What to Do When You Feel Helpless

What to Do When You Feel Helpless

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Doctor Neha: Hi and welcome everybody. Today’s guest is Holly Cara Price. Holly was a guest a few years ago when we were both at a Hay House conference in Denver. At that time, it was her 60th birthday and she had been diagnosed with cancer. The video blog is How a Cancer Diagnosis Can Cure You. Since having cancer, Holly has had some experiences in her life that have really changed her. So she said, “Hey, can I come on again? I have some other questions I’d like to talk to you about.” So welcome, Holly.

Holly: It’s pretty good to see you again.

Doctor Neha: Yeah, good to see you too. So tell me, what’s been on your mind? What have you been thinking about this year?

Holly: In 2017? Over the summer, I had two spinal surgeries. It was a life-changing experience. I had to quit working. Even though I’ve had cancer for six and a half years, I really felt like I didn’t know what it was like having cancer because it didn’t affect my livelihood. It didn’t affect my ability to work. This was a new situation: I couldn’t walk and it was terrifying looking at the surgery ahead. I had to learn how to walk again and walk by myself. I had to walk around with a pole, learning balance and it was pretty terrifying. I was in the hospital nine days. They said it would be a six-week recovery, and they were bright. I did exactly what the doctor said and it was a big learning experience for me.

Doctor Neha: What was the hardest part of it?

Holly: The hardest part was realizing that my life of service, helping other people, had to change. In my different jobs, I was always helping—being an assistant or a researcher or a writer or an editor—projects come to fruition. I was the one that made the trains run on time.

Doctor Neha: You were the one behind the scenes helping everybody out.

Holly: Yeah. So, that’s the kind of role that I filled. Then I found that I couldn’t do that for anyone else let alone do it for myself. I was helpless.

Doctor Neha: Literally feeling helpless and powerlessness. What does that feel like? Like where do you feel that in your body?

Holly: Yes, I felt it in my stomach, like I was falling off the edge of the world.

Doctor Neha: Feeling in your stomach, what is the stomach feeling like? Can you describe it a little more?

Holly: Like a hollow feeling.

Doctor Neha: Like an emptiness.

Holly: An emptiness, yeah. A total vacuum. And prior to this, I wasn’t doing that well mentally. Then physically my body gave out. It was like, “Hey, here’s a telegram from your body saying you better stop living the way you’re living because you are in some dangerous territory here. We’re going to reign you in and teach you a really big lesson.”

Doctor Neha: Before this, you said you weren’t doing very well mentally. So were you not doing very well mentally or had some negative self-talk or you were isolating yourself?

Holly: That’s exactly right.

Doctor Neha: Often when people get physically ill or they’re not doing as well, they start to isolate themselves, which usually makes it worse. Right? Like this wake up call that you had: you, somebody who is in service of other people and assisting them in their lives, were now the one who needed help.

Holly: Yeah. It was a humbling experience to ask for help. To be on the other side of that fence was a shock. I felt like I was sent off to a new planet, and I had to learn how to live again. I don’t know how to describe it. It was life changing.

Doctor Neha: What’s really important about this is there are a lot of people out there, whether they have cancer or an illness or not, who have a hard time asking for help. And women in particular spend all their energy and time nurturing and helping other people. It’s the oxytocin, that tend-and-befriend hormone, that’s how we create community. We create all this space to help others. And we forget ourselves. We leave ourselves out of the equation. Now, when you had cancer, it affected you somewhat, but it didn’t paralyze you. So once you realized that now you needed to ask for help, what happened? What happened when you did that?

Holly: You know, all the people who loved and supported me and were worried about me responded amazingly and immediately. They asked, “Why didn’t you tell us? Of course we’re here for you. What do you need? Just tell me what you need, and I’ll do what I can. I can bring it to the hospital or to your house.” You know, people were sending me groceries, people were cooking homemade meals for free and bringing them over. I had never seen care like this because I’d never asked for this kind of thing. I was always comfortable being the one giving that kind of care. That was my comfort zone. And so to overturn the situation and be that person was very hard, humbling and difficult for me to accept.

Doctor Neha: I’ve heard this saying that rings so true: Organic community forms around shared trauma. And part of me wonders why we wait for the shared trauma. Why don’t we just get out in the world and reach out? As much as we’d like to serve, give and receive and how good it feels to do that, you did it for a lifetime. When you reach out to other people, you give them the opportunity to give in that way to you.

Holly: Ever since I was diagnosed six and a half years ago with cancer, many of my friends said to me, “What can I do to help? How can I help you? What do you want me to do? How can I be, you know, do you want me to drive into the doctor?” I could never come up with things because it just felt vague, and I could handle it.

Doctor Neha: Like I got this; I’m strong. I think we’re missing what the definition of strong and weak is. To only give to others, but not allow yourself to receive, is not a strength. Strength comes in our ability to dance back and forth between loving other people and allowing love in. It seems like this second phase for you has really not only allowed you to give to other people, but also allowed you to let love in.

Holly: Yes, love.

Doctor Neha: So what would you say to someone out there who’s having a hard time taking love in? What’s the one thing you’d say to them about how they might be able to do it differently?

Holly: I know it’s hard to accept that you need help. I was the worst of the worst as far as that goes. Don’t let it get to the point where you almost die. You don’t have to go to that precipice; it’s not necessary to go to a point when you turn around and think, Wait, you know, things aren’t good. I really need to reach out and I need some help from my friends and my family and I cannot go on like this.

Doctor Neha: Sometimes people’s biggest fear is that they’ll be judged for being weak, but in fact, those are our own judgments of ourselves. The people we love are the ones thrilled to be of service to us. They just want to help. They want an opportunity to connect to us. Hopefully, it doesn’t have to take being in a dire situation that’s traumatic. Of course they will be there when that does happen, but before that, we can remember in our everyday lives to allow people to give and receive love with us. So it’s an even exchange.

Holly: Absolutely. I would say my biggest takeaway was realizing for the first time that I’m not indestructible. Anything could happen at any time to anyone and you have no control over it besides the obvious things of trying to stay safe. No, let’s face it. Anything could happen to you, and you really have to get right with God and…

Doctor Neha: Really, it’s about getting right with yourself because anything can happen to anyone of us. “Do I trust myself enough that I’ll ask for help and I’ll figure out what to do next?” So thank you, Holly.

For all of you out there, if you know you have trouble receiving or you’re better at giving than receiving, this is one of those moments to reflect on what you get from giving to someone else, nurturing them. How might you be able to allow some of that in? Where can you allow other people to share in that generosity and giving back to you?

Awareness Prescription

Asking for Help

  1. How do you feel when someone else asks you for help?

  2. Do you consider it a burden or an honor?

  3. What’s the story you make up about asking for help?

  4. Are there times where you could use help, but you resist asking for it?

  5. How might you allow other people to share their generosity with you when you’re in need?