About 7 years ago, I was released from the psych ward and sent to a full time, partial hospitalization program to continue my therapy in learning how to handle and manage with my new diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Four months later, I began law school in the evenings and continued to go to the therapy group, but I was now down to just attending mornings. A few weeks later, I was progressing rapidly and my success was proving to hold a lasting effect, so I was dropped down to only 2 mornings a week. I was excited because I was feeling like myself again. I was contributing to the group, I had found some friends who understood me, and just as I had helped them in times of need, they all had helped me in some way or another. They may not have realized it at the time, but each and every person impacted my journey there and I still think of them often.
When the staff had dropped me down to two mornings a week, it was at the same time that a young woman walked through the door with her little infant and was asking for our help because she was experiencing post-partum depression. We welcomed her and her sweet little boy in and tried to help as much as we could. She unfortunately did not have the support of the father and minimal support of family and friends. When the little one started to get to his teething phase, he would begin fussing and his mom would have to leave the room to calm him so our group could go on. At that point, the staff had decided that she could no longer come to group unless she had some childcare for the little guy because it was not only unfair to the group for the distraction, but unfair to HER because she was not getting the help she truly needed if she was spending most of her time outside of the room trying to calm him. As harsh as it sounded, it did make sense. She was not getting any benefits.
I was fortunate to have a sister 10 years younger than me which I spent lots of time with when she was an infant and toddler, and had a niece who was just a year older than this woman little boy, so I had lots of experience with babies and even very recent experience. Since I had class only in the evenings and only had to attend group 2 mornings a week, and, the little boy seemed to take a liking to me, I decided to offer MY babysitting services to the woman.
At first she seemed hesitant, I mean, I was half a stranger, but after some talking, she realized that she did need the help and that her son did take a liking to me, so maybe I could help. After some talk with the staff members so that we could arrange my schedule around her schedule, I began taking care of the little guy 3 mornings a week, sometimes twice, depending, but I took care of this little boy so that the young woman could get the help she needed so that she could take care of herself and the baby in the future.
At that time, I didn’t think anything of it. It was just me helping out a friend, someone who needed a little help and didn’t have a lot of people around her able to give the kind of help she needed. I was glad to help her, just as I was glad for all the things that all the members of the group had helped me with and given to me. I was just doing what I thought in my heart was the right thing to do.
When I graduated group, I continued to watch the little boy until it was time for his mom to return to work. She thanked me profusely every single day that I had watched him and on the last day, she could not thank me enough. I had enjoyed my time with both of them and was sad that it was coming to an end, but so glad that I was able to help her and that she was now much better off than the day she arrived in our group.
I realize that I helped her and that she appreciated it, but I never realized how much of an impact on her life I made until now, almost 7 years later, when she still calls me every year on my birthday to wish me a happy birthday. My birthday is the day before her little boys birthday, and she told me this year that she could never, ever forget me, or what I did for her and her baby, and I will always have a place in her heart because I helped her, even though she was a total stranger.
The point of this story folks, and I wrote this because I get lots of emails from people who say that they want to start FB pages or start blogs and don’t know if they should, or if people will read, but the point is, PEOPLE DO! They pay attention to you, they pay attention to how you help them, and they care and they APPRECIATE! You may not see it immediately. You may not even realize how much you are helping others, but if you want to help others, JUST DO IT!!!!!! You will help more people than you think! Some will remember you forever!
So every year, when I get the birthday phone call, I have tears in my eyes that she remembered, and that she cares. Don’t be afraid to help others, and DON’T be afraid to let those that have helped you know that you are thankful to them and appreciate what they have done. Some people never realize how much they are helping people. I never set out to have a Facebook page that was filled with big huge numbers. I started my blog to help others in their struggles with their daily lives and their mental illnesses and to let them know they are not alone. Turns out, there are A LOT more people than I imagined who like what I have to say, but not only that….. People from the page and blog have met other people through the page and blog. THEY are connecting too, not just with me. And THAT is what makes me happy. So many days I question if I am really making a difference in peoples lives or if everything is just more of an outlet for me to rant and rave or babble on. But, its instances like this that really show me that I do make a difference in people’s lives and its not because of anything I could buy for anyone, but because of who I am as a person, and the kind of heart that I have, and that its pure instinct and natural to speak out or reach out and help others.
You never know how what you are doing is impacting someone else, so never be afraid to reach out and help. It may not come back to you until years later, but it will come back!