It Takes a Village
Today I did something I never thought I would. My illness has a sneaky way of doing that. I recorded my story on camera.
“Look directly at the lense” instructs my friend Holly. We met a month ago at the yoga studio, the two youngest yogis in a class of seventy year olds. We became fast friends over cups of ginger tea in the deli-cafe below. I told her of my doctors plans for further tests to find the root cause to my illness. I told her there is hope.
Holly is a film-maker and news camera operator. It was her idea to start a fundraiser. Australia has a fantastic public health care system. Unluckily for me, the majority of my treatments have needed to be funded privately. My savings ran out after a year. My family paid $50,000 out of pocket for my medical expenses. The new tests are through a laboratory in Germany. It is the only place in the world that runs this particular test. We set the fundraiser target at $4,000.
I stare into the blackness. Down the barrel as they say in the film industry. All I could see is my reflection. It’s intimidating. Once we post this video online anyone can watch it. I am out there. I feel the eyes of millions staring back at me. I feel an odd mixture of validation and exposure. If the fundraiser is successful, my search for a diagnosis will take another step forward. Why is asking for help so hard?
I have a migraine today and I am spinning with vertigo. “Memorize the lines” says Holly. “It sounds more natural.” I try but I can only manage one sentence at a time. We proceed at this painstaking pace. I lose concentration at the halfway point. “Do you want to stop?” Holly asks, seeing I’m fatigued. I desperately want to. If I do, the video won’t get finished. No one else can do this except me.
I see myself as a self-reliant person. I’ve been working since I was fourteen years old, the legal age in Australia. Before that I sold my crafts at the local fair and at school. I paid my way through university by working full-time and studying online. I’ve run my own business and paid staff wages. Now I’m unable to work, it’s been a big shift in me to accept help. I delayed applying for unemployment benefits for over a year into my illness. I couldn’t bring myself to ask for help.
I read somewhere, we don’t do anything alone, even preparing a meal is not a singular activity. The food has been planted, nurtured by Mother Nature, harvested, transported, sent to shops and eventually it becomes our daily food. Passing through many hands along the way. I love cooking. The interdependence of the food chain supply gouges out the heart of my misconception. It dawns on me. Everything in life is a collaboration. I don’t have to do this alone. If I let it, healing can be a joint effort. The wall of self-reliance I’ve built myself weakens.
Brain injury has taught me I’m living inside a fragile human body. And mind. I had no idea a brain needs a generous amount of time to heal. I want to live independently. In the meanwhile, I can’t get myself better left to my own devices. The popular parental advice it takes a village could well apply. I’ve been spoon-fed, dressed and showered. I am driven around by friends and family. I’ve had financial, medical and personal decisions made for me. I rely on others’ memories to supplement mine.
Another realisation enters my mind: I’m not the only one. This situation could befall anyone. It could be anyone in this video asking for help with medical bills. Today it is me. Tomorrow a friend. Or a stranger. We all have times when we need help. I’m comforted by these thoughts.
The camera keeps recording. I find my next line. I hope I can remember this in the coming days: life is a fine art of giving and receiving. Some days we are givers, others we are receivers. At the moment, I am leaning on others for support. Why did it take a brain injury and chronic illness to learn this is ok?
The Fundraiser is now closed. To read my story, click here.
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Sarah’s debut book out now
Healing My Brain, My Way
Life with a brain injury and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS).
An honest, compelling account about a woman’s battle to reclaim her life after a devastating brain injury.
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