she reported feeling less pain.

I also recommend you read these two blogs on using your personal power well to manage your health and wellness – part 1 and part 2.

Being very aware of what causes you to feel stressed and managing the impact effectively can reduce any negative impact stress can have. Important when you are returning to work after a #seriousillness or #injury #returntowork tell a friend

 

Managing your expectations of yourself requires you to set your boundaries with others on what you can and cannot do and stick to them

 

This is so important. And can be so hard to do. Because it means you have to say no to people. And sometimes we don’t like saying no because we feel we aren’t helping the other person and we like to help others. Or we feel obligated to do what other people need from or want of us. Or we feel a need to make others happy by doing what they want from us.

This also requires you to develop the belief (if you haven’t already) that you are important, your needs are valid, you are worth it, and so it is ok for you to put yourself first and look after yourself. AND to operate on that belief in your life.

What I wrote about managing others’ expectations of you in a earlier blog in this series on returning to work helps you to start setting those boundaries on what you can and cannot do.

And remember, boundaries can change for the right reasons during the process of returning to work.

How easy do you find it to set boundaries at work and stick to them when living with the impact of a #seriousillness or #injury? #returntowork tell a friend

 

But something else is key in all of this

 

The willingness to adapt and be flexible.

And being gentle with yourself. Shower yourself with compassion.

 

Picture of a woman showering herself with self-compassion

 

If you try something and it doesn’t work, focus on what you learned and try something else. Also make sure to have good people at work and in your life who encourage you.

Remember, you are doing the best you can in not the easiest of circumstances.

 

Picture summarising what you can do in managing your expectations of yourself when returning to work after a serious illness or injury

A summary of the blog on managing your expectations of yourself when returning to work after a serious illness or injury

 

What’s it like for you?

 

What aspects of the above blog resonate with your situation? What do you find difficult or easy to do? If you have returned to work after a serious illness or injury, what have you done to manage your expectations of yourself? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you will soon be returning to work after a serious illness or injury or are already in the process of doing so and want to work through the recommended steps in this blog with support, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

 

Help with research on acceptance

 

If you or a loved one experienced a serious health issue in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering if you can accept what has happened, I would love to speak with you. I am researching the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of a serious health issue by collecting people’s experiences with it. Click here to find out more. And in exchange, I offer you a free 1 hour coaching session.

 

Pass it forward

 

Although I wrote this blog in the context of living with a serious health issue, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. If you think someone you know would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

Dealing with anger as a carer so you don’t end up operating from the dark side of helping

Dealing with anger as a carer so you don’t end up operating from the dark side of helping

Dealing with anger as a carer of someone with a serious health issue can be really tough. You may also be dealing with rejection from them, feel crap about the situation generally but also genuinely wondering what you can to help and how to manage the situation.

We can be overloaded sometimes with the anger, rejection and unpleasant feelings that we react badly and end up in the dark side of helping. You don’t want to act in this way, but with all the stress you are under, it is understandable that it happens.

You want to find ways to not get so angry at your loved one’s anger over their health situation. This third post in the series on the dark side of helping deals with that. It focuses on you the supporter, your needs and some things to keep in mind as you are on this journey to support effectively rather than operate from the dark side of helping.

Pic of woman holding on to someone else's anger, dropping her own wellness and moving towards the dark side of helping

The potential impact of holding on to someone else’s anger

 

It’s important because you may not always get much recognition, if any, for what you do and what you are going through. But your experience is just as valid and it’s important you receive support too.

I am picking up where we left off at the second post where I wrote about the process a person with a serious health issue goes through when realising what they are no longer capable of doing, and the reasons they may not want to accept your help. As I said in first post, helping others is a good thing and recognised as being good for our mental health (Mental Health Foundation, 2018; Psychology Today, 2018; NPR, 2018). Yet there are times when providing the help doesn’t fulfil the helper’s original intentions to help, nor help the person it is meant to. This blog series is exploring that situation. The primary audience are those of us in a caring role – the carer, spouse, another family member, friend, colleague. I am using the term supporter to reflect that role.

If you are coming across this series for the first time, my aim is to share my learning from having operated from the dark side of helping, not to judge. Also, to raise awareness so you can make mindful choices of when to offer your help and when not to.

Dealing with the anger of the person who has a #serioushealthissue and you are helping is not easy. Read 4 things you can do to lessen the anger’s impact on you. #carer #caring tell a friend

 

Dealing with anger as a carer

 

During this time, you may feel your help could make their life easier, but they just won’t accept it even though it’s based on good intentions. So, you feel rejected. It can feel like you are constantly being pushed away and after a time there is only so much rejection you can take. This is tough. You are doing the best you can in a tough situation neither of you wanted to be in.

What can be happening is the person you are supporting could be holding a lot of anger over what has happened to them. And frustration, and grief. It can be so much to hold, they try to get rid of some of it by giving it to others through their reactions and lashing out.

When someone is #angry with the impact of their #serioushealthissue their #anger can sometimes be covering the #grief they feel for what they have lost. #carer #caring tell a friend

 

You don’t have to hold their anger or grief for them. That won’t help you in dealing with anger as a carer or to support someone effectively. If you hold someone’s anger, grief, frustration, whatever, you can end up draining your inner resources to deal with the situation. You can end up in a vicious cycle of you both throwing your anger back and forth at one another. Which in turn can lead to the type of resentment mentioned above.

Instead, you can do the following to support the person.

 

Demonstrate empathy

 

Demonstrate empathy rather than sympathy for the person. They are two different abilities and people can confuse them. It’s important not to do that in this case.

Empathy is the ‘ability to identify with or understand the perspective, experiences, or motivations of another individual and to comprehend and share another individual’s emotional state.’

Sympathy is a ‘feeling of pity or sorrow for the distress of another; commiseration’.

Some people say you cannot experience true empathy if you haven’t had the same experience as the other person. Given that you don’t often have the same experience as another, what you can do is remember a time or situation in your life when you experienced similar enough feelings.

You don’t need to mention the situation you experienced or say very much. Empathy doesn’t have to be verbal. Sometimes you only have to get in touch with the feelings you felt at that time which are similar to the what the person you are supporting is feeling now. Often times this is more than good enough.

 

‘Hold the space’ for them

 

This expression is what people who support others – like coaches, therapists, listeners – often use. It means to be in the present moment, being your authentic self, witnessing and allowing what is happening for the other person you are with without judgement.

It’s about using yourself to create a safe space for another to just be and express what they want and need to. Again, holding the space does not have to be verbal.

Here’s a good article that expands on what ‘holding the space’ means.

 

Acknowledge their feelings

 

This entails verbally acknowledging how the other person is feeling. This is really important because it validates their experience, it lets them know that you see and recognise it. You could say:

‘I can see that XYZ is really troubling you.’

‘I can see that you are worried about…’

‘It seems as if you feel that…’

‘Are you feeling…?’

Don’t be surprised if the other person corrects you, that they are not feeling what you said but something else. If they corrected you, that’s actually a good thing because you now have a clearer idea of how they actually are feeling.

Also, we aren’t mind readers and don’t live in other people’s bodies, so we can never truly know how another person is feeling. We may get to a close approximation of it and that’s good enough.

We aren’t mind readers and don’t live in other people’s bodies, so we can never truly know how another person is feeling. Important to remind ourselves of this when we are in the #caring role. #carer #serioushealthissue tell a friend

 

Sometimes acknowledgement is non-verbal. It is simply listening to the other person express themselves and whatever they are feeling even if what they are feeling is very unpleasant or really happy.

Acknowledgement of this kind is not about telling a story when you experienced similar feelings or someone else you know has. Unless of course the person has expressly asked you for such information. Acknowledgement is active witnessing of the person’s experience.

 

Acknowledge the impact on you and the both of you

 

At times it is appropriate to highlight the impact the situation and their anger is having on you and that you are doing your best. This may not be appropriate every time. You have to learn to judge when it is. You may make a mistake from time to time as you are figuring that out and that can help you learn what works and what doesn’t.

From my experience as a carer, I learned it is when the other person may be upset but it is not at the level where they are not receptive to what you have to say. I have also found there may be a pause and they look you in the eye. When they do that, they are seeking connection. At this point it’s a judgement call as to what you say.

If you feel it is appropriate to say something about the impact on you, with all the empathy and love you have, you can look back at them and gently say, ‘It’s not easy for you, I can see that. I haven’t found it easy. I’m doing my best.’ Or use words that are comfortable for you and appropriate to your situation. You will notice I include acknowledgement of the other person so it doesn’t come across as a ‘me but not you’ but a ‘me and you’.

Sometimes you may not need to mention the impact on you as it is evident to both of you.

 

dealing with anger as a carer there are 4 things to do

 

Hopefully these four ways of dealing with anger as a carer helps to lessen the negative impact anger can have. Again, it’s important as the supporter you’ve got sources of support where you speak to a trusted person who can acknowledge what you are going through, that your experience is valid, and help you develop strategies to get through it and keep relatively sane.

 

Next time

 

Come back in two weeks when I will continue sharing the strategies you can use to manage tough situations, help effectively and to support yourself.

 

What’s it like for you?

 

What has your experience been like of dealing with anger as a carer? Are these strategies new to you? What other strategies have worked for you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you are living with a serious health issue, which may be a serious illness or injury or chronic illness, or are supporting someone who is, and would like to return to a sense of wellness, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

 

Help with research on acceptance

 

If you or a loved one experienced a serious health issue in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering if you can accept what has happened, I would love to speak with you. I am researching the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of a serious health issue by collecting people’s experiences with it. Click here to find out more. And in exchange, I offer you a free 1 hour coaching session.

 

Pass it forward

 

Although this blog is written in the context of living with a serious health issue, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. If you think someone you know would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

 

What the dark side of helping people who have a serious health issue is like – Part 2

What the dark side of helping people who have a serious health issue is like – Part 2

We continue our series on the dark side of helping people affected by illness or injury by talking about the reasons they may not want your offers of help (however well-meaning they are).

As I said in the earlier post, helping others is a good thing and recognised as being good for us (Mental Health Foundation, 2018; Psychology Today, 2018; NPR, 2018).

Yet there are times when providing the help doesn’t fulfil the helper’s original intentions to help, nor help the person. This blog series is exploring that situation.

This post will explain the views of people on the receiving end of such help and give some ideas and tips to give you more choices on when to offer and withhold your help. It’s important as relationships you value can end as a result of the dark side of helping. And this is often not your intention when helping someone.

 

Pic of man in wheelchair and woman with sticks saying they are going to share their thoughts on helping

 

My aim is to share my learning from having operated at times from the dark side of helping so you can make mindful choices when to offer your help and when not to. Many of us have been there and done it. The important thing is learning from it.

 

What is the dark side of helping?

 

A quick recap – The dark side of helping is when someone helps another, and the person helping hasn’t asked if it’s needed. It’s a proactive form of help, which our society feels is a good thing. But the helper as assumed the person being helped needs or wants it. The person being helped hasn’t asked for it, so we don’t know if it is wanted or needed.

 

Pic of man insisting on helping a person who uses is sticks and is carrying a bag, the dark side of helping

 

The impact of the dark side of helping

 

People who get around using a wheelchair, stick or walking frame have often told me it doesn’t feel good to be on the receiving end of this kind of help. They gave four reasons why. These reasons can also apply to people living with invisible illnesses. So have a read to learn what to do to make sure you don’t end up inadvertently wandering in the dark side of helping.

You want to help someone who has a #serioushealthissue #seriousinjury #chronicillness But they don’t want your help. Read the four reasons why here tell a friend

 

Reason 1: It’s an invasion of personal space

 

It some cases it can be when it involves you physically doing something for someone.

 

Reason 2: It can feel demeaning

 

People I’ve spoken said it can come across as if the person helping assumes the person is no longer capable of doing what they are setting out to do because of the illness or injury. To live with people treating you as if you do not have the capability can erode your sense of self-efficacy (your belief in your ability to accomplish a task or succeed in a particular situation), self-esteem and self-worth over time.

As the person helping, you may say that the person is no longer capable of doing that activity. This can go several ways.

Ask yourself how you feel watching the person doing the activity. Are you thinking they can’t do it? Are you worried they will hurt themselves or drop something? Is it taking longer? And you’re busy and don’t have the time to wait for them to finish. Does it feel more laborious to you? Do you think you can do it more quickly or better? These are common reactions and they can often highlight your assumptions, standards, expectations, wants or needs.

If you find yourself feeling this way, that’s ok. Just notice it and you don’t have to act on it. The downside of acting on these feelings is you inadvertently transfer them to the person you are trying to help even if you don’t say anything about how you are feeling. For example, if you help someone because you can’t stand how much effort it is taking them to do what is expected to be a simple task… you get the feeling.

It’s not nice being on the receiving end of that kind of help. It’s difficult to understand. The person may wonder if they have done something wrong. Or be upset because they were trying to exercise their independence. It can also be confusing and uncomfortable when you don’t know the person trying to help you.

If you don’t know the person at all or only a little, ask before you help.

If you know the person and there is a time element to the situation where you both have to be somewhere, or it’s an issue of keeping the person safe (a safeguarding issue), I recommend finding a way to talk about when your help might actually be recommended or necessary. This can be a talk of a more delicate nature and warrants a separate article for another day.

 

Pic of woman having taken over of making tea for a man in a wheelchair

Wanting to try doing things for yourself when living in a changed body.

 

Reason 3: It disempowers the person you are helping

 

The person you are supporting may no longer be capable of doing the activity how they used to do it pre-illness/injury. But they may be able to find a new way of doing it. This a key process for people living in a changed body to go through. It fosters adaptability and flexibility which are key qualities they need to deal with the ongoing impact of their illness/injury, to look after themselves, and regain a quality of life.

When you rush in to help someone without asking, it’s focusing on what the person cannot do and that isn’t empowering. When you support someone to figure things out, you are focusing on the possibilities that exist for them and what they can do. They may not always be sure what they can do, so you can give some suggestions (if they are open to them and you may need to ask them that too). You can also give them your moral support and belief in them, both which can be incredibly empowering for the person.

This kind of help on your part fosters a reciprocal partnership. It strengthens the person’s resolve that they can figure out a new way to do things, what they can do on their own and what they cannot. They may make a mess, drop things, and take a long time. They will express frustration. But they learn, and it can be empowering to find a new way of doing things. It feeds their sense of self-worth. So voluntary help can actually prevent people from going through this helpful process.

When you support someone with a #serioushealthissue to figure things out for themselves, you are focusing on the possibilities that exist for them and what they can do #empowerment #inclusivity #disability tell a friend

 

Reason 4: It takes away control

 

The person may actually no longer have the capability to do what they want. But for some people they have to go through the process of figuring this out for themselves. It will contain more meaning for them than someone telling them they are no longer capable. Even though it is hard for them to digest this realisation and for you to witness.

They retain a sense of control in making the decision knowing what they are capable of and not. When someone tells you verbally or through their actions that you are not capable, it highlights a difference between you and the person/people telling you. Your sense of belonging can feel threatened. It feels like you can’t decide for yourself anymore. You can feel ‘less than’. This can erode your sense of self-efficacy and self-esteem as mentioned above.

Over the long-term, it can foster resentment for both people in the relationship:

Supporter: I resent you because you can no longer do what you used to do and now I have to do it.

Person being helped: I resent you having to do things for me.

This resentment can result in malfunctioning co-dependent relationships.

This realisation process of learning what one is capable or not capable of is tough because it involves the person acknowledging the loss of capability due to their illness or injury. And they may not be ready to do that just yet, particularly if they (and you) really valued the lost capability. It can take time.

And during this time, the greatest thing you can be doing for yourself is to make sure you have support and time out (as far as that is possible, I know it’s tough at times to have time out). This will enable you to top up your inner resources of patience, strength and whatever else you need to keep going.

 

Pic of a woman talking to another woman to get some support

Getting support for yourself when you are supporting another is important.

 

Next time

 

Come back in two weeks where I will share the strategies you can use to manage tough situations, help effectively and to support yourself.

 

What’s it like for you?

 

What has your experience of supporting someone or receiving help taught you about the dark side of helping? What advice would you share with others to make sure they didn’t operate from that place? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you are living with a serious health issue, which may be a serious illness or injury or chronic illness, or are supporting someone who is, and would like to return to a sense of wellness, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

 

Help with research on acceptance

 

If you or a loved one experienced a serious health issue in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering if you can accept what has happened, I would love to speak with you. I am researching the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of a serious health issue by collecting people’s experiences with it. Click here to find out more. And in exchange, I offer you a free 1 hour coaching session.

 

Pass it forward

 

Although I wrote this blog in the context of living with a serious health issue, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. If you think someone you know would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

 

What health coaching is like for people with serious health issues

What health coaching is like for people with serious health issues

A former client, Wendy H., has graciously shared her health coaching journey to give you a taster of what it is like and how it can support someone to live well with the impact of the health issue they have. Wendy starts her story before we started working together, sharing with you the serious health issue she lives with and everything she tried to help herself before trying health coaching. She then shares what health coaching was like for her. 

I made very little changes to what Wendy wrote. I added in a word here and there and the titles, and moved some sentences. I also drew the pictures. At the end of this article I provide a link to the questions referred to by Wendy. They will help you think about your own situation and what you want to be different. There is also the opportunity to try coaching for yourself for free.

 

Return to wellness: My health coaching experience

 

When my life changed forever

 

It was 7 years ago – in another life – since I was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis (TM), resulting in a weakened left leg with inevitable muscle wasting, dropped foot and a multitude of other symptoms associated with the condition such as bladder and bowel issues and fatigue.

I had always been sporty and active so over the past few years my rehabilitative journey took on a multitude of self-help strategies, importantly, finding out as much as I could about the condition.  I read books on neuroplasticity, brain training and mindfulness. I joined exercise programmes, the gym, saw a sports physiotherapist, neuro physiotherapist, trained how to do Nordic walking, which led to me taking up hippotherapy (horse therapy, or simply put, horse riding).

I have been measured for orthotic insoles and used a Functional Electrical Stimulation device (FES). I even went to acupuncture for weeks. I was on the verge of sinking into depression so was referred to a clinical psychologist, resulting in a short course of anti-depressants.

 

The irony….

 

Even after all this determination and sheer will power to get back to my previous life, it wasn’t really working.  I did a reasonable job at maintaining my physical strength. However, it seemed I was fighting a losing battle and began to feel ‘exercised out’.  I would put pressure on myself to exercise and scold myself if I didn’t.

I’d watch people running and walking in the street or on TV.  I found myself analysing their gait. How do they do this simple activity…. automatically?

I obsessed about how TM had affected me, was consumed with frustration, anger, loss, depression.

Finally, a few months ago I realized I had become STUCK.

After all this effort.

I was STUCK.

Everything became a mammoth task or a hassle. I’d stopped exercising. I became anxious and tearful.  I lost motivation, interest and confidence in almost everything. I couldn’t move on or come to terms with or adjust to how my world was now.

I still fretted about my past life. I was still angry and frustrated. This mountain was in front of me and I didn’t have the energy to climb it again.

Then it occurred to me – I had been focussing mostly on my physical state and been neglecting my mental health state. I really hadn’t learned how to adjust, accept or come to terms with this long-term medical condition Transverse Myelitis.

Picture of a person with a serious health issue stuck between their old life and the mountain (i.e. figuring out their new life)

Wishing for your old life but starting a new one feels like a large mountain to climb

 

You've done everything you can to live well w/ your #serioushealthissue #seriousinjury #chronicillness but you’re still stuck. Imagine this. A magic wand is waved as you sleep. In the morning, you still have the health issue, but… tell a friend

 

The turning point

 

At this time, an article in a newsletter from the Transverse Myelitis Society reminded members about a bursary to provide health coaching, guided by Barbara Babcock. I did have some apprehension and wondered whether this would be another fruitless journey.

However, having plucked up the courage to contact Barbara, she reassured me about the process and that we would have telephone contact at times to suit us both.  She also provided lots of preparatory articles and questions to think about prior to our first communication, so I felt somewhat relieved and prepared.

 

Health coaching journey – One of enlightenment, empowerment and self-awareness

 

Over the weeks that followed, my health coaching journey became one of enlightenment, empowerment and self-awareness.  I was amazed with how comfortable it was talking to Barbara on the phone and I soon realized that she didn’t put pressure on me to fulfil her agenda.

This was totally me guiding the script and pouring out my anxieties, stresses, frustration and anger. And importantly, we tackled the obstacles in my way, with a much more energetic and positive attitude.

I learned how to recognise my feelings within my body, not just the negatives, but the positives too.  It was frightening that I rarely felt these ‘positives’ because I had focussed on the negatives for so long.  It took practice, but I now consciously recognise when something feels ‘good’ and that this is the ‘anchor’ I needed.

I became more attuned to acknowledging anger and anxiety and importantly, how to manage, process and take control.  With Barbara’s guidance and simple strategies, I learned how to ‘feel’ where in my body the emotion was and what thoughts arose.

By simply giving the emotion a name and spending time with it, enabled me to process these thoughts and feelings.  This may sound daunting, but the nature of talking about your underlying feelings, in this safe environment, or writing them down was incredibly powerful.

Picture of a person writing about their feelings which is a powerful thing to do

The power of writing about your feelings.

 

The nature of talking about your underlying feelings in this safe environment of #health #coaching, or writing them down, was incredibly powerful. #serioushealthissue #chronicillness #spinalcordinjury #TransverseMyelitis tell a friend

 

 

Health coaching empowered me to focus on what I can do

 

My health coaching journey has now ended, but my journey to wellness and normality continues.  This is my new philosophy.

If you feel you have a mountain to climb or feel ‘stuck’ and have determination and the willpower to want to take your first steps, I would strongly recommend health coaching.

Be prepared to be open and honest and be aware that emotions may become overwhelming and distressful. And be prepared to work at it.

Barbara will pose unexpected questions and prompt when you are off your guard. If you expect Barbara to tell you what to do and how to do it, you will realise that this is not how it works and you will not reap the benefits.

I am learning to focus on what I can do now, and although I still have a mountain to climb, I can tackle it in smaller chunks.  I am more positive and less fatalistic. I am able to recognise anger. I am now able to move on. I am managing fatigue. I have resumed physical activities and registered for a one-mile open water swim.  I no longer feel ‘stuck’.

Wendy H, York

 

Picture of a person having found her path to wellness and a new normality because of health coaching

Finding your own path towards wellness and your new normality

 

What’s it like for you?

 

In what ways did Wendy’s story mirror your own or someone you know? How do you think health coaching could help you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you are living with a serious health issue, which may be a serious illness or injury or chronic illness, or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to return to a sense of wellness, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

You can also download the questions I sent to Wendy for her to think about ahead of our first session via this blog post.

 

Help with research on acceptance

 

If you or a loved one experienced a serious health issue in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering if you can accept what has happened, I would love to speak with you. I am researching the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of a serious health issue by collecting people’s experiences with it. Click here to find out more. And in exchange, I offer you a free 1 hour coaching session.

 

Pass it forward

 

Although this blog is written in the context of living with a serious health issue, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. If you think someone you know would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

 

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