I wouldn't say I'm an expert on this topic as my journey is ever evolving, but I was recently challenged with an experience that caused me to lean on my family and friends.
I often wonder if I ask for help or favors for something cystic fibrosis-related if people will pity me, feel that I'm weak, or wonder why I need help when I look healthy. I am an expert at managing my CF and have my care routine down pat. However, CF is full of so many uncertainties that my carefully scheduled plan often needs to be adapted. I cope with uncertainty by trying to maintain as much control in my life as possible, especially when it comes to my health.
Recently a nasty cold sparked an exacerbation that landed me in the hospital and on intravenous (IV) antibiotics. Intense fatigue and missing important deadlines at work were not part of my plan. I knew at that moment that I would need to push past my insecurities and ask for help. Although I have wonderful friends and a community that supports me, I live alone and my parents live in another state, which complicates situations like this.
I focused on working hard to get out of the hospital as fast as I could. My care team agreed to discharge me earlier than planned with one condition -- I had to accept help.
Because I live alone, my care team wanted someone to stay with me to help me as I finished my course of IV antibiotics so I could focus on recovering. I felt immense guilt when my dad told me he would take a week off from work to stay with me.
Both of my parents have supported my CF journey, but I still carry guilt when they have to drop their lives to help take care of me.
I know my parents and friends will always show up when needed, but that doesn't mean it makes it any easier to ask. I am an independent adult. I manage my CF every day. I like to have control. I know how to rest, cook, sterilize nebulizers, do treatments, and take IV antibiotics. I knew that I would have figured out a way to accomplish it all if I had worked through it alone.
I did not realize how much I needed my dad's help. It took all my energy just to take care of myself. I quickly realized after I got home, to make a full (and faster) recovery, having help was crucial.
I realized that accepting help didn't make me weak.
Living alone with CF will always be difficult at times, and there may still be moments of guilt when I lean on my parents and friends. But, asking for help will always help me overcome those challenges. As I mentioned earlier, I'm still working through how to ask for help when I need it. But, after reflecting on this recent experience, I was reminded of how truly powerful accepting help can be.
My advice, for anyone struggling with how to ask for help: Be brave, be vulnerable, push past the feelings of weakness, push past the feelings of guilt, and allow your community to support you when you need it most!