Love is Asking for Help

10:38 PM

For the longest time, I didn't take care of myself. But it took hitting rock bottom for me to realize I needed to stop doing that. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I battled depression and anxiety my junior year of college, turning me into a shell of myself. There were many things that led to my inevitable emotional crumbling, but it all boiled down to one fact: I didn't prioritize myself.

So I learned to listen to my body, respect its limits and respond to its needs. I started taking breaks, saying no to excess obligations and teaching myself to be okay with that.

But after a recent event involving my endometriosis symptoms and a resulting discussion with my husband, I realized something about my attitude toward my disease. I've been putting all of it on myself. In a strange way, I've been selfish, distrustful and isolated.

Here's what happened.

Last week, my husband, Andrew and I joined two of our good friends for a wedding. Already, I had been pretty worn out from a few weeks of full-steam-ahead, but I stuffed my clothes and necessities into a suitcase again, dropped Juno off at our friends' house and got into the car again.

This wedding was also a mini-reunion since one of Andrew's friends from out of state was in town for the celebrations. So we'd be spending the entire weekend with friends, going out to eat, staying up way too late and having fun at the wedding. I tend to use up a lot of my energy in what I refer to as "marathon social situations" to begin with, but when Andrew's friends are involved, this seems to reach a whole 'nother level.

Back in the day (so, like, three years ago), I used to be the last person to fall asleep when I hung out with my friends. In college, my best friends and I would easily hang out until 4:30 a.m. and trudge back to our dorms in the freezing cold. (My record, actually, is staying up until 7:30 a.m. with a few of my guy friends, after which I went back to my room and slept until 3 p.m.)

But now, I tap out looong before Andrew and his friends (whom, might I add, are all older than me by at least four years, so I really do suck at life.) So when we all hung out the night before the wedding and played Mario Kart for hours, I headed to my air mattress at 2 a.m., much to the guys' protests. I didn't feel Andrew crawl in next to me until two hours later, so I knew I made a good choice.

Though I probably could have made a better choice in bedtime...

Anyway, the next day, I was pretty worn out, but I downed my coffee, fought with my still-growing hair and got ready for the wedding. Oh, and did I mention I was freezing? I have a lot of trouble with the cold, despite being born and raised in the Midwest, and the onset of real fall weather was not sitting well with me. I froze through the whole wedding and the reception, while I was trying to sleep the night after, and I'm pretty sure I didn't stop freezing until the following afternoon when we drove home.

Between my poor sleeping habits, travel eating and shivering body, my endo symptoms were in full force. I wasn't really in a ton of pain. I just felt like complete and total crap by the end of the wedding. If you're familiar with the spoon theory (see the picture to the right, if not), I was down to about a spoon and a half. And I was in charge of driving back to our friend's apartment we were staying at.

But of course, there was an after party, and another of Andrew's college friends was tugging at our arms. Our two friends were ready for Fun Times in Rural Indiana Round Two, but I was clutching my side, testing the reliability of my left knee that tends to flare up and wondering if I could manage the 45 minute drive on top of a party.

Andrew looked at me and said, "Do you feel well enough to go?" I scanned the room as the bride and groom's families were cleaning up the reception and Andrew's friends were chattering away about whatever they were chattering about. I really, really, reallyyyy did not want to go. But I also hate being the fun-ruiner. And I really hate being the person who has to make this decision.

So after hemming and hawing and hoping that Andrew would shut down the fun for me, I finally agreed to the after party. Long story short, it was a bad idea. While the previous agreement was to hang out "only for a little bit," of course no one wanted the festivities to end. And because I hurt too much to stand in a circle and follow everyone around the house, I sat in a chair for most of the night, which made me look 1) super not-fun, 2) like I was pouting and 3) did I mention super not-fun?

Andrew and I finally dragged our friends to the car, and I managed the drive home. But I was the crabbiest I'd been in a while. I didn't say a word the whole ride back, and I immediately went to sleep when I got to the apartment.

On the drive back to our house, Andrew and I talked over what I dubbed the "miscommunication." But Andrew saw it as a complete lack of communication on my part. He would have immediately told his friends we were heading back, had I made it clear that we needed to go. But I didn't make that need clear, so he figured I was fine to hang out longer.

"How could he not see it?" I thought. "I was clutching my side, practically limping, giving him the 'Read my mind and know that I feel sick' eyes and... oh... uhh maybe that's part of it."

I thought about this later. Why was I so scared to let my friends and my husband know that I felt sick? Yeah, I hate being the fun-ruiner. And I hate making decisions alone that affect the whole group. And I hate being a burden on people when my health wears down.

But what ever gave me the reason to believe I'm a burden?

When I was a freshman in college, I was in an abusive relationship. My friends and family knew I was unhappy at the time, but I don't think they were aware of how bad it was, mostly because I wasn't entirely transparent. And part of that was because I felt like I was a burden. I felt like I could figure it out on my own. I didn't think I needed help.

Ah. I thought all this sounded familiar.

When the truth came out, I remember my mom being very upset and, I'm sure, pretty hurt. It reminded me of the time I threw up in the middle of the night when I was a kid, but I didn't want to wake up my parents and tell them. I remember my mom sadly looking at me and saying, "Don't you love me?"

Love is asking for help. Love is telling people what you need. Love is letting people love you.

As a kid, I didn't let my parents love me when I got sick. In college, I didn't let my friends and family love me when I needed help. At last week's wedding, I didn't let my husband and my friends love me when I needed to go home. I was selfish. I kept it inside and let myself bear my own burden.

So I've made an agreement with Andrew to be completely honest and straight-forward with how I'm feeling. "Is it time to go?" "Yes, I'm sore. I need to be at home." No more of the "Well uhh I thiiiiink I can make it, but I'm not suuuuure."

If your friends and family love you (which they do), they want to prioritize your physical needs. They want to be there for you. They want to love you by caring for you.

So next time you're in a situation like mine, and you don't want to ruin social plans - whether because of endometriosis or another illness or for a completely different reason - please remember this. Please love yourself and let others love you, too.

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