Late this morning, I had a moment of panic. It had just taken me an hour to get out of bed, take a bath, groom myself, and get dressed, when I thought ahead to the rest of my day: physical therapy followed by hours of teaching . It all seemed too much to deal with.
I just felt like giving in…jumping back into bed, and pulling the blankets over my head.
As soon as that thought of giving in crossed my head, it felt like an electrical shock waking me up.
First, I can’t give in, I told myself. I have to stay on top of this illness, no matter how bad the pain and disability gets.
But then I asked myself, what did I mean by “giving in”? I certainly wasn’t entertaining any thoughts of giving up my job or stopping the activities that bring joy to my life. The reality of the situation, though, was that I couldn’t necessarily continue to move forward in the same manner in which I’ve done only days or weeks ago.
I needed to start asking for help…not only here at home, but also in my workplace. In a way, this did feel a little like I was giving in, but then I asked myself: what’s wrong with trying to make things a little bit easier, especially when I’m in the middle of a particularly severe flare? I then immediately answered myself: there’s nothing wrong with this. Come to think of it, why would I not do so? Pride? Ego? Probably.
Something that I myself have written many times here on this blog crossed my mind.
“Sometimes, the biggest show of strength is asking for help.”
As soon as I arrived on campus, I asked for and received a room change. Instead of trudging up three flights of stairs, I was now on the ground floor. Yes! To make things even better, both of my classes were now going to be in the same classroom. Instead of trudging down the stairs and going to another classroom between classes, I could now use those few minutes to sit and rest. Double yes!
I spoke with administration, and let them know that I was no longer going to be walking to another completely separate building (plus two flights of stairs) to sign the attendance book. There are plenty of ways to verify my attendance in class, but I can no longer implement the one that requires a considerable amount of physical effort on my behalf. I was told that this was not a problem.
Lastly, I sat down and had “the talk” with my department head. You know, the talk that brings up some of the nitty-gritty aspects of life with rheumatoid arthritis (as if it wasn’t already visible on display for most people around me). Sure, I dropped a sentence on the topic here and there over the past year, but I had never talked about it much more than that. Today, everything changed.
Our conversation finished with her stating that I had her full support for anything that I needed, and that I should not hesitate to call in sick when necessary. She also shared that a close family member of hers lives with rheumatoid arthritis, and that she is familiar with some of the challenges that it can bring into a person’s life.
During class, I asked a student to go make photocopies. During break, I asked another student to please bring me back a bottle of water from the cafeteria. All of these little activities were things that I continued to push myself to do up until only yesterday. Today, I told myself that my biggest priority was to sit in front of the classroom and lead both of my class lectures. By asking for all of these different accommodations and extra help, I was able to do so.
So yes, I’m having to ask for more help than I am accustomed to. But the best part? I’m not giving in. And in the end, this is really what matters the most.
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!