Painexhibit.org is a place for people to artistically share their story of pain. One piece that caught my eye in the But you look so normal category is “Invisible Body” by Janice Feinstein. The work is a photograph taken of the artist’s back ┬áin which her muscles are all tightened and her arms are stretched over her shoulders so her fingers make scary shadows across the top of her back. The rest of her back is covered in scars. As part of the setup Feinstein says “My stance and ball of light in the mirror represents strength, power and hope.” Her stance is upright and strong, the ball of light is small but bright. The purpose of this piece is to highlight the hidden side of chronic pain that people like Feinstein live and deal with every day even though other people might not be able to see it.

One of the challenges that I face involves allowing people to experience their pain and accept it without making the sufferer constantly entertain me with their suffering. People also have this problem with me (sometimes it takes one to know one!). It can be quite burdensome on the person who needs help to be required to put on a show in order to demonstrate how needy and deserving they are, and compensate you for the help. Feinstein can tell you about her pain and that should be enough, she should not be required to show her body every time she needs proof that she does in fact have chronic pain, even though with her clothes on she looks like everyone else. Feeling this need to put on a show and beg for support can definitely delay seeking help, sometimes resulting in much worse problems.

What prevents you from asking for help?

Comments

Catherine –
I find this piece to be so powerful. And you and your colleagues have made several really important points about the impact of chronic pain!
SES

I really like your question Catherine. I think as we go into our clinicals and eventually into our career we will work with patients and generally other people who don’t want to ask for help and being aware of why we ourselves don’t ask for help is an important first step in knowing how to work with others.

I think that when I don’t want to ask for help it is because I don’t want to be a burden on other people or inconvenience them by asking them to take time out of their day to help me. I also think that I fear that people will only agree to help out of politeness rather than actually caring about me and wanting to help me. I don’t ever want to make people feel like they have to help me just because I need help and sometimes I think that I don’t ask for help or don’t ask certain people for help to avoid that situation.

There are a few reasons why I may not ask for help. One is that asking for help creates a feeling of dependence, I have been taught to be self sufficient and dependence may mean failure. Other reasons are that people usually ask for a return favor and what if I am unable to do that. This would be a burden on me. I also do not want to disturb people. I do not want someone to help me unwillingly just because they had a hard time saying no to me. And also because I may have to justify my need in front of people which is so tiring.

A lot of things prevent me from asking for help, unfortunately. The main issue I have is probably fear of judgment and belittlement. I realized in the past years that I do so because I need approval or I care about what others think of me. Recently, I have been better about knowing where I stand with myself and not letting others’ opinions define me. I know at the end of the day that I have to advocate for myself and get the help that I need if I am serious about the success I want to achieve.

Catherine, you pose an excellent question. I am grateful that you chose a piece dealing with chronic pain that is not immediately visible – as there is often stigma and misunderstanding around this type of struggle. I personally have been going through some health issues in which it sometimes feels like I need to argue with healthcare professionals about what I am experiencing because I am “young and visibly healthy” – and I’m sure many others can relate to this act of “putting on a show” to be worthy of help. I struggle with asking for help due to my desire to be self sufficient and figure things out on my own, as well as my people-pleasing tendencies. I like to think of myself as a helper, and I don’t ever wish to be a burden on others – so asking for help can be a big task for me. I often minimize my struggles as a means to get out of asking for assistance, convincing myself that others will be upset with me if I ask them for help. Sometimes it seems easier to just stay quiet and struggle by myself – but I know logically that I won’t get help if I don’t ever ask for it.

Privacy Statement