‘Let me know what I can do to help’

Recently The Wireless published a challenging piece on how to talk to people who are ill.


*Note: I have updated this article since I experienced an extremely uncomfortable situation in which I received unsolicited attention and excessive gift-giving. Please, please – if you do want to help with something (not just me, anyone) – ask the person first! I understand why some people like their support to be anonymous, but these sorts of things can become very traumatising for the receiver. Please make sure your help is wanted and needed.*

There were some bits of it that really resonated with me. One of them was about people saying “Let me know what I can do to help.”

This is a fundamentally wonderful thing to say. It’s kind and generous and it’s people trying to express that they want to be there for you. But it’s actually really, really not helpful.

I find it very difficult to respond to. I freeze. I can’t think of a single thing that you could do that would possibly be of use. Further to that, I physically do not know what you can do. What’s possible for you? What are you actually offering? What if I ask you to bring me some food, and that’s not what you meant at all? It’s hard enough to make such a request for help in the first place, but if I asked for something someone wasn’t prepared to do, I’d be completely mortified.

So I thought about it. And I put together a small list of things I feel comfortable asking for. If you’ve been one of those amazing people who has asked: “What can I do to help?” – here’s some ways. I hope this doesn’t appear arrogant. I’m just really, genuinely trying to respond to this question.

1. Be a part of my fight against WINZ. Write to me about your experience. Talk about it on Twitter (#WINZ). Share my story. If you can, write to your local MP. Raise complaints. I’m working on pulling together a single resource of all the advocacy agencies/complaints procedures etc that have been recommended to me. I’ll share this as soon as possible.

2. Check in. I may not have the energy to respond, but your tweets or texts or emails saying “I hope you’re doing ok” make my day. They’re a huge reminder that I’m loved and cared about. It makes more of a difference than I can really express.

3. Consider supporting my writing by being a patron. I hate asking this. I find it hard to describe how much I hate it – which is weird, because my job is writing. I should be used to being paid to write. But this sort of writing is different, I guess. I feel guilty asking for anything for it. But that’s my reality right now.

4. If you’re a friend I know in Nelson – visit. Or offer to drive me to appointments because walking is near impossible for me, and transport is difficult and expensive. Or we could go to the beach and watch the waves for a while. That’s good too.

6. Be loud. Be a feminist. Be a fighter. Be a friend. Don’t let me stand alone.