Monday, March 21, 2011

Asking for Help

Growing up, I was mocked if I complained about aches, pains, being ill, etc... I was (not so fondly,) referred to as "Sarah Bernhardt" by my parents and grandparents. I can think of many, many occasions in which not only were my feelings/fears not validated, but were flat out dismissed. I remember these incidents with amazing clarity. Amazing to them, not me. I suspect, that many of these "aches & pains" were the early signs of Fibromyalgia, (FM). At the time, I just knew something was wrong, and my parents, the people who were supposed to take care of me, to be my champions when no one else believed me, told me to "stop being so dramatic." I was often told to "toughen up" and "suck it up." This left me feeling like I was weak and inadequate. Getting that message as a kid, it sticks with you. I struggle now to feel like I'm not inept.
I'm NOT making this up. When I say it hurts, it really does hurt. When I say I'm exhausted, I don't mean I need to sit down for a few minutes, I mean if I sit or lie down, I will fall asleep.
It's so hard to believe that other people will understand, when those closest to you, don't. I was raised that self-reliance was positive. Asking for help, a sign of weakness. Failing, not an option. I'm sure if you asked my parents directly about what I just said, they'd deny ever saying such things. Maybe they didn't say those things either. But their actions and non-verbals were quite clear to me. What they told me, time and time again, was that there was nothing wrong with me. I was "looking for attention." Nothing could be further from the truth. When you learn, at a young age, that weak = bad, you do your best to hide the things that would be seen that way.

I suppose, some of their response was due to attention my younger brother was getting. They thought I was jealous. He had some severe learning disabilities as a young child. We spent a lot of time, for a lot of years, going to doctors and appointments to get him help. I honestly don't remember feeling jealous of any of the attention related to that. I had my bouts of "that's not fair." But I don't recall ever thinking he was being favored because of the attention he was getting related to his needs. (You would never know he had these issues now, BTW. He's not on the spectrum & never was, or anything remotely like that.) I don't recall feeling like I missed out on things for me because of these appointments. I'm sure that happened, but my point is, none of it felt different from the day-to-day family give and take that most people deal with while growing up. I'm bringing this up because I think my parents may have been sensitive to that situation. When I would complain about something I think they thought I was looking for attention, because of the attention my brother was getting. I understand that, to a point. But at some point, shouldn't someone have taken it seriously? When the complaints didn't go away, shouldn't someone had said, "Maybe there's something more to this?"

I'm venting because in the process of my FM symptoms coming back, I'm once again being dismissed. Made to feel like that 7yo, who was told time and again, she was just a drama queen and it was growing pains.

Little has had a rotten cold that 5 or so days. She has been up with nightmares, ear aches and sore throats for the last several nights. I have not been getting much sleep at night because of it. (Remember, I don't sleep, I have pain. I have pain, I don't sleep. It's a cycle, I'm working really hard to avoid.) Today, her cough and complaints were enough that I kept her home from school and took her to the doctor. It's nothing big, just a really rotten cold and not much sleep for either us. About noon, her and I were both starting to crash. I knew if we napped, I wouldn't wake up in time to pick up Big from school in a few hours. I called my mom to see if she would mind picking her up for me, so I could sleep. She said, "No, because she had stuff she needed to do." Later, while sitting in the pick up line at school (watching the hail,) my mom started to text me. She apparently felt bad. Her peace offering was to offer to take Big to dance at 4. I declined. Big had some schedule overlap and wasn't going to dance. But I have to say, it pissed me off. My mom will bend over backwards for anyone, BUT me. I do not know why. I'm not the only one who has noticed this and commented on it. My brother and his wife have noted, more than once, how my mom, "always gives me the short end of the stick" and "definitely does not cut me any slack." For my brother's family, she will move literal mountains. For me, not so much. Let me be clear, her peace offering was not for me. It was because she didn't want to disappoint Big. I could go suck eggs as far as she was concerned. (That, is me being overly dramatic. See, I do know the difference.) Her peace offering was for Big, not me. She doesn't seem to understand, that when I ask for help with the kids, it not for the kids, it's for me. I need to rest so I can function. My parents seem to consider that a luxury.

It took me years to learn how to ask for help when I needed it. Years. I was taught that I should be able to do it all. When I couldn't and I fell on my face, they told me to "just get over it." "What would people think?" Falling on my face, was on an emotional level. Oh no, I did not do a public swan dive. Because, yes, what would people think? It didn't become public until I had fallen into such a deep depression it was obvious to the homeless guy on the corner, that something was wrong with me. At that point, I'm not sure what got me out of bed. On a lot of days nothing did. I asked for help today. I'm asking for help before it gets out of hand. I have kids now, I can't afford to worry about what people might think. I need to be there for them. I know I can't do it alone. Not right now. I let the house go. I haven't showered for days. I wear sweats and baseball caps to try to hide what I'm not doing. I have to prioritize my energies. But when I get to the point of asking for help, I need it. I can hear it in her voice, and see it on her face, she doesn't understand that I'm sick. She doesn't believe I'm sick. "Because I don't look sick." I'm sorry, I don't have a blood test or x-ray or CAT scan to prove something is wrong, but it is. If I get turned down, because you truly can't, that's fine, I understand. Trust me, I really do understand. But know, that if I asked you for help, I needed it. Something else is going to give.