I’m not sure where we get our “I can do this all by myself” sort of spirit. It could be the American spirit of independence. It could be from not wanting to look weak to others. Who knows? At times, it is very helpful to be that independent, to be that self-reliant. At other times, however, we have to put that pride aside and admit we can’t do it ALL alone.
For me, I have additional reasons for delaying asking for help or support. One, I don’t want to seem like a burden. Two, I don’t want to seem like a whiner. Three, I can do it, dang it! Four, I’m just plain stubborn. I know many of us feel these deeply. How many of us have turned down help from others because of one, some, or all of these reasons? Why do we do this?
A few weeks ago, I was having a bit of a flare-up. When my hips/knees are affected, getting up is a chore. It can take me two or three or more times to get up. Or if I’m around friends, I could say, “Hey, can you give me a hand and help me up?” I don’t do that enough. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for a hand up, but it is a sign of stubbornness to sit there in pain and frustration thinking that magically you will feel better in the next few seconds.
Help isn’t always human either. If you need them, it’s good to have some tools and tricks at the ready. I have this rubberized bottle/jar opener that I use often. I have almost given up on trying to open bags the conventional way and go straight to the scissors.
Going back to human interaction and intervention, you can also reach out to friends and family if you are mentally down. Sometimes, you need to vent frustrations about how you aren’t feeling well. You aren’t asking them to fix anything, but you are asking them to listen. I also have a feeling that if I asked, I would have friends willing to drop off food if I were unable to get out due to pain, fatigue, or medication side effects. But you have to reach out. If you always say, “I’m fine,” then guess what? Folks are going to assume you’re fine.
In a future blog, I will write about connecting with others who have arthritis. This is a very valuable resource. Finding someone with the same or similar condition gives you someone you can relate with about how you are feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally regarding your disease.
We have to get out of our own heads and out of our own way and realize that asking for help is a sign of strength and not of weakness. But we also have to believe. We have to believe others can help us and we have to believe we need help. You don’t get extra credit for suffering alone. Reach out for help: family, friends, tools, fellow arthritis patients. But you have to believe there is a light at the end. You have to believe hope is out there. I’m reminded of the wonderful song “You’ll Never Walk Alone” by Rodgers and Hammerstein. (A beautiful version by Josh Groban can be found here.) Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart, and you'll never walk alone!
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