When I was 20, my friend Mike broke his leg in multiple places in a crazy motorcycle accident. He literally had screws sticking out of his leg for months, was bed-ridden and then wheelchair-ridden. His wife, Louise suddenly became his sole caretaker all while working a full-time job and living in an apartment with no elevator!
During that time and afterward, Mike and Louise quickly found out who their real friends were. Some came to visit once, some never bothered, and some spent a lot of time saying they’d come but never did. It was a real letdown but also eye-opening for them.
While I didn’t have to go through friendship 101 (phew!), I recently had my own way of figuring out who was actually in my support system.
It was when I participated in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Oahu for my mother.
To give you some background, my Mother is currently 63 and has early onset Alzheimer’s disease. She started showing signs around age 49/50 and has been living with it ever since. It’s a slow disease that robs the person of not just their memory but their very being and their identity. To say it took a toll on my family is really understating it.
As a result of how it deeply affects our family, especially my father who is her sole caretaker, I decided to not just learn about the disease but take action. I ended up signing up for the Alzheimer’s Association’s biggest annual fundraiser called Walk to End Alzheimer’s. It’s a national fundraiser designed to raise money for Alzheimer’s care, support, research, awareness, and advocacy. (You can still donate to my fundraiser if you wish!)
In the end, I ended up raising $2,335 and was recognized as one of the top fundraisers in the entire state of Hawaii! 🙂
At the walk, we also have a Promise Garden where people hold different colored flowers signifying their connection to the disease.
- Blue — I have Alzheimer’s
- Yellow — I am supporting or caring for someone with Alzheimer’s
- Purple — I have lost someone to Alzheimer’s
- Orange — I support the cause and a vision of a world without Alzheimer’s
At the flower ceremony, I had the honor and privilege of holding up a WHITE flower (in this case, a white lei) as a symbol of hope. We hope for the day that we find a cure for Alzheimer’s and our very FIRST survivor will hold a white flower in the Promise Garden.
The experience was positive, fulfilling, and walking around with 900+ walkers who were affected by the disease, supported the cause, and envisioned a world without Alzheimer’s was touching. On top of an amazing experience, I also learned some takeaways.
Here is what I learned:
Some of my friends are actually my friends
There was nothing more validating than seeing a family member or friend come through for me. It didn’t matter how much but just the fact that receiving support for a cause that was near and dear to me, totally touched my heart.
People you never expect to hear from come through
This was a surprising lesson I learned. Some people who I haven’t seen or talked to in years made an effort to donate. In a sense, it’s similar to receiving help from strangers. Totally unexpected but greatly appreciated.
Some people I thought would support me, did not
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there is nothing more disappointing than expecting a family member, loved one, or friend to support you and they fail in spectacular fashion. It’s funny because it’s the people you expect to help that let you down. Obviously, the issue wasn’t about the amount of money donated. I would have been happy to accept $5 or even $1, hell a share on Facebook would have sufficed. It wasn’t even about supporting me, it was about supporting a bigger cause that I cared about and how it affected me. Which is why it hurt so much when people I thought would support me failed to show up.
I often wondered why it took me this long to figure out this little life lesson that most people learn in their early or mid-twenties. I think it is because I hated (still hate) asking for help.
I think like many people, I was scared. I was scared of being disappointed. Scared that the moment I needed help, I wouldn’t get it and be helpless and alone. I avoided relying on people because I was too scared to find out if I really could rely on them or not. It was best to just go about, doing everything alone and thinking I didn’t need anybody. I was Miss Independent (or Sandy B’s Miss Congeniality!).
But now I’m learning. I’m learning to ask for help. It begins in little ways like a little fundraiser or maybe a ride home because I don’t want to walk home alone after dark. I’m learning it’s BETTER to know who your support system is than to sit in the dark and think or hope they are. While it is still hard for me to ask for help, when I do, it has been worth it in every way. If you’re anything like me, I hope you give it a try too. Ask for help.