I have managed chronic back pain for nearly four years. The pain is not severe enough to leave me bedridden. A couple of weeks ago, I woke up with vicious back pain that was also present in my legs. The pain was similar to the ache you feel in your body when you have a cold or the flu, but I didn’t have a cold. I do not use ibuprofen or other medicine as part of my pain management, so I didn’t have any available painkillers. I live on the top floor of a building that has a lift that only works intermittently. Because my pain was in my legs and back, I did not want to walk down the stairs to go to the corner store to get over the counter pain relief. I knew I would have to climb back up the stairs and I did not want to risk more dizziness, aching, or stiffness. I was so uncomfortable and weak that I couldn’t even trust that I would be able to stand up in the shower, so I stayed in bed trying to sleep off the pain (but I couldn’t). I can’t even imagine coping with this kind of pain on a daily basis. It helped put my own struggles with pain into perspective.
I have a hard time knowing when to ask for help and when to do things alone. I understand that everyone needs help sometimes, but I try my hardest to be as independent, self sufficient, and strong as I can possibly be. I spent so much of my life being looked after that I am trying – for my own personal growth and maturity – to do things alone without relying on external validation or support. On the day I felt unwell, I asked my flatmate if she would give me some ibuprofen when she returned from class. She graciously gave me the medicine as soon as she got home. She was genuinely concerned about my well being and my happiness. I was very grateful that she helped me when I reached out to her; she didn’t make me feel needy or weak (even though I did feel bad for asking). I was also working on a group project at that time and my group members understood me when I told them that I was ill. I did as much work as I could from home and sent it to them electronically so I could participate to the best of my ability in my compromised state. They accommodated me, especially since other people were also getting sick around that time (with the change in the weather). My mother encouraged me to lean on the people around me if I needed them and not to hesitate in asking for medicine or help. She knew that I would give anyone medicine or help they needed if the situation were reversed. I told her, ‘I feel like you do when you have the flu, but I don’t have the flu.’
I woke up the next morning with the flu.