A New Approach to Asking for Help

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by Sean Baumstark |

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I’ve had a central theme rolling around my mind recently: Perhaps I overcomplicate things. More often than not, to be completely forthcoming, the exact question has been, “Do we overcomplicate things?”

But who am I to question the human race about how we may or may not complicate certain situations? So instead, I’ve found myself summoning my inner Steve Urkel: “Did I do that?

After I wrote recently about compartmentalizing, the caveats of overthinking and overcomplicating things have pushed my mind toward a new train of thought. Although there are easily dozens of topics I could write about here, the issue of disability and asking for help has been eye-opening for me lately.

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As someone living with Friedreich’s ataxia, I often struggle to remain independent and ask for help at the same time.

Last year, I wrote about the freedom and peace of mind that came with purchasing and using a rollator. Although some of the barriers to making such decisions are often rooted in embarrassment and a degree of comparison with others, I have found freedom every time I allow myself to engage with something I once perceived as a hindrance. Recently, this has included the proactive approach to asking random strangers for help.

Whether it’s been a topic of my column or podcast, how strangers act and react to disabled individuals in public is a mixed bag and a common subject of discussion in the disability community.

After breaking my femur in 2019, I used a manual wheelchair during rehabilitation. I remember becoming frustrated with doors that must be pulled open without any electronic assistance. If you can’t relate, imagine the difficulty of managing a mobility device while also trying to open a door, then positioning yourself to maneuver a wheelchair over the door’s threshold, all simultaneously.

Although my rollator is an entirely different device, the struggle is still real. Every morning, I face an awkward scene when I stop for coffee before work. I’ve gotten good at managing a door and my walker while keeping myself upright when my hands are empty. So entering my usual coffee spot is easy.

However, leaving with a drink in hand is always complicated. Sometimes it’s the constant flow of people walking in and out, and sometimes it’s navigating around people standing and waiting for their order. But every time, no matter how slow or busy the place is, I’m left to manage my instability, walker, and precious $5 morning brew when it’s time to leave.

This usually causes some level of anxiety and makes me feel nervous. As I study my exit route, I wonder if someone will accidentally bump into me or become frustrated with how slow and careful I maneuver. Or worse, will a good-intentioned onlooker rush to grab the door for me after I’ve started to open it and have calculated just the right amount of weight I need to stay upright, ultimately resulting in my body overreacting and overcompensating?

I don’t want to break another bone, nor do I want to waste a good cup of joe.

The unpredictable and nerve-wracking experience of leaving the coffee shop stopped being an issue for me recently. I realized that I was inadvertently compartmentalizing both the people who are familiar with my physical limitations and those who are strangers. My friends automatically hold doors for me while strangers hesitate. My friends offer to carry my drink while strangers sit and stare.

In addition to compartmentalizing, I was playing tug of war with the ideas of remaining independent and allowing others to help me. In a sense, I was overcomplicating my need for help and the all-too-common assumption that I’m a nuisance to others when asking for help.

Come to find out, people are willing to help, they often just don’t know how. I’ve asked people, young and old, to open the door for me, and nobody has ever said no or ignored me. I realize that it may seem so simple and basic, but for some reason, I’ve lived with this specific dilemma for more than a year.

As it turns out, all I have to do is ask.

Note: Friedreich’s Ataxia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Friedreich’s Ataxia News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Friedreich’s ataxia.


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