I fell yesterday. Not physically, but emotionally, I took a pretty good tumble. I’ve been in a pretty bad flareup for three weeks now, but yesterday I thought I was well enough to run two simple errands: stop by my in-laws’ to pick up something and then hit my favorite local grocery store for just some essentials to get us through the next couple days. I knew I could only handle being upright and active for a limited time so I didn’t stay to visit with my mother-in-law. I also knew I wouldn’t be able to maneuver a full-sized cart through the store and make it out on my own two feet, so I hobbled through with a mini-cart. I had a short list and mostly stuck to just the list with only a few add-ons.

Halfway through the store, I knew my timer was about to go off. I was short of breath, my heart was pounding, and my cognition was fogging up. Welcome to threat level Yellow. I still had a few things on the list, though, so I figured I would tough it out. I swear I looked at the list every ten seconds to remind myself where I was going. I could feel strangers’ eyes and confused concern following me up and down each aisle. I knew my struggle was obvious, but I was determined to do what I’d set out to do. By the time I arrived at my last item, I was ready to start ramming people with my cart to get them to move the fuck outta my way. They were slowing my progress and teasing my blackout trigger.

I made it to the checkout. Good. Almost done. Did someone just dim the lights?

Nope. Threat level Orange. With each movement to unload the contents of my cart onto the conveyor, I grew dizzier. Then came the pins and needles. My hands, forearms, and face started to go numb, and everything turned grey. I could barely breathe.

“Move your shit, lady. I need out of here so I can sit. NOW!” is all I could think while Chatty Cathy was finishing up. I was trapped and beginning to feel claustrophobic.

Please move quickly, Register Girl. Please get me the fuck out of here PRONTO.

Okay, great! My turn. I could feel how absent the color was in my face. I could hear all the people who would soon become gawkers sucking away my oxygen and taking up all the space I needed to just lay down for a second. I could hear Register Girl’s eyes calling out to me.

Where the hell did Bagger Boy go?! Let’s go, people! My struggle is screaming here. Let’s keep my shit show moving right along, please!

“Would you like some help carrying things to your car?”

She did it. She waved the red flag. She offered me the help I didn’t want to ask for.

“Uh…” I took a deep breath, pulling my tears back into my skull. “Yeah, that’s probably a good idea.” My ears cleared a bit with the sigh of defeat I gave her, and I could hear the alarms sounding. I needed help. I thought about the weight of the cart as I was pushing it earlier, and I wanted to sob on her shoulder. The pressure system within our atmosphere shifted, and I could feel eavesdropping ears throwing love at me from all directions.

And then I got dizzier, and life got even greyer. I caught my arms propping me up on whatever they could find. Here it is. Right here and now, there is real danger of these poor people having to call an ambulance for my stubborn ass. I swallowed my guttural scream, and in my fluster, I shared with Register Girl and Bagger Boy that if they had to call for help to please tell the EMTs “POTS”. After a short bit of education, it was time to swipe my card and head outside. Bagger Boy was sweet enough to walk slowly with my cart and talk calmly with me. As a surprise comfort, he was very much like a dear friend and family member of mine, which definitely eased me slightly away from humiliation. He loaded everything into the trunk, expressing concern about me being able to unload when I got home. I wanted to hug him, and I felt myself almost trying.

He left with the cart, and I sat in the car for a bit with all the windows down and the A/C blowing fresh life back into my world. Each new second alternated between calming my heart, filling my lungs, burning through the pit of indignity in my stomach, and filling my depleted pride with the love and kindness I’d just received from two beautiful strangers. Kids, even – these two looked as though they were still in their teens, though Bagger Boy did mention being a Sociology student (which I presumed to mean ‘in college’.)

It still feels like I suffered a big blow yesterday. I can no longer trust my body to let me get groceries on my own, and my fierce independence will be licking her wounds for some time, I’m sure. Ladies Grace and Gratitude, though, are right here, with their arms around me and an album full of faces who are going to love me no matter how much help I need and refuse to ask for. I’ll be holding tightly to their jarring reminder that I can ask for help, it will be there, and no one will love me any less for needing it.