Monday, July 7, 2014

Highway Thoughts on Help and Stress

This morning I drove west to my annual OB/GYN appointment and blew my news blackout to listen to Morning Edition on NPR. They did a segment on stress and the effects of stress, how most stress reported has to do with chronic health issues -- people reporting that they themselves are ill or someone in their family is ill or needs help because of disability. I don't feel like looking up the link, but I'm sure you can google it on the interwebs and listen yourself, if you're so inclined. I nodded my head at all of it, of course, but was most struck by a statement about Americans' unique hesitancy to ask for help. Our culture is, of course, one of rugged individualism and self-sufficiency which is courageous and optimistic at best and selfish, unrealistic and downright sociopathic at worst.

As I crept westward on the 10, I mulled over this and was reminded of the video I made with Erika and Phil several years ago about extreme parenting. New readers here might not have seen this video, but in a nutshell, I asked people who care for children with disabilities or those who have lost children to disease to take a photo of themselves with a poster stating what they wish they could say to their younger selves on the day of their child's diagnosis. While I wish there had been more diversity represented in the finished video (I used what I got!), the responses were rich and varied. By far, though, the most common advice parents had for their younger selves was "Ask for help," and "Accept help." I think there's a little of that cultural thing going on here, for sure, and I also think there's some control stuff -- when your world is turned upside down, and you realize that we actually have very little control over our children's lives, you tend to control what you can, and at least for me, I might have thought (unconsciously) that what I could control, I'd do myself. Initially, doing it myself made me feel empowered, in control, in charge and confident. After a while, though, at least for me, I was exhausted, burnt out and incredulous that this caregiving was going to be forever. I won't even talk about what the effects on friendships, on relationships with family and even marriage have been because -- well -- that's no blog post. Despite the insanity, I rarely did ask for help or even accept it when offered. I'm being utterly honest here when I say that this might be one of my only few real regrets of my early years with Sophie (pushing more forcefully for full inclusion in school being the other one).

Just some thoughts as I ambled down the highway toward the paper gown that ties in the front and the speculum.

That being said, I thought I'd post the video here again so that you can watch it and perhaps share it, particularly with those who might be just now entering this strange, lonely, often hellish and overall wondrous world of extreme parenting.




11 comments:

Single Dad / Disabled Daughter said...

I heard the same NPR report this morning. Well, some of it. I turned it off when they were talking about the stress a single father had ...

37paddington said...

It is a fantastic video.

Vesuvius At Home said...

I thought of you as soon as I saw the article. I hope the universe sends something to shore you up.

Ms. Moon said...

Thank you. You gave me my blog post tonight.
As always...In awe. Me.

Heather said...

I am proud of myself for stepping way out of my comfort zone and being part of that video because I think it's a remarkable piece of work you all did.

What I am not proud of is my inability to ask for help. I am bathe helper extraordinaire but asking for help in any part if my life, especially where Zoey is concerned, is something I never do.

I think I should consider changing that.

beth coyote said...

So beautiful.

The book, Far From the Tree, by Andrew Solomon, broke my heart open.

Thank you. And blessings.

~Beth

gradydoctor said...

Wow. I hadn't seen this post so thanks for your comment today. So very apropos, right? And it is so complex this thing about asking for help. I will have to listen to that piece on NPR.

And thank you for reposting the video. I loved it the first times I saw it and love it even more now.

Chrissy said...

Do you read Jhumpa Lahiri? Her short story "Mrs. Sen" describes the difference in the idea of asking for help in America. Basically, in the India she knows, one can scream "Help" and the entire neighborhood is at your side within minutes. Americans tend to wait to rush to help, and those of us who might need help hesitate to scream. Why is that? I don't know if it's that we don't want to bother anyone or if it's a side effect of our modernity. I'm terrible about asking. I love being self sufficient, and any request I make immediately reveals my vulnerability.

Verna Wilder said...

Just read this:
“The most fatal thing a man can do is try to stand alone.”
― Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
We need friends, community, support--even for the most basic things in life.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts as you navigated the LA Freeway system. I love the philosophy and the details. Your writing, as always, rocks my world.

Karen Gerstenberger said...

I love that video, and am so grateful to you for making it, and inviting all of us to be part of it. It was - and is - an honor to be included.

s.e. said...

What a great video. it made me weep.

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