May I Help You?

In 2013 I received a diagnosis of a rare movement disorder known as primary orthostatic tremor which affects your legs only upon standing. The tremors stop as soon as you begin to walk or sit, and I was determined that life would continue as always. As long as I did not attempt to stand still in place I could still carry on activities as usual ... or so I assumed.

I wanted to remain independent

I was determined to remain independent and maintain my dignity and I never wanted to rely on the help of strangers. Best laid plans don’t always work to our advantage as I learned the first time I had to wait on line in the grocery store on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

My legs began shaking so rapidly that I had to get out of line and circle the store until I found a place where I could sit and and get control. I sat there until there was an opening where I could be first in line and managed to check out and get to my car with a minimum of difficulty. Mission accomplished ... or so I thought.

The first time I accepted help

Once I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease several years later in 2002, circumstances changed rapidly. I could no longer carry on as though I was in control under all circumstances. I still felt the need for independence and did not want to rely on anyone for assistance. It made me feel less-than and not complete.

The first time I had to accept help was when the door to a handicapped restroom stall opened backwards and I could not maneuver my wheelchair to enter. An older woman very gently asked, "May I help?" I realized I had no other choice other than to accept or stay trapped.

When I accepted her assistance a lovely smile appeared on her face and she thanked me for allowing her to get me soap, a towel, and back to my table. She told me that nothing made her happier than being able to help those in need as she had a relative with mobility problems.

What a huge wake up call that was for me. I realized that people would not offer to help if they didn’t choose to and I was being selfish by denying them that opportunity. I have always been the first to offer assistance to others, so why was I so reluctant to accept it?

Overcoming my pride

Pride has no place in my attitude any longer. I used to dread the words, "May I help?" Now I welcome them. In allowing others to assist, no matter how large or small the help, I am providing them an opportunity to feel good about themselves and have made some incredible new friends along the way.

I feel as if my speaking out for what Parkinson’s disease involves is stronger than ever, which will always be a goal. I will always be the one to ask, "May I help?" As the Dalai Lama said, "Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible."

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