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A Psoriatic Arthritis Dilemma: It's Okay to Accept Help

I've always been able to count on my recliner to provide me with at least some degree of relief, especially from lower back pain. Sitting there today, I continued to complain to my husband and to the universe. In truth, I was feeling sorry for myself.

After stopping previous medications for slowing joint damage because of adverse reactions there's now a delay on the arrival of a new one. I have lived without the cumulative benefits of a biologic for months now and it is starting to take a toll.

Tasks that can probably use a little help

I've desperately wanted to be able to clean the kitchen or cook a meal or two. These everyday things I might take for granted were it not for the pain. My husband has been one to walk the dogs, cook the meals, and make the coffee in the morning. Then he goes upstairs and works all day as I continue to feel progressively worse about myself for not making a contribution.

Then my phone dings. I have a text message from our neighbor, Georgia. “Hi Julie. I haven’t seen you in a few days. Are you okay?” This simple message meant so much.

I told Georgia that I’ve been in pain and haven’t really been out of the house for a few days. As a good friend with a sincere wish to help, she asked if there is anything she could do for us. And what did I say? “Nope. We’re good!”

Why is it so difficult to accept help?

How many times have you offered help with the same reply of "thank you, but I'm fine."? Maybe you'd be surprised to know that there was something very specific that person may want to ask for.

We're in a society that values strength, one that congratulates people for being strong when their challenges haven't killed them. Today when I got that offer of help, what I wanted was a real homecooked meal. Given my pain level, I haven’t been able to cook and my husband has been exhausted from work.

With everything going on, we have ordered out far too many times. I would love a decent meal, cooked by a regular person in a home kitchen. Maybe Georgia wouldn’t be prepared to cook it tonight, but I know her well enough to know that she would cook a meal for us if I had answered her with that request. But I didn’t want to be a burden.

Getting by with help from our friends

If you are anything like me, you have friends who tell you to call them if you need anything. And you reply, “oh, I will.” And then, I bet you tell your friends that you are there for them in their time of need.

When you ask your friends if they need help, are you sincere? My guess is that you are. We are happy to provide help, so why is it so hard to accept it? When you’ve been living with the chronic pain of psoriatic arthritis something seems to happen in the brain. It’s a crazy, miscommunicated signal that says “I’m a burden.” Don’t believe this lie that your brain is telling you.

You are not a burden.

Next time someone offers to help, what if we said, “that would be lovely. Thank you.” We would feel good because our friend did something nice for us. Our friends would feel good because they were able to do something nice for someone they care about. It’s a win-win.

After my wrist fusion surgery last month, my sister Denise offered to help. I knew that I would not be able to make my bed during this time. Denise came over each week and changed my sheets until I was able to do it myself. She enjoys making a bed, so it was easy for me to accept her offer.

I also hoped that, as my sister, she would tell me if she felt that I was a burden. She didn’t. Because I wasn’t. And neither are you. I was happy to have her help and she was happy to participate in my recovery.

Help is an opportunity for closeness

When we don’t allow friends and family who care for us to bring us meals, drive us to appointments, or come change our sheets, we’re taking away the opportunity for them to participate in our recovery. So, the next time that you’re having a flare and someone offers to do something helpful for you, consider allowing them to help.

It will be good for your relationship, and the person you allow to help you will have a deeper understanding of what you go through. Maybe they will be more likely to accept your help in their time of need. After all, maybe it isn't being strong that keeps us going. Maybe it's our connection to the people we care about, and who care about us.

I’m in my comfortable recliner again, wishing that I had been honest with Georgia. So I’ll call her tomorrow and ask her to cook a meal for me. And I think we’ll both be glad I did.

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