You don’t have to be chronically ill to appreciate how difficult it can be to ask for help. It can quite often be less stressful to tough out your problems alone than to ask for assistance, even if you know it will make everything easier. This is often because relying on others can make you feel like you are annoying them.
So what happens when your life is only able to be lived with the help of others? A mental battle occurs.
This is a battle in your mind between needing to ask for help, but being afraid that you are becoming too much of a burden on others when you do ask. Which can leave us feeling hopeless or put us in a position of extreme anxiousness and uncertainty. More often than not, the people we go to for help are also the people whom we love, trust and who make us feel safe. And the thought of annoying these people is completely and utterly terrifying.
So then there becomes a never-ending cycle in our minds and it goes something like this:
We want to ask for help. No, sorry, let me rephrase that: we need to ask for help.
We want to ask those we trust to help us.
We worry we are becoming a burden on them.
We then fear we will become so annoying they will leave us.
The thought of losing said person is heartbreaking.
So now we feel like we cannot possibly reach out to them for assistance.
We then feel lost and alone.
And remember how I said we needed help? That still applies, meaning we are left in what feels like an eternal black hole.
This continues over and over again with each person until you feel like there is no one left you can turn to without pushing them away.
To feel like you are a burden to those you love is devastating and quite possibly one of the hardest parts of living with chronic illness and chronic pain. I am constantly asking questions: How much is too much to ask? When will this person become sick of me? Does this person really want to help or is it because they pity me? Who will be there for me if this person leaves? When is too soon to ask for help again?
I am fully aware that my Ehlers-Danlos syndrome makes me less fun than what I was before my joints kept falling apart and before I was living with constant pain. I know I am no longer the friend who can always be at every event or the friend who you can always rely on to be there for you. But this knowledge makes it ever more difficult to ask friends to help you because you already feel like they must be getting sick of waiting around or changing plans for you. And believe me, the last thing we need is to feel alone.
So that leaves me back in a place of uncertainty. It puts me right back at the start, where I feel like I cannot reach out for the help I require.
I have experienced a lot of hurt throughout my journey, but I can safely say I will never be as hurt as the times when someone in my support network begins to pull away. Whether it’s the time I was told I was “being difficult” when I had to ask for plans to be changed to accommodate my needs or when I asked my teacher (who I trusted more than anyone and who had been with me through everything and was the only person who made me feel like I could successfully make it through school) if he had time to do a quick favor for me and he replied with “I’m always busy but that doesn’t seem to matter.”
Whether it’s the people who reply with “Why can’t you do it yourself?” when you ask for help with a seemingly simple task or rolling of the eyes or the tone people use regardless of the nice things they say. It’s all this that makes me feel like I am nothing but a burden on those around me. Hence, I am having to constantly walk the tightrope between receiving the help I need and fearing that everyone I love is becoming sick of me.