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What You Need to Remember If You Feel Your Illness Makes You a Burden

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You and I can be “burdensome.”

We can.

We need help. We need care. We need support, and effort and time.

There are days when we can’t drag ourselves out of bed.

The chores suffer for our illnesses — some family member, roommate or friend is left picking up the slack. Scrubbing the spaghetti sauce out of pans and running washrags over gritty countertops.

The bills find themselves shoved to the side, in the midst of our fog, pain and sickness — placing extra weight on the shoulders of whichever person decides to help us out. To chip in for bills, medication or food.

Whoever digs into their wallet, or takes an extra shift, or lets us crash on their couch — it takes a toll on them, in some way.

Our appearance and hygiene sometimes fall to the wayside. Our hair isn’t brushed — neither are our teeth — and our clothes smell like they got left in a soggy pile in a cobwebbed corner.

Someone might need to run a brush through the tangles, to hold us as we cry, to press through our defenses when we shut down, to help us out of bed when we’re too tired to rise.

The reassurance “you are not a burden” runs smack into the reality we are placing some measure of burden upon those we care for.

We wish we could care for them better but find that, in our illnesses, we are the ones needing a great deal of care.

And, yet, when we can, as we can, we shoulder their burdens as well. We listen to their stories and struggles. We send cards and write loving reminders, and pitch in as much as possible when our health allows.

We do this because we love them. We don’t begrudge them our time and effort, because they are dear to us, and their well-being is exceedingly important to our hearts.

“You are not a burden.”

No, I’m not. But there are stretches — sometimes long ones — where I am burdensome. And that’s OK.

It’s more than OK — it is beautiful.

It is beautiful that there are people who care about me — people I care for. It’s beautiful that there are people who support me — whom I will find ways to support, too. It’s beautiful that even when it’s hard, or frustrating, or exhausting, we are willing to help each other.

So, if you’re feeling like a burden, please remember this:

1. You are not too heavy. For those who love you, love lightens the load. They want to help. They want to show you love. Let them.

2. Being a “burden” isn’t a horrible thing. It’s a beautiful part of life — the give and take, the helping and the being helped. You’ll be there for someone else, too.

And, until the day you are healthy enough to shoulder their weights in return, it’s OK to be a “burden.”

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

Originally published: July 7, 2019
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