It's a Sunday evening and apart from looking out of the window I have no idea what the weather really felt like today. I've spent all day in bed and the hours have passed in a blur, as so often happens during the more ragged times of my illness. It occurred to me that the friends who acknowledge my health, and all that comes with it, enable me to feel less like an invalid and more like 'my old self'. When my poor health is validated then that 'self' no longer needs to hanker for attention and other parts of me can get a look in.
No one really wants to be ill. It's a whole new landscape and takes time to get to know this new terrain with unfamiliar customs and ways of being. One of the most challenging aspects is learning how to ask for help. I always thought I was good at this. I'd lived on and off with depression for years before my physical health went belly up so knew what it meant to navigate my way through professional and personal support in order to get my needs met when I could not meet them myself. But this is different, sometimes those needs cannot be met. Yes I can find ways of soothing and comforting myself when I am feeling my worst (in body and in mind) and I can reach out to others when I'm desperate but some days nothing works. There is no fixing it and that puts an enormous stress on all sorts of relationships.
Small things do make an enormous difference - help with cleaning, a friend coming over and sharing a conversation and a cup of tea, packing my belongings for my upcoming move - all this is vital and I'm eternally grateful. The problem is I have to keep asking. As long as I remain debilitated physically (and emotionally at times as well) there is no end to my list. And that can be an appalling infantalising state to find oneself.
Writing this I realise there is another way. Yesterday a singer came over with chocolate brownies. A kind and generous woman I don't know well but someone, who in her words, 'likes to help people'. I lay on my bed and it's hard to find words to describe the joy I felt as she sang what can only be be described of as a daytime lullaby. When she left she thanked me. I was as touched by her gratitude as I was moved by her singing. It made me realise that giving and receiving really are part of the same package. If there is someone out there who likes to help perhaps this illness can teach me how to surrender to being helped, to get to enjoy it and finally discard the struggle and battering of self-judgement.