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What I Learned About Asking for Help With Chronic Illness

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Picture this. A happy, well dressed (I hope) 23-year-old girl walking around Hobby Lobby with a coffee in her hand. Starting at the Christmas section (I’m one of those terrible people who love shopping for Christmas early. As early as December 28th if my heart desires) she slowly works her ways up and down each aisle, looking intently at almost everything. She has a few items in her hands, but nothing too gawky or heavy that can’t be handheld. It isn’t until she kneels down to look at some stickers that you realize she has not stood up.

I’m sure all us spoonies have been in a very similar situation. I have read countless posts about people “not looking sick” and empathize with each and every one. Although I do have similar experiences, today was the first day I truly had no control over anything. Seriously. The only reason I was at Hobby Lobby was because I couldn’t get myself to stop crying to go into work. I didn’t want to be alone, but I knew I would get nothing accomplished at work. So instead I walked around the Hobby Lobby that opened by my house looking for nothing but company. (And, honestly… It’s Hobby Lobby….) My bad knee was acting up, but that was nothing new, and I had to be out of the house for a while to entertain myself.

I had a few upcoming Christmas crafts I figured I could buy for now while everything was on sale and slowly collected them around the store. Everything was going fine until the sticker aisle. The stickers are so. Low. (Seriously. Why?) So here I was hobbling on the ground like a hermit crab looking at stickers. And then it hit me. How was I going to get up. I didn’t have an exit strategy. “Normal” 23 year old’s would just stand up, but I don’t have that luxury. My “standing up” consists of putting my weight on my slightly better knee and slowly pushing myself off the ground, praying nothing blows and topples me over. And then once I’m up, holding on to something steady so the postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) doesn’t take me down….but my hands aren’t free of coffee, foam and stickers. Long story short, I did not think this through.

And then the hero of the story came along. My knight in blue vest! An employee of the store came down the aisle to restock the shelves. I had two choices: be my stubborn self and pretend to be looking at stickers and possibly be stuck in the sticker aisle for all eternity (which wouldn’t be too much of a punishment) or ask for help. I opted for the latter seeing as I would really miss my cat. She was nearly finished, and noticed I still hadn’t moved from my hermit crouch, so like most store employees asked the infamous question: “Can I help you?” And I sweetly and as politely as I could responded “Yes. I’m very sorry to be asking you this, but I can’t get up, could you hold my arm to help me stand?”

At first I was humiliated. What would she think of me? Do I look like a complete idiot? Do I look sick enough to ask for help? Why don’t I dress the way I feel? What is she going to tell people when I leave?

But I was also humbled. This is the first time I really talked to a stranger about being sick or stuck. Many opportunities arouse, but I could never convince myself to ask for help. But here I was, crabbing along in the sticker aisle, stuck on the floor finally admitting that I don’t have to be as strong as I try to be.

The woman was incredibly eager to help. I put my coffee and supplies down and she grabbed my arm and steadied me. After leaning me on the restock cart, she picked up my supplies, put them in the baby seat and ran off to get me a cart of my own. When she got back, she loaded my cart, looked at me straight in the eye and said “Do not ever apologize for asking for help. You gotta do what you gotta do, and trust God will put people around you to help” and walked away.

Needless to say I burst out crying again, and am still tearing up retyping this. I can truly say this woman is a godsend. Literally. She walked into the sticker aisle and imparted more wisdom than I could have ever thought possible.

If I need help, I should get over my fears and ask.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help.

Trust God has surrounded you with kind people who will step up and be your hero.

This is a lesson I truly hope to never forget.

Getty image by Jacabel

Originally published: November 27, 2021
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