But, for sure, pride is a big thing, for any of us. I spoke in my last blog about needing to adapt and overcome, and being able to recognise limits and boundaries. A lot of that is to do with pride.
Many of my life lessons when it comes to CP have been learned only with age. That’s frustrating, because if we knew when we were younger what we know now, so much we found difficult growing up could be made easier. What I do hope, though, is that younger people reading these blogs can find some benefit.
With age I’ve become a whole lot less precious about pretty much everything. That’s not to say I don’t care; I still have standards and beliefs and things I won’t compromise on – but I try not to sweat the little things too much anymore. Asking for help is a big one of those. It sounds so trivial, but you’d be amazed how much I hated doing it when I was younger. If I couldn’t get from A to B for whatever reason, couldn’t carry something, couldn’t lift something, whatever… I would struggle and suffer before I actually asked someone to lend a hand. And it was mainly because I was embarrassed.
I’ll tell you a big secret, though: I didn’t have to be – and neither do you. I do as much as I can for myself now and, by and large, I get most things done. But my body is what it is – my muscles and bones have lived with CP for over 30 years now, and they have their limits! So, full disclosure: Cutting my toenails is a borderline impossibility without extreme contortion and the risk of popping a hip. Putting on socks can be tricky. Need me to take my shoes off before I sit down in your house? Gonna need a hand there - I'll fall down if I try! I have the lower-body strength of a ten-year-old, so it doesn’t matter how strong you are anywhere else – carrying most things is a pain in the backside.
The fact is, I get it all done. Sometimes I just need a hand. My wife has been putting on socks and taking off boots for as long as I remember. Is she doing me a favour? No. Is it a big deal? No. Does she have to go out of her way to do it? No… it’s just called living, it’s just ‘being.’
I’ve been travelling to football grounds to write reports and commentate on matches for over 15 years now. There’s a lot of kit involved, and in the winter months it’s punishing being sat still for the best part of five hours without moving, in the freezing cold. There was once such instance last year. I was at the top of a stand somewhere packing up – I can’t recall. It was dark, it was 10.30pm, it was freezing, it was a long way down, no handrails, and bags to carry. The answer was clear – don’t break your neck, Paddock, ask for help. I dialled a colleague’s number. “Mate, sorry to bother you. My stuff is heavy, and I can’t see a thing. Can you help?”
I didn’t get a reply – the phone went dead before I could finish my sentence – but 30 seconds later, said colleague appeared. We made our way down the steps and he did the carrying (of my stuff, not me). I thanked him, and he looked at me with almost a look of surprise and said: “Don’t be ridiculous. It’s you! I came running as soon as you said you needed a hand, don’t even mention it.”
That story makes me smile. He didn’t come running because he felt sorry for me or felt pity. We’ve worked together for years, he knows the score. It’s not special treatment from him to me, it’s no big deal; it is, again, just ‘being’. So let me stress again – please, don’t worry about asking for help. Pride has its place and I’m not saying you shouldn’t make a go of as much as you can, but if you’d sooner suffer than be seen to be asking for a hand, then you’re doing yourself an injustice.
Your friends and family are good people and they care about you – it’s more than likely they’re just waiting for the call, so make it!