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

How to prepare for returning to work after illness

How to prepare for returning to work after illness

Prepare for returning to work after illness or injury. Is that a thing? You’ve been through a serious illness, perhaps life-changing for you in some ways, treatment has ended, your recovery is going pretty well and returning to work is now on the horizon. Hurrah!

You just want to get back to work. Back to normality! Your regular salary and not sick pay. Being with other people again. Making a contribution. There may be concerns and worries of course. But getting back to normality like work is a key milestone.

Then you get back to work, you go for it, and you crash. Hard. Your body isn’t coping. You have to go back on sick leave. You’re thinking, ‘What the… *insert fruity language*?!?! You feel so disappointed.

 

Pic of someone returning to work after illness and it doesn't go well

When the return to work doesn’t go to plan.

 

I totally understand how that can happen. It’s pretty common actually. If you’ve haven’t been seriously ill before, how would you know how to prepare for returning to work after illness or injury? You don’t necessarily know that stuff. It’s not like your doctor gives you an info sheet on it.

I’m going to share a few tips to help you avoid that. I split them into four categories – Mind, Heart, Body and your Role at work. This is about taking a holistic approach to prepare for returning to work after illness or injury.

Click here on how to prepare your mind, heart and body to return to work after a serious illness or injury. #returntowork #seriousillness #chronicillness tell a friend

 

How to prepare for returning to work – Your mind

 

Manage your expectations of yourself.

We often expect our return to work after illness to go like this.

Person returning to work after illness expecting a smooth return to work

People’s expectations for returning to work can often look like this

 

It’s more often like this.

Pic of a graph demonstrating that the return to work after illness is not smooth

A return to work after illness often looks like this.

 

Be gentle with yourself.

It’s very easy for your pre-illness expectations of yourself to come to the fore when you start returning to every day normal activities. It’s normal for this to happen because your pre-illness expectations of yourself are all you know. But I often see clients battle to live up to those expectations. And I use that word ‘battle’ on purpose. It’s like a fight, ‘I will not let this illness and these symptoms beat me. I will WIN! I WILL last the whole day at work!’

This kind of fight is a negative fight as you have actually handed over control to your pre-illness expectations. You have become their slave. It can be a very unhappy and frustrating place to be in when you find that no matter what you do, you can’t live up to those expectations.

The thing is, your pre-illness expectations may no longer match your body’s capabilities. Your body has changed. Therefore, your expectations of what your body can do also need to change. They need to align with your new capabilities.

Being able to adapt is key for this to happen. But with adaptation comes acknowledgement of what has happened to you. For some, this process of acknowledging the change can be hard.

This brings us to your Heart.

 

How to prepare for returning to work – Your heart

 

Losing valued levels of physical and/or mental functioning can be hard. Your body and/or mind no longer do what it used to do. What you need it to do. What you want it to do. It can feel like your body has betrayed you. And that you are at war with it. You may be feeling very angry.

You feel like you are no longer you. But you also know you are you. You can feel so contradictory. Your heart hurts.

It’s important to acknowledge how you are feeling. To give your feelings some expression, to spend some time with them. As I’ve said previously, you don’t have to unpack and live in those feelings forever and ever. You just visit. And the length of that visit is up to you. If how you feel can feel overwhelming, get support from someone who can help you spend a little time with the feelings to understand what they want to tell you.

Picture of person coping with unpleasant feelings

You don’t have to unpack and live with overwhelming feelings.

 

Also, speak gently and compassionately to yourself. You’ve been through a lot. It’s ok to move more slowly, to do less, to not do things as perfectly, to not achieve as much. Focus your energies on the things that matter to you.

Your heart will thank you for this. And you will feel better.

 

How to prepare for returning to work – Your body

 

Finally, it’s important to gently prepare your body to return to work. Returning to work after an extended period of probably not being very physically active can be very draining physically and mentally.

Think through your typical work activities and ways you can simulate them at home. The purpose of doing this is to really feel how you your body copes with them and learn where your limits are.

If you are returning to work gradually, for example, 3 days a week for 2 hours each day at the start, set up that routine at home.

Make sure you get up at the same time you will need to when you return to work. Wash, get dressed, eat. Go through that routine to see how your body copes. Set yourself activities to do in the time frame you will be at work – say 2 hours of paying bills, work on the computer, some errands (if you can do them), a bit of light cleaning, tidying, calling people.

You can simulate a meeting. For example, meet a friend for coffee and notice what it’s like for you to get to the coffee house, visit with your friend, deal with the noise around you and being in public, and return home.

Do these activities at different times of the day to see how your body responds.

As you do this, notice how your body feels. Do you feel really tired? Do your symptoms get worse? Or do you find the activities distract you from the symptoms? Do you find it doable? Or too much? Do you find you cope better in the morning or afternoon?

This will give you an idea of what your body is capable of and the tasks you can and may not be able to do back at work. Of course, what you can and cannot do may change the longer you simulate work activities at home and then when you are back at work.

Before returning to work, get your body ready by simulating your work routine at home. You will learn how your body copes, its limits, and what adjustments you may need back at work. Read more about it here. #returntowork… tell a friend

 

What does this all mean for your role at work?

 

After having simulated your work routine at home, think of your work environment. First, think about the physical environment: how furniture is arranged, is it open plan, do you not have a desk, the lights, getting to the different areas within the office you will need to go, etc. Is there anything there which may be an obstacle? Do you need to make a request for a reasonable adjustment? I wrote about what reasonable adjustments are last week and you can read more about that topic here.

Also think of the non-physical aspects of the environment. Does your work have a recommended time frame by which they expect you to return to work full-time? How flexible can that time frame be? (The after effects of illness and injury don’t often work to others’ time frames including your expected time frame.)

What is the culture like? Are your teammates helpful? Is your line manager understanding, and their line manager? And HR? Do you have people at work who can help you look after your interests, whether formally or informally? What support will you need? How will you manage the pressure?

I appreciate these are a lot of questions so take your time in thinking them through. I have just a few more questions about your role at work

What tasks can you currently do, cannot do at the moment, or you may no longer be able to do ever? This is important to consider because if you have an idea on this, you can communicate this to your employer at the appropriate time to help them help you return to work. Also, if you cannot do the significant tasks in your role, then you may need to consider doing a different role.

Let me give you an example. I once knew someone who worked in a department store arranging their displays. They were affected by an illness which affected their balance and mobility. So they were no longer able to climb up a ladder. This significantly impacted their ability to do their role. They had to change roles in the organisation which did not require them to climb up ladders and carry heavy items.

If you think you are no longer able to do your current role, or only a part of it, are there other roles you could and would like to do in your organisation? You may not have to ask yourself this question, but I ask it just in case you do. I’ve had people say to me if they had only thought that there could be alternatives, they would have thought them through. So think through possible alternatives if that is what you feel you will need.

Prepare for returning to work

Questions to ask yourself as part of your preparation for returning to work after a serious illness or injury.

 

Those are my key tips how to prepare for returning to work after illness. All the very best with your return. And come back next week when I will be sharing what to say to whom and managing your own and others’ expectations at work.

 

What’s it like for you?

 

What key tips do you have to share with someone preparing to return to work after illness or injury? Has anything in particular worked for you? Or do you have questions about your situation? 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, and will soon be or have returned to work and would like support to ensure it is an effective transition, 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

 

How do you know if you need help adapting emotionally to a serious health issue?

How do you know if you need help adapting emotionally to a serious health issue?

How do you know if you need help adapting emotionally to living with a serious health issue? This is a big question. And it raises so many more questions, concerns, and maybe fears.

You may wonder if you are going crazy. Or you think should be able to cope on your own. In fact, you may feel it would not be right to have to ask for more help. You already feel a burden on everyone around you.

Family and friends may be saying in a well-meaning or exasperated way to ‘be positive’, ‘get on with it’, and ‘we all have difficulties’. People offer suggestions, so many you are swimming in them.

Like I wrote last week, you didn’t choose to enter the world of serious health issue, so there is also the element of not knowing what you need to know. That makes it hard to get help because you don’t know what would help.

Adapting to the physical changes can take priority and sometimes that is all we have energy for. Attending to the emotional side of the changes often comes much later in my experience.

No wonder it can be hard to know when you need help. All these things can make it genuinely difficult to get the help when you need it. So I’m going to share some of the signs I’ve come across in my own experience and that of my clients to help you know when help might actually be a good thing. And the one thing that could still trip you up in getting the help you want and deserve.

help to improve emotional health

When taking action to improve our emotional health helps

 

Signs that help would help your emotional health

 

These are some of the signs that you may be ready for help. This isn’t easy reading because the situation you find yourself in isn’t easy to deal with. So as you read it, if anything resonates with you, just notice that and be gentle with yourself.

  • You feel a sense of disquiet or struggle on the inside.
  • You feel like you are on an emotional roller coaster, out of control.
  • Things are so different now, life can feel like a struggle at times or a lot of the time.
  • You miss your old life, want it back, you keep comparing yourself to how you used to be and trying to live like that despite the changes. But it feels very hard to achieve.
  • You may feel alone, like no one really gets it however much they try and are lovely.
  • You are ignoring the changes that have happened to you.
  • Food, alcohol, drug intake, or risky behaviour has increased. They offer you an escape from this new unwanted life.
  • You isolate yourself from others more and more.
  • Whenever you talk about your health and the changes, you get upset or angry, or both.
  • People offer help, or comfort, and you snap back in anger.
  • People might tell you the changes they see in you, that help might be a good idea, and you might not like that.
  • You don’t do very much anymore, not even favourite activities.

Yet…

You desperately want to be happy again. You want to find hope, sometimes you still feel a flicker of hope inside you. Figuring out how to be happy, but in a changed body, and making sense of everything the serious health issue means can feel like a very large mountain to climb or an icky large swamp to swim through.

 

But this one thing can trip you up from getting help

 

The expectation that you should be able to do this all on your own.

What fuels this expectation?

  • The assumption we will be an imposition on others and we feel guilty as a result.
  • The fear of being seen as weak. When we say, ‘I cannot or do not want to do this on my own,’ we make ourselves vulnerable. In our society, vulnerability is mistakenly equated with weakness.
  • We are showing our difference and so setting ourselves apart from the groups we belong to. We may feel our sense of belonging is threatened and don’t want to risk that disconnection.
  • We are acknowledging the change that has happened to us and what we’ve lost as a result. This can be so hard to do.
  • We worry that by not doing it by ourselves, we will feel worse. Being able to do things ourselves feeds our sense of self-worth.
  • We worry about being ‘needy’, which doesn’t have good connotations in our society.

No wonder why we expect ourselves to do everything on our own! Some of these are myths and and others are genuine issues and I explain how and why here.

asking for help and neediness

We are all needy. B Babcock 2016

 

So when are you ready to accept and receive help?

 

I often find the following combination in action when people are ready to reach out for help. You:

  • realise how you feel and are behaving isn’t helping you, and you’ve had enough of feeling that way
  • want to make a change, that desire is there
  • feel a flicker of hope that things can be different. You may or may not know exactly how you want things to be, but you feel ready to start exploring that
  • get to the point of saying, ‘I’ve done all I can on my own and I’m not getting to where I want to be.’

It’s at this point I find people ready to take a leap of faith, to reach out and connect with another to help them get to where they want to be even if they don’t know where that is. Paradoxically, this is your first step in taking back control, which is a big thing to do to help restore your confidence, self-belief and self-worth.

leap of faith

The artwork is by Charlotte Reed of @maythethoughts. Make sure to check out her fab work!

 

Here is a small step you can take to get support

 

If you are thinking about getting support to help you emotionally adjust to living with a serious health issue, sign up to get the free Prepare for Coaching guide. It will help you think through the changes you would like to make, what helps you to make such changes, and how you would like coaching to help you do that.

Completing the form will also automatically sign you up to the Return to Wellness newsletter which is an email delivered every 2 weeks with the most recent blog post plus links to articles or videos, news, any special offers and latest freebies.  I don’t like spam and value privacy, so I don’t forward or sell your email to third parties.

 

What’s it like for you?

 

What concerns do you have about reaching out for help? When you have reached out for help in the past, what made it more difficult or easy for you?

If you are living with a chronic illness or the after effects of a serious illness, or are caring for someone who is and would like support to take that first step in making change, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

Between today, 9 November 2017 and 31 January 2018, I am offering a 20% discount on coaching packages for individuals. It’s an early Christmas and New Year treat! Make sure to use the code #XMAS17NY18 when you get in touch.

 

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, share using the social icons.

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.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2017

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