Grace Under the Weather

People don’t understand the ways that a chronic illness is different from an acute one.  It’s hard, until you’ve experienced it, to grasp the nature of the flux of day-to-day symptoms and management.  People don’t understand how well we have to know ourselves, how we have to track our changes.

We’re expected to be our own mind-readers, to know when things are moving up or down.  We keep journals and calendars and second-guess our feelings.  I try to stay ahead of myself, but sometimes it is only through the worn-out glasses of hindsight that I am able to say, man, I was crazy last week.

But even harder than keeping track of my own moods, I find, is knowing what to do when I realize that I am flailing or sinking or rising too quickly.  I can see that I need help, but I don’t know how to ask for it.  I never know how to ask for it.  I’ve tried, once or twice.  But I’m bad at being explicit—it always comes out jumbled and obtuse.  I can’t find the right words, even when I’m with my best friend or my psychiatrist.  I don’t know how to tell people that I’m hurting, that I need a rescue.


I’ve been at a conference all week.  On Monday, we arranged ourselves to have a picture taken.  Because I am short, I naturally got punted from the third row into the first.  There, I was placed beside an older man.  He turned to me and spoke with a European lilt, asked if our weather is always this nice in November.  I told him that is generally is, and we chatted further for a few minutes.  After the pictures were done, we started to walk away—he asked my name, and I looked down and commented, “Oh yes, I forgot to put on my name tag today.”

And he replied, “Oh, I couldn’t have seen it if you did.”  Then, he reassembled his cane, grasped the arm of a nearby man and walked off, yelling behind him, “Oh, I’m speaking tonight!”


He was amazing to watch; he started out his presentation by commenting on his blindness.  He has retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic degenerative disease.  He was diagnosed in his thirties with degenerating sight, and now can see almost nothing.

But more amazing to me than his adaptations and obvious intelligence—which were nothing less than incredible—was the ease with which he asked for aid.  He was unobtrusive and unapologetic—if he needed guidance, he simply asked for it.  I watched as he passed himself between colleagues, grasping for their arms with an ease that was simple and beautiful.

I wish for this ease; I covet it with the most jealous and evil parts of my soul.  I wish for the grace to ask for help, I wish for the suspension of ego that would allow me to say, “Here I am, lost.  Please take me somewhere else.  I need you to guide me.”

I yearn to someday be able to take someone’s arm and say “Please help.”  But more than that, I worry I will never be able to.  And that, I think, scares me more than anything else about my disorder.

Posted by AnotherChanceTo on November 20th, 2009
» Feed to this thread
» Trackback

2 Comments a “Grace Under the Weather”

  1. Tami says:

    Thank you. This is where I’ve been for … years it seems but more recently as I’ve struggled with the pile going on in my day to day. I’m a 55+ hour/week salaried manager with a community service organization, also recovering alcoholic/addict with almost 15 years clean (who has gained 100 #’s in those 15 years), and the parent of a 27 year old who has recently quit school, been discharged from the Air Force for medical and is obviously mentally ill to all but himself (lack of insight sux). After dumping my emotional pain, step daughter and 2 precious grandbabes moved six hours away today, by picking a fight with him about his messy living all over my living room, I called a dear friend in the program finally reaching out for help. 20 minutes later I still feel sadness that I can be this person and wondering where to start, again, to change. But knowing there is a solution just not here in today’s habits and choices. Not sure how or when I found you, you were bookmarked, but the cosmic wonder of it all is a blessing. Thanks for listening :)

  2. AnotherChanceTo says:

    Thank you for commenting–I’m sorry to hear that you have so much going on. Sounds like a lot of stress on your plate.

    First and foremost–congrats on the 15 years clean. I’m a medical student and I’ve met a lot of people who struggle so deeply with substance abuse and dependence. I always make it a point to tell anyone who has kicked any habit “congratulations.” Because I know it’s harder than anything I’ve ever had to do.

    I’m sorry to hear about your son, and that your family has moved–I know that is hard. But I am glad that you were able to reach out to someone. Thank you for sharing this, just for giving me an example of how you were able to do it–hopefully next time, I’ll be able to ask for help too.

    And I know that it’s hard to make changes in habits and choice. But I also do believe that it’s possible. For all of us. For both me and you.

    And no problem, on this listening. That is the absolute beauty of this place, here–it connects us. And I am eternally grateful, every day, to be part of the community it offers.

Leave a Reply