When I was in Grade 2, I had to learn the lyrics to Lean on Me by Bill Withers, to perform at an assembly. Lean on me, when you’re not strong, and I’ll be your friend; I’ll help you carry on. For, it won’t be long, ’til I’m gonna need, somebody to lean on.
Looking back, the song didn’t mean much at all. Seven year olds haven’t quite seen the struggles of the world. I remember taking “leaning” in the literal sense. But it was an important message, nonetheless. I am now twenty years old, and I’m still struggling to learn that lesson.
I have always ensured that my friends and family knew that I was there for them. I was always the first to say “you can call me whenever,” and “no favour is too much to ask.” And yet, when the time came to ask for help, to accept favours, I struggled. I felt enormous amounts of guilt allowing people to go out of their way to do something for me (even though I was injured and immobile). As my parents’ routines were disrupted by the need to care for me, I fell further and further into a spiral of feeling like a burden. Even after offering help for years, I had not yet learned how to accept it.
There’s a certain amount of self-love required to be able to accept help. Being a good friend involves letting people return favours, and care for you, in your own time of need. And this is a part of healing.
No matter the injury, healing involves accepting that something is wrong, that you are not capable of as much in 24 hours as you used to be, and that accepting help is okay. Whether that’s physical or emotional aid, accepting it wholeheartedly—more importantly, feeling like you deserve it—are the most important steps to recovery.
I have been so fortunate as to relearn how many people I have in my life who love me. This holiday season feels different. It is more warm, it is more fuzzy. I am one step closer to feeling like I am deserving of the love I have received over the past few months. It is a journey, and it is ongoing. I am not grateful for being injured; but I am grateful for surviving, and and for the lessons I have learned. Things could have been different; I am grateful that they weren’t.
This is a reminder that accepting help does not mean you are weak. It does not mean that you are less than. It simply means that there is someone who cares about you enough to support you, in a moment where you would benefit from that support. This reminder is for me, just as much as it is for you.
Love loudly, care deeply, and be open to reciprocation. Admitting that help can, well, help, is an incredibly powerful statement. I now know better than anyone that recovery is small steps. And many have to be taken before the proverbial “one foot in front of the other.” Walking is hard. There are smaller steps to be taken before then. Accepting help is a good first one.
I hope someone who reads this decides to call that friend back, call the doctor, book an intake appointment with a therapist, or finally text their mother back. I hope someone who reads this decides to accept help from someone who is offering it. I wish I’d accepted it sooner.