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When I Feel Like a Tag-Along Because of My Chronic Illness


The only places I can go freely on my own are walks with my dog. I can walk up to two miles with my dog. It would be more advantageous if I lived inside a city, but I live in a rural area. Being able to take long walks is relaxing and rewarding, but I don’t get very far. Walks with my service dog are also the only time I can ask friends, “Do you want to go with me?” Sometimes I think they say yes because they feel obligated to, since I’m more delicate, sometimes because they genuinely want to, but it always seems to be interpreted as a “dog thing” not a “I want to spend time with you” thing.

I have a debilitating chronic pain disorder, a condition that makes my nerves think everything interacting with me is a pain signal. As a result, I live in a constant state of agony, can’t drive or work, rely heavily on the support of others, and need a service dog’s assistance in order to lead a halfway “normal” life.

Other people get to ask “do you want to come with me?” freely. They can go places and do things because they can move farther than two miles. They can move on their own. I have to ask, “Can I go with you” or “Take me with you?” Like a tag-a-long.

If I were to ask someone to go somewhere with me, besides a walk, their answer would have to be yes. If it were a no, it would mean I couldn’t go either. That happens a lot.

I find myself hanging onto a note, waiting for “yes” and “do you want to come.” And wondering if “do you want to come” doesn’t come with its own secrets thoughts of “I want to offer but I don’t want you there because it changes how I can do things,” or “I feel bad about leaving you alone all the time, so it’s a guilt trip offer.” If I say something, it often triggers them to break down and let me come, which isn’t what they wanted, and makes it something I don’t want either because it makes me feel as if I’m robbing them of a chance to do their own thing separately from me.

I want to say, “Do you want to come with me?” I want my offer to be more than a dog thing. I want my offer to mean a fun time hanging out, doing something different from my normal. I want to be able to go out and have my own adventures, even when their answer is no.

I want people to want to invite me, not feel obligated to or say it hoping I’ll say no. I want people to think to invite me, instead of assuming it’d be something I couldn’t do.

But mostly I want to be able to say more than, “Can I go with you?” or “Will you please take me with you?”

At least my dog will always come.

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Photo by contributor.