Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Wellness Activity: Helping Others and Ourselves

Although I plan on continuing my series, Refocusing to Achieve Wellness, on Wednesday, today I need to write about what happened to me yesterday.

My friend Betty, from my gardening class and I had a meeting at 10:15 with the groundsperson at the elementary school we're helping landscape. When I awakened at 8:00, I was still tired because I'd slept badly the night before. Also, it was relatively dark and foggy, and that added to my low energy level. So, I took 10 mg. of Adderall and within 45 minutes, I was able to get out of bed.

I was looking forward to our meeting at the school because we were going to check out the sprinkler system, discuss our choice of plants, and go to a local nursery.

After Betty and I talked with the groundsperson, he started turning on the sprinklers one at a time so we could see what sprinklers watered which portion of our soon-to-be flower beds in front of the school and around the side of the school where the children enter and leave each day.

After about ten minutes of checking out the side of the school, we returned to front, and as we headed toward the walkway leading to the three stairs outside the front door, from a distance I saw a woman sprawled on the ground.

Although I didn't know her, I immediately ran towards her to see how I could help. She was a heavy-set well-dressed woman in her late sixties or early seventies, lying face down, and she was moaning loudly.

From the instant I saw her, I thought of my mother, who'd fallen any number of times during the last two years of her life. Like mama, she was wearing colorful clothes. Like mama, she had a lovely face. Like mama, after she had fallen, she was frightened, hurt, and embarrassed.

Having fallen a few times myself, I know that the immediate reaction is usually nausea, and it's best to let someone regain their equilibrium. I also know it's a mistake to ask someone too many questions when they're clearly in a crisis.

When I approached the woman (whom I'll call Mary), I immediately got down on my knees, and began talking softly to her. I explained that I knew there was a lot of blood, and it looked like it was coming from her nose (which was still flat on the stairs). I asked her if it was okay for me to rub her back to try and calm her down, and she nodded.

"My friend and I are here to help you," I said. "Arturo is getting the principal. Betty is going for towels. Someone in the office will call the paramedics. But, I don't want you to worry. You're going to be fine. Just try to relax, and we'll try to stop the blood."

To make a long story shorter, everyone pitched in to help. It turned out that Mary was a volunteer who was helping out in the office. After she calmed down, she was finally able to sit up, and I held a cold sponge on her nose, and wiped the blood off her face and hands, all the while talking to her calmly and trying to comfort her.

Once the paramedics came, they took over, put Mary on a gurney, and took her to the hospital where her son was waiting. As Mary left, she squeezed my hand, and thanked me for helping her.

Later, when I walked to my car, I looked upward at heaven, and smiled. Somehow I knew my mother was smiling back at me.
* * *
In the afternoon, for the first time in a few weeks I felt like my "normal" self. It was as if the stress of taking care of Mary changed my own biochemistry, and enabled me to regain the energy I'd felt I had been loosing.

Who knows? But, what I do know is that I always feel better when I'm able to help someone else.

12 comments:

Writing Works said...

One of our purpose's in life is to help others. Love is ONLY experienced in the giving. That's why we feel so good when we offer help and love to others.

Not much makes me feel better than helping someone out.

I am glad you were there to step in. And, not only was your mother watching, God was happy with you, too. :)

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Writing Works,
I know that God was happy with me, but it's my mother whom I'm missing so much these days. In a few weeks, it will be the second anniversary of her death. And, I so loved her, and my father who died more than 20 years ago.

Susan

KJ said...

I always feel better when I help others and I appreciate the reminder because I have been pretty self involved recently. I am so impressed with your kindness and your example to Mary. Just think you impacted another human being yesterday so profoundly and set and example to the others around you. There is not doubt your mother was smiling down very proud!

Wendy Love said...

Susan,
What a beautiful story! I can understand why you felt a bit better after that episode. I have had similar experiences where I have not been feeling well, and then something happens and I am lifted, sometimes temporarily, out of the darkness. I believe something (possibly chemical) kicks in at that moment, a feel good thing.
I have found that when I am down, feeling even a tiny wee bit better is such a contrast that it is actually like feeling a whole lot better. Does that make any sense at all?

Tamara (TC) Staples said...

Susan,

What a beautiful story. I could just see you tending to her like you would have your mother. I am sure that "Mary" felt your love and that is what helped calm her. It is so wonderful that you were so uplifted by the care you gave. It really seems to help when we step out of our own stories and assist someone in need. I have read that volunteering is a good activity for someone dealing with depression because it gives them that opportunity to help others and be uplifted themselves at the same time.

Hugs,
Tamara

John said...

Hi, my name is John Manteria, and it is always good to hear of people helping other people. There is a certain feeling, as you said. That is the purpose of life just like the golden rule, "treat others as you want to be treated" Would you want people to just walk by and ignore you while you were on the ground. Anyway, I was hoping you could email me because I have a great website I would like to talk to you about, my email is john.phone2phone@gmail.com. Thank you.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear KJ,
I'm sure you helped others all the time at your preschool, and being the mother of four children.

And...as far as being self-absorbed, as I mentioned in a comment on your blog, I think that moving to a new town with four kids is a courageous act.

But, thank you for commenting, and for your support. Yes, I believe my mother was proud of me. And I believe my willingness to approach a stranger and offer a helping hand was a "gift" from her and my dad.

Susan

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Wendy,
Yes, everything you said makes sense. While I've been feeling a bit low, this isn't a severe depression--it's just been a time of low energy in which I've needed to concentrate on wellness activities that sustain me.

But, in my life, there have been many times where I have been in a "place of utter darkness and despair" when the smallest gesture has pulled me up...if only for a moment.

Sometimes, it's a smile from a stranger while taking a walk, an email from a friend who just wants to say, "Hello. I'm thinking about you," or lick on my hand or face from one of my dogs (past and/or present).

Susan

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Tamara,
Thanks so much. What you're describing is just how I felt. It brought back memories of me helping my mother when she'd fallen, and taking care of her in so many ways.

Other people (who clearly didn't know me very well) thought that taking care of my mother was a burden, and contributed to my depressions.

I felt my compassion and empathy were a gift from God, and my parents because it was the way I was raised.

Love,
Susan

Wellness Writer said...

Dear John,
I tried to click on your name and get your web site, but I couldn't. I've got a very busy day today, and won't be able to spend much time online or to respond to a lengthy email. And, I have a class at night, and won't be home until late.

But, if you want to tell me more about your web site, send me a message as a comment, and I won't print it. I'll read it tomorrow, and respond.

And, if you want me to delete your other comment because it's got your email address in it, let me know, and I'll delete it.

Susan

Howard said...

I agree with WRITING WORKS: "love is only experienced in the giving." Your experience, Susan, is a wonderful gift TO YOU: that you were given the opportunity to help someone else. This often can lift us immediately out of our depression because we're not all into our own "stuff"! Happy for you!

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Howard,
Isn't that the case? And, I can't tell you how many times in the midst of a severe depression that I have wanted to help others. But, it's quite impossible for me to be with people--and have to converse--when I'm severely depressed.

Susan