Very recently, someone told me in a roundabout way that I have a chip on my shoulder regarding requiring assistance from others. After being shocked and slightly mortified by this thought, I started to think this might in fact be true. What I decide to do about that chip, whether to ditch it all together or only use it as a fashion accessory when strictly necessary, will only come with time.
Everyone needs help with some things sometimes, but as it comes to needing something specifically because of my blindness, I hate being at the mercy of someone else. Whether it’s reading a restaurant menu, filling out a medical form, using the convenience of a car rather than a long complicated bus route, or voting (hopefully next week’s blog post). Requesting assistance with this feels so much like I am less complete, less whole of a person, that I find myself instantly on the defensive when I am required to ask for help for things like a computer not working properly, for directions to the bank, or other things that everyone needs help with sometimes. My default mode has been “FIGHT!” for so long – fighting for education, employment, and (thankfully rarely) access challenges with my guide dog, that perhaps I don’t know how to simply just… well, to just be. But I don’t want to go so far the other way, to expect people to do things for me that I am more than capable of doing for myself. I fight that stereotype all the time, too, that I am not capable because I cannot see.
Some of these fights are external and necessary; they make us stronger, and (hopefully) educate a public who doesn’t know what to do with us, and help pave the way for those who come behind us. Some of these fights are internal and necessary; am I, as a woman, doing all I can to be happy, healthy, productive, learning new skills and enjoying my life? But a constant defensiveness doesn’t help anyone either; in fact, it alienates the very people we are trying to reach. Asking for help is not, in and of itself, a sign of weakness… And yet… I still feel this way, and probably a little piece of me always will. But my sword is being shelved for a while, because fighting myself under the guise of fighting against others is probably more exhausting than just being me. To those I have hurt in this way, please let me know; we may not agree, and that’s OK, but I want to be viewed as a woman (not a blind woman); I crave acceptance alongside my autonomy, and may need your help to get there. Perhaps I should take my own advice in a previous post: be quick to listen, slow to speak harshly, and keep an open mind.
love this post. asking for help is what some of us are reluctant to do because we think we can manage okay on our own. I for 1 am in discussions at this moment with the staff at the restaurant where I go for lions club dinner meetings every fortnight. I’m perfectly capable of cutting up my own food but lately the kitchen staff have been asked to do it for me then bring the meal out to the table for me already ready for me to eat. it wasn’t me who asked but somebody more than likely my mother as I was too embarrassed to ask for such help for fear of being ridiculed for asking somebody to cut up my food for me. only reason this is is because the knives on the tables aren’t sharp enough for me to cut through meat oh how I’d love to take my own steak knives to cut my own food. my mother’s happy to drive me places too but if she’s at work or unavailable I just call a taxi if I need to go somewhere which is a much easier thing to ask for than to ask somebody to cut up my food when I’m more than capable of doing it.
Steve Sawczyn said:
One of the reasons I love your blog is that I read posts and think wow, that’s how I feel or that’s what I say or that’s what I think. This idea of putting down your sword is one that I’ve pondered as well over the past few months. I guess I hadn’t given it much thought until someone asked why I’m angry all the time? It’s not that I’m angry all the time but to be fair, I probably do come off that way in my attempts to just be a normal person. As they say, the struggle is real and I often fear turning away from it because won’t that mean I’ve given up? That the possibility of being accepted as just another person isn’t something worth my fighting for? I haven’t figured out what the answer is for me yet, but certainly if people perceive me to be angry or to have a chip on my shoulder, they’re not going to accept me regardless of what I do or how I try and prove myself. Maybe you’re right, maybe putting down the sword is the best thing, at least for now. If nothing else, maybe that’ll give me a chance to take a deep breath, really take a look at where I am and figure out the best path forward. Sounds so simple as I re-read what I’ve just written but when it’s such an integral part of one’s life, it’s hard to just stop. Anyway, all this to say thank you for yet another awesome post.
Here here, Steve! What the process looks like will be different for you than for me, and that’s OK… I have no problem being a crusader. Sometimes that’s necessary if we want to get anywhere.
But I agree, the perceived anger or snippiness doesn’t help our cause either.
Let me know what you ultimately decide to do… I might need some pointers!
It looks like I’ll have to redo my comment. (I posted only one word). I’m glad Ive stumbled upon your blog. You write some pretty thought-provoking content, and this post is no exception.
As a blind woman, I have advocated for myself and other people with disabilities. I an angered by the injustices we face on a daily basis. It is hard to just be when the rest of the world does not believe anything you do is normal; overcompensating is something I feel I do a lot. I do understand and have experienced the difficulty to balance autonomy and asking for help. I have definitely had to learn to pick my battles.
When I’m walking around campus or walking around my yard at home, I love to problem solve, especially when I get turned around. However, when I realize I am still lost after problem solving, I either ask for help, or I accept it when someone offers to help me. I’ve learned that asking for or accepting help is a part of being autonomous. After all, I am the one making the decision to ask for, accept, or reject someone’s help. I also know that it is a part of survival. If I don’t ask or accept a person’s assistance knowing I need it, I can’t move forward the way I want to. I have had experiences when some people would help me without bothering to ask if I even needed their help, and that has aggravated me.