The Kindness of Strangers
I was assembling manicotti when it happened.
I texted my husband: I feel funny.
Funny is hard to describe to someone without epilepsy. For me, it is a sense that I am slowly fading away. Thinking becomes hard and fuzzy. I suddenly can’t trust my senses. And, most telling of all, I feel this urgent need to GET. OUT.
But, of course, I was standing in the middle of a community ed class on freezer meals, assembling manicotti. A fading part of me knew that I was in no real danger, that what I was doing wasn’t even that taxing.
So, out of shame, I said nothing to my work partner, whose husband was on a community ambulance volunteer.
I didn’t want to make a scene. I didn’t want to worry anyone. So I pressed on and ignored that strange sensation that I needed to LEAVE.
But something in me told me to text my husband, who was 30 miles away.
So imagine my shock when a community ambulance volunteer walked into that kitchen and told me to sit down. (My husband had texted her and asked her to check on me.)
This was simultaneously horrifying and exactly what I needed.
I DID NOT want to appear as though this simple, everyday task was too much for me. I DID NOT want to look as though I was incapable of meal preparation. I DID NOT want to look less-than everyone else. I DID NOT want to look disabled.
(Which, of course, I am. It’s official now -- I won my case, a victory that felt more like defeat. In the eyes of the State, I am disabled.)
But that doesn’t mean I want to be disabled. Especially since I’ve had my driver’s license back for awhile. I’ve been living a normal-ish life.
I did not want to look like assembling a pan of manicotti was going to defeat me.
But when that ambulance volunteer told me to sit, I sat, because I really, really needed to sit. And when the class instructor offered me two of the most incredible cookies ever, I ate them, because I really, really needed to eat. And I drank the water people gave me. And all the while, quietly and discreetly, my work partner and a couple other participants finished assembling my freezer meals for me.
Everyone was so nice, so understanding, so respectful. No one stared at me. No one pointed or whispered about me. In fact, most people carried on as though nothing at all had happened.
No one judged me except for...well, except for me.
I love Brene Brown, even though some of her lessons are absolute ego-destroyers. Like this one: “When you cannot ask for help without self-judgment, you are never really offering help without judgment.”
I have attached weakness to needing help. And I have been trying so damn hard to not be weak throughout this disability. I have tried to find strength despite my weakness.
Ironically, I often let this weakness defeat me.
Thanks to everyone’s help that night, I was able to rest my body and my mind. I took my preventative medication. I was given a ride home.
And then I slept for 14 hours.
I did not have a seizure.
(Instead, I had a 36-hour migraine.)
But I did not have a seizure, and I’m pretty sure that was due to the kindness I received that evening, from strangers, acquaintances, and friends alike.