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Asking for Help When I'm in Pain Doesn't Mean I'm Not Strong

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I will be the first to admit I am a stubborn person and I base too many of my actions off feelings like I “should” do something. That is something I am working on and slowly but surely becoming better at.

• What is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome?
• What Are Common Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Symptoms?

I can see the progression in the different parts of my lives. I am good at taking care of my mental health and putting that first. I’ve done so much work on it that I can make those good decisions fairly easy. If I need assistance or accommodations I will ask for them.

I have been dealing with that for about four years now so it has been a journey to get to the point where I felt comfortable doing that.

I have been dealing with chronic illness for about a year and so it is a bit of a slower process figuring out and accepting what I need to do for that.
I don’t like feeling like I have limitations or that I can’t do everything. I feel like I have this weird relationship with EDS and POTS where I spend half the time trying to pretend like they don’t affect my life and the other half advocating for treatments and trying to show others that they do exist.

One thing I am not very good at for the physical illnesses is asking for and receiving help. This is where the “shoulds” come in. I feel like I’m only 19 so I should be able to do all these things and keep up with everyone my age, but the reality is that doesn’t always happen.


One instance where this has come into play recently is how I deal with pain. I’ve written about dealing with chronic pain before because of my Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. I don’t keep it a secret, but when I’m interacting with people, I don’t like them to be able to see that I am in pain. I hate the days I’m limping or the days I need to use my cane because then it’s more obvious I’m hurting.

Part of this stems from a bad experience I had very early on when I was honest with someone I knew very well. I saw her every day and she saw the progression of braces and mobility aids and saw me training Jenny in more mobility tasks. So when she asked about the reason why, I told her.

She is the sweetest individual and all she does comes from a place of love, but her response was, “Oh, you poor thing. Let me do everything for you because you can’t do it for yourself.” She continues to ask me every day if I’m feeling better yet. For a few months now I’ve been telling her yes so she wouldn’t get that sad look in her eye if I said anything else.

Because of that experience I don’t want to let people I’m with know if I’m in pain or dealing with other symptoms because I want to be seen as competent and able to fulfill my responsibilities.

But sometimes I do need help and one of those instances happened last week. For a reason I am not aware of, my hips were in a mood last week and doing this weird thing where one of them would just give out randomly when I was standing or walking.

So I was at Institute one night and I almost didn’t go because my pain meds weren’t working. I was tired and anxious about the fact that my hips were in a mood but I decided to go anyways because I wanted to feel the Spirit and peace that is always present in the Institute building.

I was glad I went. Class was good. It finished and I got up to go. When I stood up there was this shooting pain that radiated from my hip all the way down my leg and I kind of fell, but kind of caught myself, but still ended up on the floor.

While I was sitting on the floor some girls came up to me with questions about Jenny so I acted normal and answered their questions. It’s not unusual for people to see me sitting on the floor at Institute. They walked away and our teacher came over. I think he kind of knew that this time my sitting on the floor was not normal. He asked if I was OK a second time and then if I needed help.

I was honest about the fact that I didn’t know if I could stand up, but I declined his offer of help. That was my stubborn pride of thinking I “should” be able to get up, plus the fact that I don’t want to bug people, and he had already helped me with something else a couple days earlier.

Short story shorter – he walked away, I tried to stand up, more pain, he came back, I asked for help.

Getting help up was not the part I was super concerned about. The part that worried/embarrassed me was that I was hurting and I knew getting up was going to hurt. As I stood up we were facing each other and I was aware of the fact that he could see the pain in my face. I don’t like people to see that.

Anyways, he was cool about it in that he didn’t make a thing out of it.

After I was upright he walked away and went about the night normally like nothing had happened.

Later I both thanked him for his help and apologized for needing it. (Yes, I’m working on not doing that.) His reply was something I didn’t know I needed to hear. He told me it was a blessing to be able to help and I shouldn’t hesitate to ask for help because of the blessing it could be in the other person’s life. He told me needing help doesn’t mean I’m not strong.

This instance was the opposite of the first interaction I had. It challenged my way of thinking.

I’m definitely still not super comfortable asking for help in most situations. I will always try every way of doing things on my own first, but that night planted the seed that maybe it’s OK to need help sometimes. Maybe it’s OK to not be able to do everything. And needing help doesn’t take away from my strength.

Thinkstock photo via heckmannoleg.

Originally published: September 25, 2017
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