- “Are your migraines gone yet? Maybe you’re just tense.
- “Oh your struggling with fatigue? Man I’m tired too, it’s been a busy week!”
- “Muscle pain? Probably from lack of exercise.”
- “Have you tried NOT taking all those medications? Maybe they’re the issue.”
- “How are you… Are you better yet?”
- “Are you depressed?”
I hear a lot of questions in my day to day life that are based around my currently chronically ill body – some often accompanied by unsolicited advice. But I was asked a question today that really took be by surprise.
My doctor asked “how do you feel?” Yes, that’s a reasonably normal question to ask someone who is chronically sick, especially for a doctor. So I answered my standard “same old. Migraines have improved but still have good days and bad days health wise in general.”
“No, no. How do you FEEL? As in, how does all of this make you feel… Emotionally.”
That’s actually a tough one to answer. I’m often asked how I feel, but physically, and usually followed by unsolicited and unhelpful advice or judgement. Like they’re asking out more out of habit than actually caring to hear the same thing day after day.
Is “I don’t know” a sufficient answer? If I think too hard about my actual feelings around my illness, my brain literally empties itself of all memories, knowledge and feelings. POOF! Gone.
I mean, for the last 10 years I’ve suffered chronic pain to some degree or another because of Endometriosis, while enduring 6 surgeries and countless traumatic treatments that were unsuccessful, all while having people ask me if I really NEED all those surgeries (because hey, I’m just doing it for fun right?) And then there’s the mystery illness that has taken over my life over the last two years that I like to call the WTF disease – which has caused no end of pain in probably every place on my body at some stage, caused fatigue so bad that I sometimes can’t even think past a brain full of fairy floss, hospitalised me in the ER twice because of suspected heart attack or stroke due to dangerously high blood pressure, caused me to have to resign from a job and a company that I loved… Oh and basically made me hate my body and everyone around me that asked stupid questions follow by useless and unsolicited advice.
So, I guess if you wanted me to really sum it up… I’d say I was pretty darn pissed off. And yet, also somehow grateful for the changes it has made in me.
Now there’s a mind-f**k for you!
But back to the point. My doctor bought about a very important issue that I constantly keep allowing myself to forget… my emotions and my mental health. I may not be mentally ill, but that doesn’t mean I should neglect my emotions and allow myself to become that way. But more than that, that not only myself, but also everyone around me, continue to overlook the profound effect these kinds of chronic illnesses can have on a person. After all, I’m not Super Woman… As much as I’d like to tell people that I am.
A person should always be viewed holistically – as a whole. Mind, body, and *insert your belief here*. I may be physically and chronically sick, but should I only be viewed that way? No, I really shouldn’t. And yet, I’m just as guilty of it. Sometimes when you’re drowning in one issue, and allowing everyone around you to drown in it with you, you forget to view someone as an entire human being.
I’m not just my pain or my illness, I am also my mind, my personality, my feelings. And having someone not only see that, but genuinely care about it, meant the world to me. I needed to be asked that, more than I often realise. People often tell me they’re frustrated for me, but don’t actually ask or realise that I am exactly ten million, five hundred sixty two thousand, seven hundred and one times MORE frustrated than they are… Because I’m the one living it.
I’m a happy, bubbly and always-smiling-too-much girl (to the point where I’ve got early onset crows feet,) but that doesn’t mean I’m not feeling other emotions on a deeper level, I just don’t always show it.
So, it’s time to be real. How do you feel?