Asking For Help Does Not Mean Giving In

askforhelpLate 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!

6 Comments
6 comments
  1. Bernadine says:

    Thank you for reminding all of us that it is ok to ask for help. That has not always been easy for me to do until this year. I work as an elementary school librarian, and due to budget cuts, I have worked the last two years without an assistant to help with all there is to do. Last year I struggled everyday trying to do it all myself. This year shoulder surgery on top of RA forced me to ask everyone (including students) for help. Recently I shared my physical struggles with two people I’m involved in youth ministry with and they are doing looking for ways to help out as well. I enjoy both my job and my involvement in ministry and because both bring much joy and fullfillment but both take their toll on me. Asking for help when I need it allows me to continue to enjoy those things that bring so much meaning to my life.

  2. Cristy says:

    Thank you so much for posting your story! :) I can relate to how you must have felt when you decided to ask or help. I try my best to be independent & autonomous around my former colleagues (I even tried zipping my purse closed with my teeth when I had a painful flare in my wrists), but it feels nice when others are supportive & helpful. It just takes courage to ask for help, but being able to do so could only be beneficial. I hope you had a wonderful day & that you feel better very soon! :)

  3. Cathy says:

    I am sad to hear you are experiencing a severe flare. :( Tears came as I read how you asked for help. This is something I continue to work on and recently had a long conversation with my dad about. He is doing chemo right now and it is sucking all the energy he has in his body. Like us, he struggles with letting go of what he did before and asking for help. I tried to explain how asking for help is really a strength, not a weakness. The people around us truly want to help us and when we don’t ask or allow some help, it hurts them too. I don’t think my conversation helped my dad right now, but I am truly happy to hear you are asking for help and getting it. Be gentle with yourself today!

  4. Carla says:

    Thanks, RA Guy. I’m sorry to hear that you’re in the midst of [yet another] flare. Somehow, asking for help seems to be the same as admitting we’re disabled and that’s a big step. Chronic illness or not, everyone needs a little help now and then and more often than not, people don’t think about offering it until/unless we ask.

  5. Missy says:

    I’m always amazed at how willing people are to help. I feel like a fool sometimes. “Excuse me, I’m not even a grandma I’m in all appearance a perfectly healthy 21 year old lady. Would you by chance like to open this child proof cap for me? I need some pain killer.” Ok, so I don’t really go to all that length, but I find myself not really wanting to explain to people that I need aerosol style hairspray because I’m really not tough enough to squirt a hand pump style can each morning! :S

  6. Chapps says:

    Man, you have an understanding manager. I actually have AS (ankylosing spondylitis) and PsA (psoriatic arthritis), both of which are autoimmune joint diseases like RA. In fact, AS is much like having RA of the spine, deformities and all. In my case, it’s attacked all of my joints, not just my spine.

    The worst thing in my life is my job and the behavior of my immediate supervisors. When I was going through the worst of my health issues this year and having to go to the doctor’s office frequently, I made sure the impact on work was minimal. But the fatigue was crushing. Both my supervisors called me into their offices to say that my illness was ‘inconvenient’ for the company and that they might have to put me on notice … even though I had the most successful products in our division.

    I let them know exactly what I was dealing with and notified both of them that they should be aware of the FMLA, which drew blanks stares from these guys. My HR department freaked out when they heard what my supes did, and insisted I protect myself by going on intermittent FMLA. Huge hassle, when all it would have taken would have been for them to tell me that I could work from home on my worst days. Recently, the mother of my supervisor was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, and he seemed completely overwhelmed with the medical visits, what he had to learn, medications, etc. I actually helped him understand what to focus on and when to get second opinions and then reminded him that I had been through all of this in the last year. He looked pretty ashamed … not that I think it’ll change him much.

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