Part of me feels strange when I tell people I have a chronic illness — it doesn’t feel real that I am very different in a big, foreign way — but the other part can’t really remember what it’s like to be normal. It almost seems like the rest of my life was a dream, and it’s mind-blowing that I used to be able to jump out of bed quickly without blacking out or that I could carry my own backpack from class to class. I can remember what it’s like to run, but I can’t recall the feeling of independence that should have gone along with this privilege. Needless to say, I have had to swallow my pride a lot the past four years, and ask people for help.
I remember feeling incredibly uncomfortable when my Master’s class went to the university library and we were told to bring our bags because we wouldn’t be going back to that classroom. I panicked a little on the inside, as my dad always walked me to class early and picked me up late so that I could be discreet about getting help carrying my stuff, but I knew I would be in pain for a week if I didn’t ask someone to take my bag for me.
My face got warm as I approached one of the only guys in the class. “This is going to sound really weird,” I started, “but would you mind carrying my backpack to the library for me?”
I could feel my body turning the bright shade of red it seems to love so much when I am uncomfortable. I tried to think of something else — anything else — that would make my autonomic nervous system cooperate, but I ended up just coming to terms with the fact that I looked like I suddenly got a terribly bad sunburn under the florescent lights.
“Sure, no problem,” he interrupted before I could go into my spiel about why I need help taking a fairly light bag from one part of campus to another. I explained my situation quickly as he picked my bag off the floor, and was relieved when we shifted topics to chatting about English-related topics instead of my personal problems.
Since that day I’ve gotten [a little] better at asking for help. I still have trouble vocalizing when something hurts unless it’s an unbearable pain, and I try to be as independent as possible, which sometimes results in injuring my muscles and joints further. I try to remember that everyone has something they need help with, even if it’s not the same thing I am struggling with.
Many of my friends have even become so great at automatically helping without me even having to ask; this blog has been an amazing platform for raising awareness for twentysomethings with chronic pain, and I think people understand a lot more than they would without reading about the experiences I have on here. Thank you to each and every one of you for reading and caring about the stories I have to tell. It means the world to me to have support from friends, both in person and for this little space on the internet.