Something got me started thinking about pain and illness and how individuals deal with it in their own lives.
Some people are able to move past it, live with the pain and not let it affect them at all. It doesn't change their lives. They don't have to give up anything or struggle.
Some people have to make small changes.
Some people have to make big changes.
Some people are completely disabled by it.
Regardless of where any of us lie on the continuum, none of us should be treated as if we all fall in the first category. We'd all like to be there, but a lot of us aren't, and we should be made to feel like lesser beings just because we have to make adjustments.
I think this goes hand-in-hand with the concept of invisible disabilities. Because we have no outward signs of being ill, others automatically assume we're making it up. Then they lump us together and say that "So-and-so does just fine with illness X" or "Whosmadoodle bathes in the blood of infant platypi and now they're doing great!" as if we're all the same person, with the same illness, with the same symptoms, with the same abilities and pain thresholds and mental states.
What people don't seem to understand is that we're all different. A lot of us with chronic illnesses also suffer from mental illness, primarily depression. You'd be depressed, too, if you woke up in pain everyday or felt like your body was just giving out on you. You'd be depressed, too, if you knew there was no cure, and the things you can do to alleviate symptoms don't work for everyone. You may be one of the unlucky few that is on an eternal fruitless search for relief.
I know there are people out there who have more debilitating diseases like MS and lupus, or spina bifida, or had to have a tumor removed from their brain. More power to them if they've been able to take it in stride and not let it affect them. But just because they can do it doesn't mean we all can.
The ones who seem to hold this belief the firmest are those who haven't been afflicted. The perfectly healthy can blather on as much as they'd like but it comes down to the fact that they have no clue what they're saying.
Liz captured something that's been rattling around in my subconscious very eloquently. Many of us who are chronically ill are beset by people who "know someone who got better after they did x", and we get treated like recalcitrant children for stubbornly refusing to magically get better just because our problems are inconvenient for others.
I know that it's probably frustrating to view a fibromyalgia sufferer from the outside. Here's this person who looks okay, and they can't be plugged into a machine that will give a precise measure of illness, yet they are always saying they are in pain, and that they are tired. To some, it might appear to be an excuse to slack off, to be lazy.
Let me tell you something: Nothing could be further from the truth. I would love nothing more than to be working sixty hour weeks, keeping my house really clean, and being able to have a normal social life. Why am I not getting better? Because medical science hasn't found a cure for this. No one knows how to fix it--and we're just barely learning how to manage the symptoms decently. Some people are lucky and found a simple solution, but the rest of us are waiting for science to catch up with our suffering. We've only recently even been able to find medical professionals to take us seriously enough to give us decent quality of life; many of Dr. Kevorkian's clients were fibromyalgia sufferers.
So, look, maybe it's not convenient for you to have a friend or family member with this condition, but something that pushes many of its sufferers to commit suicide rather than continue a life of relentless pain and fatigue? Not something we chose, wanted, or enjoy. If you think it's so awful to deal with us, just be glad you aren't one of us instead.