Taking off the mask and getting by with a little help from my friends

Image courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I have always struggled with asking for help.  Because of this, there have been times in my chronic life that I have felt like it was me against the world.  I would like to say that I have improved and have become better at asking for assistance, but that would be a lie.

I still struggle with asking someone for help as well as answering people when they offer to help.  How is it that I can mentally list a million tasks that I need help with, yet when someone asks how they could be of help I feel like a deer caught in headlights?!  Part of me feels like, why me?  I hate feeling like the needy one; I would rather be the one doing instead of receiving.  Or I think, what can I offer them in return for their help? Funny thing is, when I offer assistance or do something for someone else, I never expect anything in return.  Yet, it bothers me to accept help without being able to repay the person for their time.  This is something that I have been working on and hope to improve upon someday in the future.  For now I am just taking baby steps.

For the past week and a half, I have been forced to not only accept help, I also had to ask for help and accept that I won’t be able to “pay” anyone back.  In preparation for the get together we were planning for family and friends to celebrate my daughter’s confirmation, I had to accept that I couldn’t prepare for the day, let alone get through the day, without a lot of help from my friends and family.  Prior to having out of town guests arrive, my daughter and husband both tackled every task I gave them without any complaints.  Before, during, and after the get together my friends and family not only took on the tasks that I forced myself to verbally express, they went beyond and tackled things that they could see that would be a struggle for me or that I had overlooked because of my pain brain.

This was the smoothest gathering that I have ever hosted in my home.  Normally I am worn out prior to the event and then too exhausted to clean up afterwards.  While I haven’t really improved on asking for help, I have improved on expressing my pains and limitations.  I am normally very quiet when it comes to discussing my pain, but not this weekend.  This weekend I made sure to let everyone know that my abdominal pain (from adhesions) was unbearable anytime I bent over.

I have also improved in how I respond when someone says something like, “It’s good to see you feel well enough to be out of bed”.  When this was said to me on Sunday, I simply replied “Nope, not feeling better, in fact I debated with myself over whether I should go to the emergency room instead.”  Or “I hope today won’t cause you too much pain”, I responded with “It will, but I am choosing to do it, fully aware of the price I will pay, because I want to make this day special for my daughter.”

Pictures never show how we physically feel.
Pictures never show how we physically feel.

While my responses might sound harsh, they are real.  I am so tired of putting on my “happy mask” and pretending that I am okay when I am out of the house.  The truth is that I am not okay and I will never be.  The hardest part I have with being honest about my pain is that I never want to be the person who only complains about how she feels or only talks about her health.  But I am finding a balance, and learning that it is okay to talk about how I am physically feeling now and again.

I have also learned that unless people know how I am hurting or what my limitations are at that moment, they are able to see what I need help with.  I am so thankful to the many guests that jumped out of their chairs and began taking on cleanup chores the moment I went to put one dish away.  With their help, my kitchen was clean and the food was put away.  By the end, my kitchen, dining area, and living room were back to normal, you would have never known that there had been a party.

I cried a little before I went to bed that night.  I was overwhelmed by the generosity of friends and family.  I was also relieved that I wouldn’t be spending the next few days or weeks trying to get my house back in order.

If you are like me and automatically reply with a “I’m fine” or “I’m okay” every time someone asks how you are doing, stop it!  It is not easy, nor do you have to explain how you feel to every person who asks, but try giving a dose of the truth now and again.  It is also okay to respond with “No, I am not okay.  Nor do I have the energy to talk about it right now, but would be happy to talk to you about it another time.” Like everything else in life, there needs to be a balance. How can we expect people to know or understand our pain, if we are always wearing our happy mask and saying that we’re okay?  Then again, we don’t want 90% of the words coming out of mouths to be complaints about our bodies.  I am not the only one who needs to take baby steps and ease into finding my balance.  Many of the people, who were used to my “I’m okay” lie, have looked a bit shocked when I actually told the truth.  I can’t blame them, it’s just as shocking for me to hear those words come out of my mouth.

Have you found a balance?  How long did it take you to reach this point?  It took me a whopping 16 years to reach this stage!

Wishing you a day filled with gentle hugs, many reasons to smile, and for you to be surrounded by people who care,

The Disabled Diva



Published by Cynthia Covert

Diagnosed in 2001 with psoriasis, followed by fibromyalgia, psoriatic arthritis, endometriosis, and later a botched hysterectomy turned her world upside down. Cynthia shares her experience, advice, and tips for how to make life with chronic pain easier and less painful.

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