How My Illness Helped Me Believe in the Goodness of People Again

Needing help is so humbling that it is daunting to admit to, especially if you grew up like I did with an “I can do it myself” personality. I was an independent child from day one. But if you’ve been chronically ill, live with or care for someone with a chronic illness, you know how truly essential it is to have physical, tangible, practical servant-type help.

When I started having symptoms of my first illness — now officially diagnosed as palindromic rheumatism, a rare form of autoimmune disease that attacks and causes inflammation in your joints — I literally had to have my husband’s help buttoning up my pants. The doctor told me to stop using my hands for even moderately difficult tasks, fearing that I was causing further injury to what he, at the time, thought was server tendinitis. Flash forward a year: with my husband out of town, prior to my postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome diagnosis, I found myself suddenly flat on my back on the kitchen floor, having blacked out momentarily. Phoning my neighbors in tears, I asked them to come help me off the floor, assist my daughter with dinner and getting ready for bed.

I am sure that many of us battling chronic illnesses have had similar experiences that left us realizing we need hands-on help.

While at one time I would have written this post with a begrudging and bitter attitude, I have come to see the absolute beauty of needing and accepting help.

It has helped me to truly believe in the goodness of people again — to truly see and benefit from so many amazing people, some of whom I have known for less than a year. These people have surrounded me and my family with support in many forms, including physical help, as we face the ups and downs of my illness. Not only that, but it has also helped me truly understand the meaning of grace (unmerited divine assistance given for regeneration or sanctification of a person’s heart and soul) and has deepened my own Christian faith.

I do not deserve the amazing kindness people have shown me, especially if you would have known me before getting sick. The thought of serving someone else or even watching someone else’s child sounded, in my selfishness, like an enormous, burdensome thing — the last conceivable way I would have wanted to spend my time. But now, after having received so much unmerited help and love, I cannot stop thinking of ways that I too can love people well – even in this season of substantial physical limitations. While I have so far to go in loving others well, I am blown away by the graciousness of others in asking for and accepting their help.

While I don’t desire to be this ill and hope one day to be back to fully functional, I am thankful for how the people in my life have helped me grow in so many precarious but beautiful ways. Maybe you too can relate?

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