How does a martyr ask for help? She doesn’t.
Back to my status as martyr. For some history on this, read my first blog post, Top 3 reasons why I’m a martyr…not a caregiver. In dealing with cancer in my family, these unexpected people began to pop up in my life in roles I never would’ve assigned to them. Some people I knew well, but there were some people I didn’t know at all.
Since I’m not casserole caregiver, nor would I ever confess to being underwater or failing in this role, I had to rely on the small miracles of people who stepped in. As a classic martyr, I suffered in silence and squashed all emotion surrounding the situation. I call this the “fine” syndrome.
As in: How is everything going? How are you doing?…Fine, fine.
However, lucky for me, there were those who broke through the martyr wall with inexplicable acts of caring.
One was a colleague of my mother’s named Mary. I might have met her before, but I don’t recall it. She swooped in and rescued me from the documentation nightmare that is employment law and insurance. She filed and brought me step by step through the securing of my mother’s retirement and FMLA. She navigated the insurance battles for us and eliminated any financial trouble by dealing with which provider one could select and what was covered.
My best friend Kris began coming over to my parent’s house during the long hours of care. She would rub my mom’s feet and legs, talk with her, my father and me. These bi-weekly visits weren’t requested, they were asserted. She gave us the gift of additional patience and caring when we had used all of ours up. Like me, she was 26—but she was pregnant.
This one came from all sides. It was my father’s and mother’s family, our neighbors and friends, who would stop over and force my father out of the house, or take care of some inconsequential chore that needed attending, or just listen without fear. It got the lawn mowed, the groceries purchased, and the endless medicine mother needed from the pharmacy. Since she was bed-ridden, we needed to be there at all times.
These people and their actions penetrated the fog and made something unbearable at least seem possible. When I meet or find others labeled as caregiver, I do only one thing—look for and take that action that will alleviate some small measure of stress in their situation.
I don’t ask to step in. I just do it.
I do it because I know all good martyrs suffer in silence. And because I know they don’t even know what to ask for when I say, “How can I help?”