Adapting to Limitations: Asking For Help, Who’s Keeping Score?

December 22, 2015

by Joan Friedlander


Ah yes, asking for help, step 4 in “Business from Bed.”  You’d think I would have it down by now, but I don’t. Once again, life had to show me the way.

For the last couple of years I have been the “helper” in one of my business alliances, delighted to be well enough to need very little of it myself. When I say helper, I am not only referring to my business role, but on a personal level too. I’ve been the marketing/organizational person, and also a helpmate, as my business partner experiences frequent periods of low energy. Honestly, I am more comfortable when I am the person helping than when I’m the person receiving. Something in me feels a strong need to maintain balance in some imaginary scale of give and take.

This past week reminded me, once again, that sometimes I need help, too. I became so ill that it might as well have been a Crohn’s flare. I think it was “only” the flu but my entire digestive system was impacted and it felt like my life force was leaving me. And the waves of fear that coursed through my body? I’d never felt anything quite like it. I couldn’t eat much at all, and just about everything I considered made my stomach churn.

I currently live alone, and have been living a fairly isolated life at that. My husband lives 800 miles away, across the Rocky Mountains, and at this time of year snow fall in the Rockies is always imminent. However, when my business partner called my husband to ask if he’d heard from me, and he hadn’t, my husband called to see how I was doing. That lovely man checked the weather forecast, got in his car and drove 12 hours to come stay with me a for a few days. Unfortunately, the weather forecast changed and he had to return a day earlier than planned.

The night after he left was the very worst. I woke up at 2:00 AM and never did get back to sleep. At 3:00 AM I got up to make myself something, and even though I was desperately hungry I could not eat. Two bites and I was done. I spent the rest of the night terrified I would not get well, wondering how I would get to my husband NOW, berating myself for putting work before my health yet again.

Finally, survival took over. I realized that I would HAVE to reach out to friends in the area and ask for help. It took me a few hours, but around 10:00 AM I made myself send a text to one of my friends in Sedona, to ask if I could go to her house and lay down on her warm, infrared mattress and just have some company. We don’t hang out much, so I was especially concerned about the whole balance equation. However, I pushed through my resistance and sent that text.

Fortunately, she was home and available and it was okay with her partner, too. That was the beginning of the turn-around. Those two lovelies took great care of me that day. My friend’s partner is a nutritionist. When she asked me if I was more interested in sweet or salty, I said I had been thinking about steak. She immediately went to the store to buy me a high-quality piece of meat and cooked it right up. In the meantime, my friend warmed up some bok choy in bone marrow broth. Oh, how my body responded!

I finally went home, still not feeling great, but definitely better. I slept through the night and woke up with much less nausea. However, the food in my refrigerator was still not appealing and I knew I needed a fresh perspective on how to shop for food. So I asked for help again, still a bit reluctant but less so. I asked my friend’s partner to go shopping with me to show me new foods. Knowing this is her livelihood, I offered to pay a little something for her expertise. She accepted.

While we were shopping she educated me about the healing property of quality foods (good fat, proteins, seasonal vegetables, and some things I’d never heard of), and later sent me recipes to help me cook the things I bought. I was so inspired that when I returned home I cleaned out my refrigerator, tossed the things I had no appetite for anyway, and filled it with my new food. Best of all, I was actually hungry! Hungry! Yeah!

I can’t speak for everyone, but I do know that many of my coaching clients pride themselves on being independent, like I do. This is okay up to a point. Plus, when you’re living with any kind of chronic illness, those periods of wellness feel really good. Obviously, this is not my first time at this rodeo. Yet, when I do become ill, it takes me a little while to realize that I am the one who needs help, to admit it to myself first, to ask for it and then to accept it. These 4 stages are normal, much like the stages of grief.

There were many positive outcomes from this experience, including the reminder that my well-being comes first, before any sense of obligation to anyone or anything. Otherwise, I’m really no good to anyone anyway. And about those imaginary scales in my head? They are probably just that. When I step back and look at my life, I know that just by being me I am a valuable, worthwhile human being. Weakness in the body has nothing to do with strength of character. The same is true for you.


Joan Friedlander is the author of “Business from Bed” and co-author of “Women, Work, and Autoimmune Disease .” Joan is an expert in working and living with chronic or serious illness. Through her books and coaching, she helps small business owners who need to recalibrate business activities in the wake of a health setback. For more tips from Joan, visit

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