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.
Did you like this article?
Consider shouting me a $5 tea. Your support will keep me typing away to bring you more stories like this one.
Did you like this article?
I write best with a cuppa in my hand. Support me by shouting me one. Tea keeps me tapping away at my laptop to bring you more stories.
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.
Here's the latest posts from my Recovery Chronicles
The battle had been won but the closer I edged toward the Sarah of my past, the more elusive she became.
I’ve spent a long time out of the fray. How do I rejoin my community? How do I reconnect again?
It is not my intention to hide these struggles, but how do I demonstrate the extra effort I go through?