Chemical burns, or why I can’t do it on my own

I am a proud person. My mother raised me to think through a problem and find the solution, which resulted in years of rarely seeking help. This also made me self-sufficient and impatient. I don’t like asking for help and will usually exhaust all of my resources before reaching out. While yes, this can be a valuable skill, it’s often a detriment because I’m fooled into believing I can exist on my own. 

In some cases, I may initially recognize my need for help and seek it out. If it is not immediately available, my first thought is, “can I do this on my own?” Ninety-four percent of the time I say yes. This jump in logic has frequently led to ill-advised moves, but none sting worse than the chemical burns. 

You see, some products require the supervision of someone else. When they say have someone help you, they mean it. Directions exist for a reason, typically to keep you safe and avoid lawsuits. Because I believe I am smarter than everyone and cannot wait for assistance, I typically ignore said warnings and try it on my own.

As a young teenager, I developed a plantar’s wart on the bottom of my foot. It probably grew from shared locker room floor bacteria because I never bothered to protect myself from germs (they make you stronger). It quickly grew into a giant pain that I think consumed half of my foot. It was angry, to say the least.

My mother and I tried everything to get rid of it, including a really crazy home method of duct taping a potato slice to it. Spoiler alert: this doesn’t work and actually hurts a lot. Finally, in desperation, we resorted to the hard chemicals for wart removal.

The process took several treatments to complete, and naturally I was very eager to finish and resume my normal foot life. One evening, when it was time, I asked the other members of my household for assistance. It was some sort of freezing liquid that had to be sprayed directly onto the wart, and because of the chemicals, the wart surface had to be flat to keep from dripping to another area of the body.

When no one could immediately assist me, I pulled a classic Chelsea and decided I could do it myself. I placed my foot on the edge of the bathtub and settled into a lunge-like position. It’s this moment that should’ve been my final red flag, but I ignored my instincts and the wobble of my unbalanced body and continued.

I twisted back, readied the nozzle and sprayed. That motion alone caused my leg to move, pulling my foot and allowing the sweet, freezing chemicals to drip and settle along the side of my foot. I wiped it off as quickly as I could, but the damage was done.

Frantically, I called for help as I saw the blister begin to form. Within minutes, it looked as if a giant, fleshy worm had attached itself to my foot. It hurt to even slightly touch, so regular shoes were out of the question. To make things worse, I couldn’t reapply the treatment for another week to avoid irritation. 

You might think I learned a valuable lesson from this experience. My next example will prove that to be false.

A few years ago, I decided to get a pixie cut. The only problem was my neck and hairline. I am a very hairy person and the hairs don’t grow in a nice, clean way. I used to be very self-conscious, but now I’m like whatever, I have the neck of Wolverine, it’s fine.  

As the stylist chopped off my hair, she nervously pointed out all the hair on my neck and asked if it would be alright to shave. Shave it all I said giddily, I never liked it anyway. 

For the first time in my life, I had a clean hairline and I loved it. But you know the problem? Hair grows back. So I found myself needing to keep that area clean. The most effective method I found was Nair-ing. Typically using Nair is a personal experience, but that changes when you’re putting harmful chemicals onto the back of your neck where you can’t see. 

My best friend/roommate Sam kept my hairline nice and tight for months, but one night she wasn’t home. She said we could do it in the morning, but I was ready now, and Lord knows there is nothing more dangerous than me when I decide now is the time.

Confident in my skills, I lazily slapped the Nair on the back of my neck and looked at the time. Great, I need to take this off in six minutes. I tried to pass the time by pretending to clean my apartment aka looking at my phone. Sometime later, my neck began to burn. Strange, it hadn’t been six minutes, so I ignored it. This is why you should always trust your gut or in this case the painful tingling on your neck.

By the time I took it off, when I thought it was done, it was too late. I had burnt the back of my neck. Yes, the hair was gone, but there was a lovely red patch where the Nair had lived for too long.

The day after carnage

In both these cases, I knew I needed help. There was a reason I’d always had help before. And yet, because I wanted what I wanted in that moment, I did it anyway. Both times (and the thousand other examples I didn’t list), I let my pride get in the way and I literally ended up burned. 

While I’m sure these specific examples don’t apply to everyone because you guys aren’t me, I do know we all get like this. We know we can’t do it on our own and yet we try and try and try. Or worse, we let knowing we CANNOT do it alone keep us from ever trying because we worry about failure. 

We all need help sometimes. When you think you got this, you most likely don’t have this, or you won’t have it for long. I’m not talking about figuring out your independence, because no, longterm you don’t need someone to help you program your TV or show you how to change a light bulb. This is about the deeper need we have in life for help. 

Our culture is about success and pushing the need for relationships away to achieve more. We focus on our careers and school and think we’ll have time for friends later. Guess what everyone – that time never comes. I’ve been telling myself for years as soon as I get over this I’ll have more time for that and I NEVER have more time. Plus, later is a luxury we all aren’t afforded. This moment might be the only one you have.

Until recently, I denied help from everyone. I wouldn’t ask and typically wouldn’t take it when they offered. I believed friends were nice, but I didn’t need them. This naturally reached my relationship with Jesus because I would pray about my stress, but it would always be me saying what I can’t do. I didn’t really think God would help me because I’d never felt the relief of giving up a burden before. I let myself be scared into thinking I needed to do it on my own without opening up to anyone.

In 1 Peter 5, Peter delivers some great advice about persevering and how you aren’t alone. He also tells you to cast your cares on God AFTER you humble yourselves before Him. I don’t know about you, but I’m great at casting and terrible about humbling. 

My pride dictates what I can and can’t do and leads me to believe I can do it on my own. As my illustrations clearly pointed out, the answer is no. When you think about your life and stressors and anxieties, what are your first thoughts? I don’t know how this is going to work. I can’t do this. And then maybe that’s followed by “It’s fine, I’ll figure out.” Maybe, if you’re like me, you throw in a “I trust God” for good measure but you aren’t really giving it to Him. 

Asking for help in any situation involves humbling yourself. It’s admitting you are not God and you cannot do life by yourself. Deep down, we all know we need help, but we’re just terrible at asking. Please know you aren’t weak because you can’t do it. It’s weak to stay where you are, unsure and afraid of moving forward. 

Strength comes from boldly admitting you need help and seeking it out, whether it’s on a project or at work or any area of your life. There are always people who will help you. It takes courage to trust God and live one day at a time, trusting He will reveal the next steps in His time.

I cannot do this in my own. I don’t have the answers. I don’t know how I’m going to be ok. My pride tells me to dwell on this, but my God washes away the insecurities and replaces the fear with perfect peace. He puts the right people in your life to help you with everything, from making you laugh to fixing your car.

Trust in the confidence you have in what God will do and not your pride telling you what you can’t do. 

And don’t use chemicals without supervision.

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