Advocate for yourself!

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

August 11th, 2010 • Living with Chronic PainPrint Print

My ears are shot. About two hours ago, there was a horrific slamming sound that sent a jolt through my eardrums and caused terrible pain. I went outside to investigate and found out that the carpenters had done some demolition work on the apartment right below mine, then thrown two large, heavy steel sink halves from the landing of second floor, down into the steel garbage can below.


The head carpenter is a total sweetie and genuinely cares about others. He also knows that I am super sensitive. So I wonder why it didn’t occur to him to give me a heads-up? Jarring sounds like that are exponentially worse when the body doesn’t have time to brace in preparation for them.

Anyhow, I went to the apartment being torn apart and asked if there would be more slamming sounds like that. I was informed there would be, so I requested 20 minutes to get out of my apartment. Not only did the carpenter agree to it, but he then called and informed me that if I could just move to another room for 10 minutes, they could get it all done, and I would not have to leave for the afternoon.

Like I said, he’s a total sweetie.

I decided to go for a walk instead, because in this apartment, sound reverberates from the front end to the back. Plus I’d just had to sit for five minutes and plug my ears, to calm down the nerves, and they were feeling especially sensitive. In fact, they still have not calmed down, so you can imagine why I didn’t want to take the chance right then.

I’ve had to request additional accommodation – like giving me a heads-up before painting. When the painters worked on the stairs outside my apartment, with no more than a one-minute notice, I ended up sick for three days from the fumes –therefore spending my days at cafes and coming home just to sleep, with all the windows open.

It feels vulnerable to always have to be the pain the in the ass patient, client, or tenant. It’s certainly unpleasant for me to have to ask for special consideration all the time. But as uncomfortable as it may be, it’s super important that we learn to speak up and get our needs met. Because otherwise, we can end up suffering unnecessarily. Living with chronic pain and hypersensitivity is nothing, if not a lesson in self-advocacy.

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