Debra-Lynn B. Hook: Learning to ask for help

Debra-Lynn B. Hook, Tribune News Service on

Published in Lifestyles

Author Patricia Sprinkle must have been thinking of me 30 years ago when she wrote the book, “Women Who Do Too Much: Stress and the Myth of the Superwoman.” While I performed endless tasks for school, church and community, I low-balled my own needs. As much as anything, I spent my “extra” time playing BFF confidante to my sisters, my mother, my aunt, my former college roommate and anybody else who called me from faraway states at all hours of the day and night to tell me their woes.

When I became a mother, I naturally fell into even greater sacrifice.

Selflessly giving to others made me feel useful, even indispensable.

As long as I was indispensable, I would never be rejected or unloved.

But then somewhere along the way, my eye started twitching. The phone would ring and I wouldn’t want to answer it. And things started happening. Bad things. Difficult things. I had already been diagnosed with a serious illness. Now it seems I was going to have to go it alone, as my husband of 30 years and I were separating. It was I, of course, who normally would smooth these kinds of things over, establishing a new kind of friendship with my husband, helping our shell-shocked children understand and recover, coming to the aid and rescue of all.

Only in this case I finally knew I was the one who needed rescuing. I just didn’t know how to get there. How can I call on my friends with all this? Won’t I be a burden? And then one night after a long crying jag, sitting cross-legged on my bed in the Airbnb where I’d temporarily relocated after the separation, I took it upon myself to text 18 friends.


“I’m going through a hard time,” I wrote. “Would you mind calling and checking on me occasionally?”

I got a flurry of kind texts and phone calls in return that night, and beyond.

They still loved me.

From there I began recognizing specific areas where I needed help, especially after my former husband was diagnosed with early onset dementia and soon after, died, devastating the family and changing every aspect of our lives. Some of this help was professional, which was doubly difficult as it required me to dip into the retirement account my husband and I had built for our leisure years. I found it especially difficult to pay the people coming into my home and helping me as my health ebbed and flowed.


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