The Hardest Thing to Ask For

How losing my independence is strengthening my faith
The Hardest Thing to Ask For

I walk with a pronounced limp. I have limited use of my arms. I tire easily. But those aren’t the worst of my problems.

The real struggle? I don’t like asking for help.

Asking for help makes me feel weak. Vulnerable. Needy.

My Journey of Independence

I have always wanted to be self-sufficient. And I worked hard at it. I contracted polio as an infant in India and was left a quadriplegic after my high fever subsided. But after several surgeries I was able to walk and, after 21 operations, became fairly independent. In high school, I knew my limitations and organized my life around them.

I didn’t want to have needs; I wanted to be needed. I didn’t want to be a burden; I wanted to lift others’ burdens. I didn’t want to be dependent; I wanted to be self-sufficient.

Going away to college was another major hurdle, and I wondered how I would survive. To everyone’s surprise, I learned to adapt, and by the time I graduated, I had figured out how to manage on my own. After a few years I got married and then had children, grateful the hardest part of my disability seemed behind me.

I was a typical stay-at-home mom, busy caring for my children. I also enjoyed painting, scrapbooking, and making jewelry—basically anything I could create with my hands. I started selling my jewelry at a local store, but soon afterward I developed an agonizing pain in my right arm. I went to the doctor and, after several months, was diagnosed with post-polio syndrome. My arms would never recover. The doctors said I needed to reduce the strain on them. Immediately. Radically. Permanently.

I was told post-polio was a degenerative condition that results in escalating weakness and pain. My energy was like a fixed sum of money in a bank—I could make withdrawals but not deposits. So every time I used that arm, I was losing future strength. From now on, my energy could not be spent on short-term hobbies when I needed to focus on being able to feed myself long-term. Now my arms could only be used for the bare essentials.

This diagnosis blindsided me, turning my comfortable life upside down. I was a 37-year-old wife and mother with two young children to raise. It was unthinkable I could one day, maybe soon, be in a wheelchair full time, unable to care for myself. How could God do this to me? I wept. How could I handle these new obstacles?

Devastating Losses

I stopped scrapbooking and boxed up my room full of supplies. I gave up painting and making jewelry and canceled my subscriptions to cooking magazines. I made simple meals and entertained less. While all of these losses were difficult, losing my independence was the most excruciating. I constantly had to ask for help doing everyday tasks—things I longed to do for myself.

Vaneetha Rendall Risner

Vaneetha Rendall Risner is a TCW regular contributor. A writer, speaker, mother, Vaneetha is passionate about helping people find joy in the midst of suffering. You can join Vaneetha in conversation about choosing joy in the midst of suffering at

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Burdens; Faith; Help; Loss; Prayer; Struggles
Today's Christian Woman, January Week 1, 2015
Posted January 7, 2015

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