Random Acts of Kindness

This week I stumbled onto a secret I used to know, but which I thought maybe didn’t apply to me anymore since I am less able to do the things I used to do. I am less able to go out of my way for others, was my reasoning. I don’t have the energy, I can’t even shower but once every four days, I’m constantly hovering between a 6 and an 8 on the pain scale, so what do I have left to give to anyone else? What could I possibly have to give to others that was of any value, with brain fog, fatigue, and such tremendous pain and emotional distress.

I stumbled on the secret by accident. I’m have had a particularly bad week on every level, so I wasn’t planning on trying to be the saver of the day for anyone but myself, and even then…

Yesterday everything kind of crystallized into that perfect storm of craziness and incompetence of doctors/insurance and difficulties communicating my needs to others and feeling like maybe I haven’t really learned anything at all from all this searching for myself that I’ve been doing. I was wondering what the point of it all was. How am I going to get through living with an illness, having my medications held up every single month for the most stupid, but constant, oversights on my doctor’s part and absolute asshole-ishness from my insurance company? How am I supposed to live with myself when I have no job, I do not seem to be getting better no matter how hard I work at it, and except for my day to day mindset, nothing symptom-wise has improved this whole stressful, grief-filled year. The day before yesterday, having the ability to control my reaction to the situation just did not seem like enough. I flipped out on Marc, the manager of the pharmacy, a guy I admire and love talking to and a guy I have cried at and yelled at many, many times. He’s a saint. It was nowhere near a mistake he made or had any control over.

I was being unreasonable, childish, horrible. Not the person I want to be. I kept repeating the things other people had told me, that I could pick the prescription up on the 4th or any time after since I was having to take more of them once or twice a week due to extreme stress, flashbacks, and anxiety that feels like I’m dying, that I had been taking only half strength dosage for almost a week because it was a full seven days since it was supposed to be filled according to my prescription. I whined pathetically that I had come in on Saturday and asked them to call the doctor on Monday and make sure that she changed the instructions on the prescription, and no one had done it yet, but he wasn’t even working on Saturday so it wasn’t his fault at all. I yelled a little that the insurance company couldn’t deny my ability to pay out of pocket to pick up a drug I had been legitimately prescribed extra of so that the extra I had already taken (with psychiatrist approval) would not put me short this month. I pleaded that I needed them, instead of asking him if there was anything he could think of that I should do to fix the problem. So instead of being an adult and taking care of the mess with my insurance and psychiatrist by myself, I let the compassionate and extremely helpful pharmacist do all the work. Somehow, magically, in just an hour and a half, Marc fixed everything. When he called me, I had composed myself and was polite and apologetic, but I still felt terrible.

As I thanked him over the phone, I was staring at some red and white stylized snowflake christmas cards that I wasn’t even planning on using this year, and my hand was reaching out to snatch them off the table the second the call ended. I knew I had to thank him in real, concrete words for saving the day by getting me a medicine I depend on to keep my anxiety from spiking through the roof twenty or thirty times a day. Usually I struggle greatly with cards, thank you cards especially, but this time I could barely fit my gratitude on the inside of the card. And when I brought it in, I did not even get to give it to him directly. The reason being that of course he made about ten more phone calls to speak to doctors and insurance companies so other people could get their medicines in the span of time I was in line. People like Marc make dealing with a chronic illness much less terrifying. I just hope my puny little card was some kind of reassurance for him that his compassion and work ethic do not go wasted or unappreciated.

Then the power went out last night, right after the sun went fully down, and the dark is very very dark when  you have absolutely no moonlight, no streetlights, howling wind and hurtling tree branches. The young teenage girls across the street came running and screaming up to our door, barefoot in the storm, eyes all huge. They talked over each other that their mom and her boyfriend were at the store about ten minutes away, and that they didn’t have any light, that they were terrified, that their rottweiler was terrified and they had to carry her inside somehow, they they hadn’t ever dealt with anything like this before. We were in the process of trying to find our own lights, so I invited them inside with me and the one light we did have that was easy to find. Eventually my boyfriend dug out the rest of the lights from the camping gear, and we handed out lights and went with them back to their house to find a battery operated lantern and candles in their garage. I have never heard two people so pissed off that the internet was down. Wow. Haha. All that attitude about the online games they couldn’t play and they were afraid to go around any corner in that dark house without one of us right next to them, even with the lantern! We stayed for a half hour or so until mom and boyfriend got through the checkout line, then went to go find our own candle stash and get fast food because cooking wasn’t an option. I’m not proud of the fast food ending, but I am happy that we were there to help out while mom wasn’t home.

Today we woke up and another neighbor had lost huge chunks of roofing and soaked plywood was exposed all along the top of his roof, which surprised me, the roof was newer than all the rest of the houses and no one else lost a single shingle. Anyway, they didn’t notice, and we realized they hadn’t noticed when the forecast started to predict more rain and there was no sign of a tarp or any indication of trying to keep the house from leaking all over the place. We did the neighborly thing and broke the bad news to them with plenty of hours of light and time before the rain hit.

Three random acts of kindness I wasn’t expecting to happen, but I am not prone to just letting people suffer for no reason. When it comes down to it, those situations will always bring out the best in me, and they will always sustain me for longer than the spoons I expend on the random acts of kindness.

So the secret, which isn’t really a secret at all, is that the more of myself I give to others, in return the energy of being helpful will sustain me far longer than my spoons would normally last.

My passion is being needed by others, and I thought that was dead when I got sick. Logic dictated that I give up that part of my life as well. I stopped being that ever-present friend, I stopped returning every bid for attention and drama that was directed at me. I learned to distance myself from all of the things that seemed to drain my energy and in my brain, that would of course include doing things for others when I can’t do things for myself. Not true! I had completely misjudged myself on this area of chronic illness. I can still reach out, I can still be involved, and most of all I can be loving and kind and responsive when for some the world is none of those things.

Chronic pain is almost inevitably isolating in the beginning. Yet, if you come to a place where you can navigate through illness with extra kindness and respect for others, it may also provide a gateway to other possibilities, other avenues in life that were only a vague, wispy haze. My car accident changed my life, certainly, but despite severe and disabling fatigue, pain, cognitive dysfunction, anxiety, plus a long list of other issues, I still care deeply about my friends. I still care about their relationship woes and work stories and successes in school. I will always care. I know that often people think I don’t have energy or time to comfort them in their dark hours or that I will be unable to muster up joy for them in their success. That is simply not true. I can find the greatest joy now in sharing in the happiness of others, and I often feel the greatest depth of sadness for the losses my friends experience.

While I was writing this a friend came over to talk and we found out that he had just been through a deeply saddening breakup. He is someone I admire, and to hear that his partner of several years had “fallen out of love” made me question love itself for a minute. If someone can fall out of love with this awesome guy who was the first person to introduce me to reframing my thoughts in a more constructive way, then what was love all about anyways. This friend is a wonderful, caring person who I met while I was in a dark place.

When we first talked, I was initially so confused by his relentless need to spin my angry thoughts into positives. I even thought he was just minimizing my pain and anger so he didn’t have to deal with it, but over time I realized how valuable it is to hear in action what a positive thought sounds like, especially when my self-talk had been unshakably negative for such a long time. Now of course I can see that he was doing the opposite of ignoring my pain, he was teaching me coping tools, every time I saw him for a year straight I learned something. It takes a special kind of person to care that much that you are willing to say the unpopular thing because it is the right thing to do. His ex will realize what a fool he is for not including our friend in his life path.

I can’t usually make my friends’ pain, emotional or otherwise, disappear, but I remember how much it sometimes helps to be held, and fibro flare up or no, I’m all about powerful hugs and can put up with the pain of a real hug for a friend in need, any time. It’s so worth it to be there for someone and to reflect maybe a little of that positivity they have been shining on my life back at them for a minute. I will not ever give up on expending that energy, no matter how severe the fatigue or the pain get. Not a one of the unexpected acts of kindness that I was allowed to perform this week made my body rebel any worse in the long run, and my heart feels fuller that it has in a long time.

I hope every time that I am presented with the option to be caring and loving, I am able to take that opportunity and be a shoulder for someone to cry on, a hand to rub their back, and a voice to tell them how important they are to others. Or the lantern-finder in a power outage, the overflowing gratitude scrawled across the inside of a thank you card, and the knock on the door that alerts our neighbors to a problem before it becomes a disaster.

There is so much to be gained spiritually from not taking the easy way out, that it often cancels out the amount of energy the more difficult path requires from you, and can even renew you. That is math that I can understand, for once! So even if you think you’re way too tired to go out of your way for someone else, I encourage you to look for every opportunity, small and large, to prove that theory wrong. When you brighten the lives of those around you, some of that light is always reflected back at your own beautiful soul. Nurturing someone else also means nurturing a part of yourself that believes in love, joy, and passion. It’s never a bad decision to be there emotionally for a friend, and remember, even a stranger’s day could be changed completely by a random act of kindness!

<3, good vibes and low pain days to everyone

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About Jessi Finds Out Fibro

Hi, and thank you for finding your way to my corner of the web! I'm on a journey to empower myself and hopefully others through shared courage and compassion. I write Finding Out Fibro, a chronic illness and chronic pain awareness blog that is not just about fibromyalgia, as well as a new project making jewelry under the Etsy name Hopeful Spoon. Please check out the shop and share if you can! Thank you for your support! My other hobbies include defeating ableism anywhere I find it, upcycling old junk into funky awesomeness, raising my voice to erase stigma against invisible illness and mental illness, baking, collecting vintage kitchen ware, sharing body-positive messages, playing around in photoshop, abstract painting (especially in neons and metallics!), advocating for those living with chronic illnesses and mental health challenges, seeking safety and upholding visibility for LGBTQIA individuals living with physical and mental disabilities, researching and testing plant-based remedies for chronic pain, and spending all my spare spoons in my veggie garden. This is my opportunity to do more than just survive with chronic illness. This is me learning how to live well, even though there is no cure for the war my body is waging on me.

8 responses to “Random Acts of Kindness”

  1. waxingturtle says :

    what a great reminder. I recently made a post about ways to handle chronic illness and I listed distraction as one of them. Kindness to others, notes, messages, etc are a great way to have a positive impact, not just on us, but on the person receiving it! I hope you don’t mind if I add it!
    Sorry, I’ve been out of touch for while. I’ve been sick again and again so, I’ve been sleeping alot.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. waxingturtle says :

    I actually added it under the part where we feel useless and broken..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jessi Finds Out Fibro says :

      That sounds like the right home for it! Sometimes we can’t conceive of having enough energy to help others when we cannot help ourselves but it’s one of those all-important bridges between being distant and undone to remembering what human kindness is like and how beautiful it can be. That can totally be the guiding light back to yourself. ❤ And it's one of those things we ALL have the ability to do. My mom stopped a guy she did not know from killing himself by smiling at a stranger in a diner, on a hunch. He later found one of her sisters who looked just like her (she has seven sisters, so that chances were good that he would run into one of them!) and years later he recognized the family resemblance and asked my mom's sister to tell her that he had been thinking of ending it all, and had hit complete rock bottom. When my mom smiled at him, he saw goodness in the world again and as a result he was able to survive that night and go on to have a sunny life. I carry stories like that with me in my heart to prevent me from straying too far away from the fact that I love to help, I love to offer things that people do not know how to ask for, and I cannot forget that the smallest of actions can have the largest of impacts, both bad and good. We are always in possession of the power of kindness, whether or not we know it.
      ❤ I hope you start to feel stronger and these extra illnesses leave you be for the rest of the winter. I'm sorry you've been sick lately hon, and I totally understand, I cannot keep up with this blogging thing this week while I'm battling off a pretty severe flare. You will be on my mind, dear. sending you all the good vibes! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • waxingturtle says :

        Thanks so much. Wow, what an amazing story! My cousin and I texted late one night for hours. two years later he says, I want to thank you? I said why? He said he was ready to throw in the towel and give up on life but my texting him that night kept him from it! I had no idea! So, It really is true, you never know the effects your interactions have on others, so it’s good to keep them positive ones. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. abodyofhope says :

    With tears in my eyes, I want to sincerely thank you for this Jessi. I could just feel your energy shining through your words and filling up my heart.
    Illness has a way of making who we are feel like we are melting away. When we are reminded of who we truly are inside, we know those pieces never really left at all, You are such a great friend and have such a huge heart. In moments like these, your character truly shines.
    I love that you say giving away spoons to help others cancels them out. I believe that also!! 🙂 ❤
    This line: When it comes down to it, those situations will always bring out the best in me, and they will always sustain me for longer than the spoons I expend on the random acts of kindness. << Beautiful.

    I always feels like your posts come at just the perfect time for my heart. Thank you for sharing these special pieces of yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jessi Finds Out Fibro says :

      This post was definitely inspired by your attitude towards giving more of yourself than seems humanly possible. You made me realize how much I missed it and wonder why I had stopped reaching out to others. I honestly don’t know what made me shut down so thoroughly.
      Thank you so much for the huge compliments! I know that post kind of sounded like me bragging about all the good things I’ve done, but I really didn’t want it to come off that way, it was more my surprise at how I ended up sort of intense or emotional situations that I would normally just avoid all together if possible, but I couldn’t avoid them, and the results were so much more than I expected. We even just got a giant plate of cookies from our neighbors whose kids we kept company in the power outage. So sweet of them! People respond to kindness so much more than I expect them to! Almost every time. Maybe the only exception to that rule is when in constant contact with someone, they tend to overlook or take your gestures for-granted. Our roommates can sometimes mistake our smiles, helpfulness, and laid back natures for thinking they don’t have to hold up their end of the chores like taking the trash and recycling to the curb once every other week and picking up the dog crap. :/ Other than that, every day, unexpected kindness seems to come back in pretty direct ways, and radiate out to more people quickly. Sometimes you feel confident and successful at something you were helping with, and sometimes you feel like an anxious wreck who wishes and wishes they could have done more but knows there isn’t anything to be done. It’s still, always, always worth it. I didn’t think I could handle all that sadness, the worry about other people that comes along with being emotionally present and involved in the lives of those around me. But I can handle it, and because of you, I’m doing a lot more of for people than I have in years, and it’s awesome, it makes me feel like ME again. I forgot how important it is to nurture friendships, and I’m still working on it with the forgetfulness and low energy, but I am allowing myself to feel everything again because you made me yearn for it. All your kindness and positive energy has changed me for the better in massive ways, I will never be done thanking you! ❤ ❤ ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • abodyofhope says :

        I don’t feel like you were bragging. Just sharing how you stumbled upon these opportunities to help others and how they allowed you to find this piece that reminded you of the essence of yourself. Sometimes in life we have to take a huge step back to care for ourselves. Sometimes we are forced to- it isn’t a choice at all, as I suspect in your case. We can’t give what we don’t have ( as I think the great philosopher Dr. Phil once said, lol). As we find the strength again, I believe God supplies opportunities to allow us to serve in ways we can handle and in ways that challenge us. So we can remind ourselves that we are so much stronger. YOU are so much stronger. I’m so happy you have this piece of yourself back- and it’s from giving something away. How about that!
        I might just quote you on the spoon cancelling thing. That was pretty brilliant.
        It means so much that something I said had an impact on you like that. Thank you for saying so. I am so thankful for you and for the connection we have formed.
        Thank you for sharing all of the amazing and inspiring work you do. Your posts are always so thought provoking.
        I want you to know you are in my prayers of thankfulness ❤

        Liked by 1 person

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