I’m a very active participant in my healthcare. I am passionate about being the best advocate for myself and others. However, there is always room for improvement and I have one area that has been a struggle for me: accepting help. I’m a 35-year-old, married, independent woman who takes pride in doing things on her own. When chronic health issues change your stamina, how you feel, and what you are able to accomplish, it is hard to accept that you can’t do what you once were capable of. Welcome to my current world.
Post kidney transplant, I worked fulltime and when I got home from work I was busy most of the night with volunteer work and social activities. Nothing slowed me down. Since my disc herniation in 2013 and especially now as I wait for a liver transplant, life is very different. I am no longer able to work fulltime and I still try and go-go-go all day long. This is partially in my genes as my father is a “hit the ground running” type of guy. When his eyes open in the morning, he never stops until bedtime. Ironically, he recently gave me a powerful lesson on slowing down and accepting help.
Last month, my dad flew out from Pennsylvania to visit Noah and me in Northern California with a mission to help us. Noah would be away on a business trip for a couple of days after a liver procedure I had booked, so my dad took me to my procedure in San Francisco, was with me while Noah was away and stayed at our home for over a week. It was amazing to have him here. It was like having a teammate with me all day. Everything I had to do was cut in half by his help or completely eliminated because he did it. He drove me to all my doctor and infusion center appointments, helped me prepare and clean up after every meal, ran errands, did chores, vacuumed the house. On top of all this, he encouraged the most important thing that has been missing in my routine: rest and relaxation.
I equate resting to being lazy, and deep down, I know that is far from the truth. It is just a hurdle I need to overcome. Resting doesn’t necessarily need to be sleeping on the couch; it can be something restful for the mind, body and soul. For instance, my dad and I packed lunches and went to the park most days and hung out together. We soaked in the soothing sun, took short walks, were rejuvenated by the fresh air and entertained by the different activities taking place at the park. It may sound simple, but this was a welcome, relaxing change of pace. Also, on one of the days that I was so exhausted and didn’t feel well, he inflated our air mattress and put it in the sunroom for me to nap. Feeling the warmth of the sun and watching the leaves of our massive oak tree flutter in the wind was magical. It made me question why I don’t do things like that more often.
My dad taught me that accepting help isn’t all that bad. It is incredibly nice and was much needed for my mind and body. Noah is an amazing support, but I’m used to being on my own throughout the days when he is at work. Getting a bit of a breather and some of the load taken off my shoulders during the week made me feel better. I realized just how much everything I was trying to accomplish and do was having an impact on how I felt overall. Thank you, Dad, for helping me understand that accepting help is not a sign of weakness and how important it is to rest.
To all my independent kindred spirits, if help is offered, kindly accept it. It is beneficial for us on the receiving end and good for our caregivers to feel that they can help us. Not everything needs to be done in one day. The most important thing is you, taking care of yourself and doing what is best for you. Please stop, rest, breathe, do something that brings you joy. Life is too short, health challenges are too stressful, and we deserve to enjoy each day regardless of the battle we are facing.
What brings you joy through your health challenges?