Dealing with “Helpful” People

Bonjour from France! The last week has been amazing – exactly what I needed – and I can’t wait to share some posts about it with you when I’m back in the UK next week. For now, though, I wanted to talk about something I have been dealing with this week whilst on holiday, but come across often back home too. I’m talking about “helpful” people.

I want to clarify I am not talking about people that help generally. I am incredibly fortunate to have a wonderful partner, friends and family who are very tuned into the kind of help I need and as someone who struggles to ask for help, it is something I am thankful for every day. What I am talking about, is the type of help you don’t – or rather wouldn’t – ever ask for.

I personally describe disability to others as a masked bandit. It will steal something different from each of us and to varying degrees, but it will ultimately take away our abilities and the freedom of choice. Because of this, the things you can do become incredibly important. Before becoming physically disabled, I was always a ‘doer’. It was a large part of how I defined myself and it was very wrapped up in my personality. This lead to a very difficult adjustment when I suddenly wasn’t so able to do so much. I didn’t want to accept that I wasn’t the “same person” (or rather, I didn’t feel like I was) and it shook me to my core. It took some time, a few months of talking therapy, but I am now able to live a much happier life, within my physical limits. I haven’t given up by any stretch, but I am now aware of the activities that are worth the energy, or those which I should ask for a bit of help with.

These helpful people are doers themselves. They assume that you need help – perhaps because you are struggling or perhaps just because you have a disability – but they want to just ‘do’ it rather than waiting to ask. What these ‘doers’ don’t always appreciate, is that there is often an emotional attachment to activities for disabled people. Moving your wheelchair/walking stick without asking, taking your bag away from you so they can carry it, imparting medical advice when you’re not a doctor, ordering you to sit down whenever you try to move/do something – Without asking permission, this kind of help can feel very intrusive and overbearing.

People with disabilities are very aware of their own abilities. If we are attempting something, we can almost certainly do it. But if we can’t, give us the chance to ask for that help. If you repeatedly have people taking control and doing things for you, it can be at most disempowering and at least incredibly frustrating. If you have fallen into any of these, don’t worry! It’s an incredibly easily remedied problem: just ask.

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