Years ago David and I were in Texas for the funeral of his mother who had died only two days short of her 94th birthday.
Although David and his sisters were far busier than I was, those four days were nevertheless fatiguing for me. So when we boarded the bus from the car rental center back to the terminal I was off-balanced and tired.
“What you doin’ luggin’ that for when there’s two strong men here who can take care of all that?” he said as I struggled to put my rollator in the bin. The driver gently pushed away my hand when I didn’t listen the first time. “Let us take care of that.”
For me, multiple sclerosis has been invisiblefor much of my life. I’ve had the stamina to lift and lug and walk straight doing it. But that was then. Now, it’s often hard to accept help, whether I need it or not.
Being overly independent is isolating and taxing.
People who are aware of stressful events in others’ lives are more likely to feel greater stress themselves, say researchers at the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. We may avoid hearing or talking about unhappy situations. “I have issues of my own,” we might say. “I don;t need theirs.”
On the other hand, when we talk to people, even strangers, our link with others is reestablished and loneliness and isolation are reduced.
There’s no question that our own and others’ emotional lives influence each other. Lots of factors go under the umbrella of “prosociality”, behavior that benefits someone else, often called the “helper’s high”.
- Religious training
- Personal or moral norms
Whatever the reasons, prosociality accounts forbetter overall mental health by increasing self-esteem and life satisfaction.
“I knew when I first saw you you had the light of the Lord shining through you,” smiled the driver. The man who called me “beautiful” wasn’t the only one getting high from being complimentary and kind. Whether it was heavenly light or not, I glowed all day.
Imagine what it could do for anyone disabled to be kind, helpful, or complimentary to someone else, disabled or not.
Amen to that.
Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist who has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis for over 40 years. She maintains a private practice specializing in couples work, especially with those whose relationship has been affected by chronic illness or disability.
copyright 2020, Being Heard LLC