{7QuickTakes} Weekly mishmash: Depression sucks edition

So, spring is finally here but…ugh…gray, cloudy, and rainy days are making my spirits droop.  Which reminds me of the insidiousness of the depression I suffer from and how I need to constantly be on my guard.  Here’s some ins and outs of the past week feeling not-quite-100%:

ONE.

So our little spring break trip up to Jackson was -eh- fun.  But a far cry from the relaxing vacation I was anticipating it was going to be.  We did some cool things, and saw some neat animals, but I was struggling the whole time to keep from crying.  Hubby was pretty sure it was PMS (and don’t you know how delighted women are when you point that out to them, hmmmm?) even though I don’t know if you can claim that for an entire month of crabbiness.  Anyhow, I snapped at my kids and felt myself wanting to cry through much of the trip.  I kept thinking, “I need a vacation” even though I was on vacation!

TWO.

It’s a bad idea to skip medications.  I never forget to take my antidepressants on purpose, but sometimes I am just so exhausted at the end of the day that I forget.  And it usually happens that I’ll be feeling fine…..feeling fine….feeling fine….HIT A BRICK WALL.  And that is when I stop and ask myself if I have been taking my meds faithfully.  And the answer is generally no.  I need to come up with a better system to remind myself…such as a phone reminder or sticky note on my mirror.

THREE.

We weren’t meant to parent alone.  And with Hubby working 14-hour-days as part of his current crazy schedule, I never see him and he gets home after the kids are in bed.  This is stressful for both of us.  Single parents out there, I salute you!  I don’t know how you do it!  I just got to the point this week where I felt like ALL I DID WAS YELL.  And I felt like a terrible parent.  I stopped at one point and realized I wasn’t enjoying my children.  At all.  My days just felt like a long loop of feed the kids, pick up after the kids, listen to the kids fight, yell at the kids to pick up their stuff and not fight, put the kids to bed while tripping over Legos and crayons strewn all over my messy messy house.

I don’t really have a solution to this malaise I find myself in right now with regard to motherhood, but believe you me, I am having these lurid fantasies of having a nanny who comes over for two hours in the afternoon, teaches my children foreign languages while helping them finish their homework and who lets me take a nap!

FOUR.

My house smells like pee.  The four-year-old is *potty-trained*.  But I use that definition very loosely.  I will pass Spike while I am tearing through the house cleaning up some mess or other, and ask, “Did you pee your pants?  You smell like pee.”  And he will say, “Well, I just dribbled a little.”  I might be completely daft, but my definition of “dribble” does not consist of a football-sized wet spot on the crotch of one’s trousers.  ???

FIVE.

Sometimes I feel like running away.  Not to anyplace exotic or far.  Just to Barnes & Noble.  By myself.

SIX.

For those of you who have loved ones who suffer from depression:  It is not helpful when you say something along the lines of, ” Well, you can be bummed out today, but I expect you to get yourself together to not drag the whole family down this weekend.”  I love my husband but sometimes…like I said….not helpful.

SEVEN.

Something to say that would be helpful for a depressed, overwhelmed, and trying to dig herself-out-of-a-hole-of-despair wife and mother:

“I’m here for you.”

“I understand you probably want some alone time right now.  I would be happy to take the kids off your hands so you can do whatever you need to do to get yourself feeling better again.”

“What is something I could do in the future to help you out so you don’t get so low again?”

My current depression, which I would describe as a malaise, is not life-threatening or hospital-stay-inducing, thank God.  It is managed beautifully on medication 99% of the time.  I am just a little low.  And my personality makes it very difficult to ask for help when I need it.  But I think I need a little help right now to get back to being me.

 

Hopefully next week will be better!  Don’t forget to head over to Kelly’s to see what everybody else is up to!

 

{7QuickTakes} in the midst of family dance party!!!!

So, it is Friday night and Hubby just called to say he has to stay late at work…ugh.  So I sit here with a glass of vino and KidzBop playing on the iPhone while the kiddos run around like banshees.  TGIF!  Here’s some more excitement akin to the party over at Kelly’s.

ONE.

Not gonna lie, some days parenting is hard.  Sometimes the kids are running around like banshees (oops, already mentioned that…mommy brain…) and you have a sinus infection and the LAST THING you wanna do is make another friggin’ peanut butter sandwich.  But then oldest daughter has to do her reading homework and decides it is a good idea to read to younger brother while channeling her first-grade teacher at storytime.  I had to smile.  So cute.

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TWO

I am not the most confident person in the world.  Luckily, as an adult I have been nowhere near where I was in that regard in high school!  However, I have been going through a rough patch lately.  I am just feeling…I don’t know….frumpy and uncool.  I think it has to do with it being February.  Not a fan of this month.  We’ve all been sick and stir-crazy and I am ready for spring!  But I think that since I’ve been fighting negativity on that front it has come over to bite me on the confidence front as well.  Nothing specific, just an overwhelming feeling of disliking myself.  This, too, shall pass, I know.

THREE.

But…but…something wonderful has happened to my sweet younger sis!  She is engaged!  Yay!  So happy for her and her young man.  We are looking forward to a fall wedding.

FOUR.

Since I suffer from depression, I have always been worried about my children ending up suffering from those sort of things as well.  My oldest, Junior, has always been extremely sensitive and intense.  This year he has been suffering from panic attacks and seems to experience anxiety that is really hard to get a handle on.  We have been in communication with his school counselor and she has been really great about teaching him relaxation techniques and just being available for him to visit with about his concerns.  However, it is scary when he gets so worked up that he can’t calm himself down.  He has especially been stressed-out this week about his upcoming karate testing and a school program where he has to memorize a speech.  It is really hard for me, as a parent, trying to help him through dealing with this anxiety, especially since he is only in 4th grade!  It seems too young to have the weight of the world on your shoulders.

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My favorite stress relief: the sunset out my back porch:-)

FIVE.

Bellie sat and watched the entire 3-episode special of Rick Steves’ Travel Skills television shows with me.  At first she was irritated that I wanted to watch that while I folded laundry (folding, which I hate…sometimes the only thing that gets me through is Rick Steves and wine), but then she was kind-of interested in the lovely locales Rick was visiting.  I think she was most impressed with the tiny Swiss alpine villages.  (I hope we can take the kids over there some day!)

SIX.

Oh the Trolls soundrack.  We have moved on from KidzBop.  Which I have something of an affinity for…I now have small ballerinas dancing to Anna Kendrick’s version of The Sound of Silence.

SEVEN.

I made a promise last weekend that I had to keep.  It was hard.

I let my kids do painting.

It was stressful.  It was messy.  Spike dumped an entire water cup of green-tinted water on the floor but did not seem concerned in the least.  I think they had fun.  And that is what motherhood is all about.

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I can’t resist making my children’s dreams come true.

Blessings for a great week ahead!

 

 

 

 

Depression taking over my life

OK, so I clearly haven’t been on here for awhile.  I have been busy, true, but I wouldn’t be completely honest with you if I didn’t admit that I have been having quite some time keeping the negativity at bay.  There have been a few days-long stretches where I could barely get out of bed.  And I blame myself and heap oodles of self-hatred my way, saying that I should try harder and that I need to ignore my feelings and just be there for my children and my husband.  I feel guilty and awful most of the time, paired with debilitating anxiety.  Hubby, although he tries extremely hard to be understanding and supportive, is understandably frustrated and overwhelmed with dealing with our crazy household (the kids don’t stop) as well as a spouse who wants to check out most of the time.

I don’t exactly know what set it off.  I am feeling overwhelmed with the task of housekeeping and motherhood right now.  I am tired of barely keeping up with the mess and the needs of five other creatures (eight, if you include the pets).  I am exhausted with not being enough.  I crave the delicious feeling of accomplishment – of feeling pride in a job well-done and the satisfaction of being competent at a task.  Motherhood doesn’t offer this emotion….not really, anyhow.  The task of raising a child is never done.  Even when they are adults – they could screw up badly and, as a parent, you will always wonder if that failure of theirs is somehow tied to your failure to feed them organic meat.

When I was younger, unmarried and childless, I was an organizational freak.  I loved having everything neat and tidy, everything in its place.  I thrived on making my space beautiful and having my decor reflect who I was and what I loved.  I think that is why, now that I am part of a household with young children, I become so discouraged with the state of my surroundings.  These surroundings are messy.  They are dirty.  They are disorderly.  They are ugly.  I could spend every second following my children around, yelling at them to pick up, to not take that out, to leave my stuff alone, but that would still probably not achieve my desired goal: to have a beautiful and orderly and calm place to call home 24/7.

Readers will argue that having a home-design-magazine-worthy home is a silly goal while being a SAHM to youngin’s – that they are only young once, and energy and time should be spent playing with them instead of worrying about the amount of mess they make.  I would agree.  But perfectionism and depression are filled with a font of irrational thoughts that don’t make sense and obsessively spin around in your mind making you feel that there really is no point and you might as well give up.

So, this last month I really have.  I have dropped the ball on housework, I have let the kids watch day-long marathons of Netflix, and I have essentially checked out.  Occasionally I have been able to summon enough gumption to cook dinner or do laundry.  I still run the kids to lessons and play-dates and if any of my friends ask I am doing JUST FINE.  But I am locked in a gloom that is very difficult to shake.

We took a family vacation last week and I was able to get outside of myself and just be for a few days, which was nice.  But coming back home was hard, getting back to real life was hard.

I go through something with my medication every two years or so where the normal dosage suddenly just doesn’t cut it anymore.  So I am starting a supplemental medication along with my normal prescription.  I am hoping that there is an improvement.  Generally, I have always felt that before the positive thinking and self-care suggestions my doctor and psychologist have suggested can kick in, there needs to be a biological “jump start” in the form of drugs in order to to be able to move forward.  And I feel like the current dosage is no longer cutting it.  I worry that by the time I am 60 I will be taking such an inordinately large dosage of psychotropic prescription drugs that I will no longer, chemically, be me.  Or that after so many years of taking antidepressants my brain will be severely damaged or I will develop a giant, inoperable tumor thanks to the miracle drugs that have gotten me out of bed and into the land of the living for 40 years.  But I suppose it will have been worth it.  Not living under a constant, debilitating cloud of depression is worth it.  I think.

So that’s what has been going on.  I am hoping to check in more often going forward.  I am hoping I will have happier, more sunny things to write about next time.  I know I will be fine, the sky is not falling, and life is actually beautiful.  I know all of that.  I just need a little help (and prayers) getting to the point where I can really feel it, too.

Thanks.

When did suicide become the “attractive” option?

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS.  There has been a lot of press regarding the new film, Me Before You, which was released in theaters yesterday.  I have not seen the film, but I did read JoJo Moyes’s novel by the same name.  And I thought it was sad.  I thought it was a tragic story being passed off as a romantically-packaged tale championing the Right to Die.

MeBeforeYouposter

The story centers around an adventurous, vibrant, sexy young man, Will,  in the prime of his life who suffers an accident and, as a result, becomes a quadriplegic.   This complete and total humbling of his body and subsequent utter reliance on others is morally repugnant for him.  He becomes deeply depressed, focusing his thoughts on how much his life has lost and how he can never again be “whole”.  So he chooses to die, planning a trip to a Swiss clinic to be given a pill that will end his life.

His parents, however, are against his plan and hire Lou, a girl who is desperate for employment.  Initially repulsed by Will’s unpleasant manner, Lou eventually comes to see Will as a funny, interesting – lovable – man who has much to offer the world despite his crippled body.  When she learns of his plan to die, she is horrified, and, with the assistance of Will’s parents, devises a plan to make Will realize that life is still worth living.

At this point, the story could pan out to be a fantastic tale of triumph over adversity, the acceptance of things we cannot change, and a powerful message about the sanctity of human life.  While I was reading, I really, really, wanted this outcome.  I hoped that Lou and Will would fall in love, he would realize he loved her too much to willingly leave her, they would both find renewed purpose in life, and would live happily ever after.  Or something like that.

Let me break it to you, though.  That is not how the story ends.

I read this book for a book club I belonged to, and the overwhelming feeling was one of sadness.  I will say that we were all reading the book from a Christian viewpoint, but most people were unnerved with Will’s total belief that death was the answer.  He had no faith that God (or any higher power) had a plan for him.  If I can’t live my life the way I want to, I might as well die.  Also troubling was the belief that if our lives don’t resemble our “ideal” they (and we) are not worth living.

Blessedly, I am not physically disabled, so I don’t know the mental struggle that goes on day after day, or the bodily pains or daily indignities that characterize those lives.  But I do consider myself well-versed in how it feels to question the worthiness of my life.  (Come on, is there anyone out there who has not?)  What if you suffer from depression?  Anxiety?  PTSD?  Eating disorders?  Cancer?  Anyone who has suffered from any chronic illness, mental or physical, has probably at one time or another felt that they were burdening others, they weren’t happy or making others happy, and maybe?  Maybe it would be better for all involved if I could just disappear.  Happiness, freedom from pain, and the ability to make your own decisions makes life worth living, right?  Oh and the ability to not be a burden.

That’s why I find Me Before You so troubling.  Because it touts the assisted suicide route as a compassionate choice.  Will’s decision is, for the most part, selfish.  He is only thinking of his pain, his loss of mobility, his dashed hopes and dreams.  The feelings of those who love him are not considered, or if they are, it is an afterthought.  Critics argue that every human should be able to make the choice when and how to end their own lives.  Because that is dignity.  That is compassionate.  That is the most selfless route.  But the problem with this thinking is that it persuades society that suicide is attractive.

1200px-Bath_Melancholy

By N. Renaud from Ottawa, Canada – [1], CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10411862

I suffer from depression.  Well-managed and medicated, to be sure, but always with me.  During my darkest moments I have had all those thoughts, that I wasn’t worthy of life, that it would be easier for my loved ones if I weren’t around, that it would be cheaper to not have to pay those therapist bills, or those anti-depressant prescription fees.  What if I had given in during those moments of weakness?  What if I really had convinced myself that suicide was the most attractive choice?  In that dark time, it might have been, but that was because I was depressed.  I wasn’t thinking normally.

But what if I had a doctor who was tired of treating me?  What if I told my doctor I wanted to die?  That I felt it wasn’t worth it, wasn’t fair to keep making minuscule progress in my mental illness just to fall back into depression again and again.  Isn’t this a sign that I am suffering from something incurable?  I will probably never completely be “whole”, I will have to take medication to treat this illness the rest of my life.  I may get really bad again and have to be hospitalized.  Not all suicide attempts end in death, either.  What if I attempted to die and ended up with horrible wounds that required thousands of dollars of medical treatment?   Or stay in a nursing home because I caused myself to suffer brain damage?  A doctor weighing all these options may just give me the go-ahead to take a trip next door to Oregon and end my pitiable existence.  [Well, it might give American assisted-suicide providers pause that I was suffering from depression (at least for now) but it wouldn’t probably bother them in Europe.]

Recently, I was saddened to learn of this story of a woman with a history of mental illness being helped to die in Holland.  Some might argue that she could have easily ended her own life without the help from the authorities.  And I would agree.  But the tacit acceptance from her health-care providers that her mental anguish was all-encompassing, total, and incurable is the very antithesis of mental healthcare.  A depressed person’s disordered thoughts leads them to believe their suffering is global,  complete and fatal.  I don’t argue that this Dutch patient felt all of that.  I don’t argue that the injuries inflicted upon her were not horrific and devastating.  But I do argue that there was hope.  There is always hope.  The minute you, as a mental health patient, have your (possibly exhausted and frustrated – because they are human, too) doctors start agreeing with you that you are a hopeless case, all is lost.  The march toward treatment only becomes a march toward death.  And this is becoming reality in our messed-up world.

I will always champion the idea to sufferers of depression that THERE IS HOPE.  You are not a hopeless case, a lost cause.  I bring myself to tears sometimes thinking about how much I would have missed if I had packed it all in back several years ago and decided to end it all.  My sweet daughter reading Chicka Chicka Boom Boom to her precious little sister at the table as I write this.  My handsome son and his handsome daddy playing football at a festive and lovely graduation party last evening.  My silly younger boy talking about how he is going to tell God he should have created us with only one foot (because putting two shoes on is such a pain, don’t cha know?).  The gorgeous setting sun as it illuminates the mountains out my back window.

LIFE IS WORTH LIVING.  Suffering happens.  There is no way to sugar-coat that.  But it is also what makes us human.  The moment we decide that our humanness is a liability is the moment we condemn our culture to assisted suicide.

The purpose of a bad day

Not often, but occasionally, I have days that hit me with the enormity of the fear that maybe, just maybe, all my struggles and triumphs and day-to-day banalities are all for naught.  That it doesn’t really matter if I live this day well, or try a little harder to get that task done, or remember to curb my tongue of the petty criticisms that may make my daughter cry.  Why would it matter, if life is indeed pointless, whether I were a good mother to my children, faithful and loving to my spouse, or tried to be a good neighbor to my fellow man?  What would be the point, even, of getting out of bed?

I have a tendency to be over-sensitive to other people’s moods and attitudes, and today was a poster day for that.  My mother, meaning well, sent me a light-hearted text about how she just saw the State Department had issued a travel warning for Europe, citing terrorist fears.  She knows that I have been beginning to plan for a trip to Europe with friends in 2017, and she knows I am excited and have been furtively sneaking away from my kids to Google search hotels and tourist sites in anticipation of this journey.  So while I appreciate her concern (and, really, do I think the threat of terrorism anywhere will decrease in the next decade or so?) I didn’t see how this benign text added anything of a positive nature to my day.  In fact, it sort-of depressed me.  Yes, it is true.  Yes, it is scary.  But…why share it with me?  Was her goal to scare me?  Or to let me know she was worried for my safety in some way?  Whatever her intent, the text irritated and depressed me.  It seemed almost a subtle way of saying, “I know you have this fun plan for your life, but guess what? It is raining on your parade.  Right now. You can’t win, so don’t even try.

I got through the rest of my crazy day with the kids and karate, and came home, proud of myself for having prepared a crock-pot minestrone so we could eat right away after getting home at 6:30.  I grabbed the mail and saw that some travel guides I requested had arrived; we want to go to the West coast this summer for vacation.  Excited about that, I mentioned it to Hubby, who I instantly realized had arrived home under a cloud of crabbiness.  He said, “I don’t even want to talk about vacations.  The new company [who is taking over operations at Hubby’s work tomorrow] sounds like it wants to get rid of our division/make everyone move to somewhere horrible if they want to keep their jobs/fire me/make me take a huge pay cut and work 1,000 hours of unpaid overtime.”  Instantly, my mood switches to OMIGOD WE ARE GOING TO HAVE TO MOVE AND THE KIDS CAN’T GO THROUGH THAT AGAIN AND I DON’T WANT TO MOVE AND MAYBE WE WILL BE BROKE AND HAVE TO FORECLOSE ON OUR HOUSE AND DECLARE BANKRUPTCY AND I AM NOT QUALIFIED TO WORK ANYWHERE BECAUSE ALTHOUGH I HAVE A DEGREE I HAVE NEVER HELD A REAL JOB AND EVERYTHING I HAVE DONE THIS LAST NINE YEARS WILL HAVE BEEN FOR NOTHING BECAUSE STAY-AT-HOME MOMS ARE NOT VALUABLE IN THE GRAND SCHEME OF THINGS AND THIS CROCKPOT MINESTRONE I MADE FOR DINNER IS ABSOLUTELY AWFUL I AM A HORRIBLE HOUSEWIFE.

It really should be said that Hubby and I got very little sleep last night because Spike, who is recovering from a horrendous sunburn, couldn’t sleep and came down into our bed last night.  And then, that adorable 3-year-old proceeded to have a horrible day of “three-nager”ness (which Hubby defined as, “Spike’s feet woke up on the wrong side of my back this morning.”) which was such fun.

Ok.  No sleep.  No sleep makes you feel like life.  Is not worth.  Living.  Seriously.

Anxiety can be caused by little to no sleep.  Anxiety makes you fear things that are…mayyyybe real possibilities…but very slim chances.  Like terrorists targeting you on vacation.  And anxieties relating to job loss and perpetual poverty.  And freaking out over the fact that you might not be a perfect wife and mother.

Hubby is nervous about the new company taking over.  That is completely understandable.  New management, new way of doing things, new corporate culture.  But perhaps we should focus on what we can control.  We can’t control if our boss decides to downsize us.  We can’t control if the company wants to headquarter elsewhere.  We have no control over what the future ultimately holds.  We really don’t.  It’s honestly terrifying.

I seek solace in the knowledge that about four years ago, we were in the same place.  Spike was on the way, Hubby was laid off, we had no permanent dwelling, and Hubby and I were both scared to death.  I prayed.  I prayed without ceasing.  I was so afraid of so many things, and God said “Trust.”

Trust.

Trust that I have your future in my hands.  Trust that I know exactly what you need, and will not give you more than you can handle.  Trust that I love you and I will not let you falter.

Be not afraid.  Be not afraid.  I am with you and will never leave you. 

I can believe.  I can believe God is in control.  I can believe that he will be beside me in whatever I may encounter.  I can believe there is a purpose and a reason to everything.  When I doubt, when I want to run the other way, God is there to remind me that His will pervades all.  His love conquers all.  And his purpose for our lives permeates and engulfs us all.  So it is not for nothing that we struggle with [yes, the banalities of laundry and stinky diapers] our tasks and it is not for nothing that we strive for Heaven in our lives.  It is what makes life worth living…it is what makes life so precious…and it is what we will not abandon when we are forced to abandon our dreams for anything else.  It is through trust in His plan that we can forge ahead with all we may encounter….even on a bad day:-)

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Rebecca, and I am afraid to ask for help.

oxygen mask

They tell me I shouldn’t help others with their masks until I get mine on. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

I took a course from a life coach several years ago, and one of the weekly lessons was “Learning to Trust Others”.  Among the activities that week was “Asking Someone for Help” with something you needed.  I have to admit, this was one of the hardest activities of the entire course for me.

After being raised by independent, Republican, “we-don’t-need-anyone’s handouts” parents, the concept of asking for help seemed foreign to me.  Especially as a teenager after watching my recently widowed mother shun offers for help numerous times.  Eventually people quit offering.

Is this because she really *didn’t* need help?  Because those 8 kids under the age of 18 were super duper easy to raise all on her own?  Because she *could* Do It All Herself?  That she was getting by quite beautifully, thank you?  Heavens no.  She could have used the help.  The companionship of friends to talk to.  The convenience of having someone else run errands and get groceries so she could spend more time comforting her children in their time of grief.  The reliance on having other male family members step in to mentor young children suddenly growing up without a father.  But she didn’t.  Because you don’t ask for help when you can – feasibly, whatever the internal and emotional struggle – Do It Yourself.

Now, I don’t blame my mother.  She was only operating on autopilot, the only way she knew how and believed to be the mature thing to do.  Asking for help meant revealing her own vulnerabilities and perhaps having to be “beholden” to another person.  She had lost her parents young as well, and there was no one there to help her cope with those losses then; why on earth would she need anyone to help her through her loss now?

As an adult, I vowed that I would not follow that same path. I would ask for help if I needed it.  And especially after dealing with debilitating rounds of depression that left me hospitalized, it was a fact that I needed help in order to get better.  So I enlisted my husband, my friends, and my sisters to be my Help Squad.  And, by the grace of God, I have gotten through those episodes, not quite unscathed, but certainly wiser and more in control of my diagnoses.  Without their help I would, most certainly, no longer be alive.

I am doing much better these days.  But I still have little hiccups.  And I need to ask for help.  I need help with the kids so they don’t overwhelm me with their needs.  I need help with the housework so I can focus on my own needs.  I need help from someone who will listen to me free from judgment.  And I find it very, very, difficult to ask for help in those times.  Because I should be capable.  Because I am not a danger to myself or others at this point, just feeling a little stressed and down.  Because I *should* be able to Do It All Myself.  Because I don’t want to be a burden.

Sensing a hereditary pattern here?

Deep breath.  I remind myself of that and make a plan.  Number one: Call Hubby and ask to have an afternoon “off”, where I can go sit at a coffee house and read a book.  Number two: Call my good friend just to chat.  Number three: Pay another friend’s school-age daughter to come in for a few hours to act as Mother’s Helper so I can get some chores done.

See?  I can ask for help.  There is no shame in needing the assistance of others sometimes.  It doesn’t automatically mean you are “taking advantage” of anyone’s generosity or are willing to lazily accept “handouts” from hard-working individuals.  It means you are taking care of yourself.  And by taking care of yourself, it means you are better able to take care of others.

Who might, in turn, need your help some day.