The Trap of Feeling Like a Burden

Not too long ago, I was hit with a triple threat: horrible insomnia, increased pain, and the need for hand surgery.

As luck would have it, I had been planning time with my parents, who are in their 80s. When I called them and told them what was going on, they immediately volunteered to help me through surgery.

That month was awful — a continuation of pain, exhaustion, and mental anguish as I tried to keep my hopes up but was not yet experiencing much positive change.

Feeling like a burden to my parents

The hardest part of this whole experience, by far, was the despair I felt about being a burden to my parents, spending days and nights beating myself up about the idea that I should be the one helping my parents, that my presence was making their life revolve around my needs, and that, if I wasn’t there, they could be happier and more carefree.

As you can imagine, my demeanor reflected my negative attitude. I spent a lot of time apologizing for my limits, justifying why I needed what I needed, telling them I was fine when I wasn’t so they could go golf without worrying about me, and using too much of my precious energy reserves doing things that undermined my progress just so I didn’t have to ask for help. I felt angry a lot of the time, trying to let the anger be what it was — a reaction to my awful predicament — but some days, it would seep out onto my parents, and those nights I would berate myself for my bad behavior.

A friend's comforting words changed my perspective

One day, I was talking to a friend, describing my situation, when she said something that changed everything. She said, "Kat, you feel like a burden; that’s understandable, but what you are forgetting is that your parents love you and want to spend time with you. It doesn’t matter to them if that time is sightseeing or eating a meal together." Her words immediately lightened my load and helped me to think about things differently.

My friend helped me to realize that every time my Mom helped me fix my lunch, she was feeling glad she could still be of use. Every time my Dad had to drive me to yet another doctor appointment, we had a chance to talk uninterrupted, and I was learning things about him that I never knew. Once I started to be more candid about my feelings of being a burden, I heard my parents tell me that they felt helpless when they couldn’t do anything to ease my burden; that all of the "extra work" I felt I was giving them actually wasn’t much of a burden. I realized that they had spent a lifetime with me wishing that they could do more.

Talk through your feelings with those around you

Feeling like a burden is a trap, one that can become a bottomless pit if you don’t realize this: Whether or not you’re a burden isn’t something for you to decide.

Instead of staying in that awful feeling, it’s much better to talk it through with the people around you. Let them tell you how they feel about helping you with your needs. The conversation may surprise you.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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