December 28, 2010

... with a little help from my friends

If the truth is that we would do anything to help a friend truly in need – why in the world do we hesitate to ask our friends to help US when we need it the most? I’m intrigued by this question and all that underlies it because I have not only been the friend who didn’t reach out for help but also the friend wasn’t called by another in their time of need.
I suffer migraines – not tension headaches, not ‘hangover headaches’ … ridiculously painful, no joke, I can hardly blink head pain that stops me dead in my tracks. So when I went to bed with a migraine one evening last year, I wasn’t particularly alarmed.  I took my pain medicine and went to bed hoping to wake up to a clear head – not so much. I woke up the next morning to the same pain I’d fallen asleep with … times ten, but it was what my daughter said when she came across the condo that changed the day.
Bryton: “Mom, why is your eye drooping down like that?”
Me: “What are you talking about? …”
Bryton: “Uhm yeah, your mouth is droopy too. I something wrong?”
NOT the conversation that you want to have with your daughter at 6:10 a.m. and definitely a conversation that scared the bejeezus out of me considering that my father had a series of massive strokes that left him paralyzed several years ago. I went to the mirror and what I saw alarmed me to my core.  Absolutely, positively my right eye was not only droopy – it was half closed and the right corner of my mouth was bent down in a frown, but I was NOT doing it purposefully. I thought I must have had a stroke and started chanting in my head to stay calm.
Now here is where the story goes from really interesting to certified crazy in an I-must-have-been-out-of-my-damn-mind kind of way. Instead of calling an ambulance, instead of calling a friend to ask for help – I decided to handle everything all by myself. Even as I type this, I know how unreal this decision was, but the funny thing is that it seemed perfectly reasonable at the time. Why did I think I should take care of it myself with no help? I didn't want to 'bother' anybody so early in the morning, I kept running through the logistics, I wasn’t sure what was actually happening – what if it was nothing?, etc. etc. So, I drove my daughter to the bus stop and waited until she was on the bus then I drove myself to the Emergency Room. 
Upon arriving at the Emergency Room, they took one look at me (holding the side of my head, squinting, one eye half-closed and the side of my mouth in an exaggerated downward droop), put me in a wheelchair and fast-tracked me to a room. They thought I might be having a stroke). They asked if someone was parking the car and I told them I'd driven myself - a blind person could not have missed the dismayed looks that passed between the nurse and ER doctor when I gave that answer. The good news is that I did NOT have a stroke - I suffer migraines and this is a type of migraine that I've never experienced before. I don't know if it was when I was having the CT-scan of my brain, or when they were drawing yet another vial of blood ... but at some point something clicked and I realized that I needed to call someone to tell them that I was in the ER.  My friend Andra was absolutely livid (with a huge dose of love and concern) that I was in the ER alone, that I'd driven myself there, that I didn't call anybody for help and she said "Hang up the phone now, Felicia. I’m sending someone there NOW."
The 'someone' who came is my friend Sonya, who is now my business partner. The minute I saw Sonya, I started crying. I'd been just fine the entire time I was there alone, but when the familiar and caring face of a friend appeared, I realized how scared I'd been and how much I needed someone to be at my side.
I learned a valuable lesson that day.
I am not alone in the world. I have two sisters, a mother, and countless friends who would come to be at my side in a moment if I reached out and called them for help. My challenge to that point was going beyond my ego and belief that I can do everything all the time with no help from anybody. The truth of the matter is that I would honestly have dropped everything and driven to the ER to be with any of my friends or family who needed me, yet, when faced with my own crisis, I didn't want to 'bother' anybody.
I'd not thought about this until a good friend of mine ended up in the ER on Christmas Day and she pulled a Felicia ... she told nobody she was there, but directed us to her blog where she'd recounted the entire episode that evening when she got home. You'd better believe I called her to have a livid (but loving and concerned) conversation about not needing to go it alone and never going it alone to the ER. Her protests were much the same as the ones I made to my friend, Andra, when I'd called her from the ER that morning. Funny how that happens, isn’t it?
My lesson that day was that we all get by with a little help from our friends (and family) - but they can only help us when we allow them to.

And no, I’ve not been to the ER alone again since that day.

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