Thursday, April 30, 2015

PSA To All Friends

Alright, people. This is another one that desperately needs to be written and understood.  I'm very sensitive to my friendships (or at this point, lack thereof, in this case) but have generally taken a new approach. To me, I'm not sure if chronic pain is isolating in and of itself, it's often the lack of understanding that (at least for me) makes me feel alone sometimes. Sometimes the lack of empathy is more unbearable than the pain itself, like you're living in a state that is so entirely foreign and inconceivable to most people--and that is what makes it alienating.

Good portions of my day are usually spent being guilt tripped by friends that I haven't seen them, haven't FaceTime-d them, never call, never text, etc. Before I always felt the need to apologize and explain myself but most of the time now, I am so sick of constantly having to explain myself. People don't realize the fear--the fear of being judged, the fear of not being understood, the fear of feeling vulnerable. That fear strengthened my relationships with very close friends and loosened my ties with acquaintances.

In my worst pain, all I wanted was to be distracted. I wasn't capable mentally and physically of contributing to conversations and constantly explaining to friends and family what my pain is like, the current updates on my health and hearing the (mostly) senseless feedback was unbearable. (Keep in mind, for most of my grueling experience with pain, I had gained weight that I am slowly losing and compared to what I used to look like, generally feel like I let myself go--my hair and make up is never done. I dress for comfort now mostly.) Sometimes I avoided people entirely because as nice as it is sometimes to be asked how you're doing, it can also be a pain in the ass if you're being asked 15x in a row. I already do this with doctors almost every day.

Some people who will remain nameless have taken it personally that I haven't tried to "rekindle" relationships with them since I've been home. The best response I have to this is that it is nothing personal. I am generally so overwhelmed by all the things I have to do and am so exhausted that old friends unfortunately get passed to the wayside so I can maintain the friendships for the friends who aren't just "checking in" but calling me every day. To me, the people who loved me at my darkest, are the ones who I prioritize.

Here are several things that need to be known:
  • In general, I would rather hear about you. Your day, your funny experiences, etc. than talking about my health problems. I generally feel uncomfortable having to explain myself and for some people, it's just too damn sad, so at the risk of making it uncomfortable, let's keep it about you. Or just send me funny things. I always appreciate it. No one understands how god damn boring this gets sometimes. I generally try to "shield" people from how bad my pain really is.
  • If I cancel plans last minute, it is never because I don't feel like coming. I am in my house, doctor's offices or volunteering for a good percent of my day, so if I can handle it, I always want to go out. Some people are really good about this and some obviously aren't. I've just decided I can't feel bad about making decisions that may affect other people. I'm responsible for myself and need to take accountability for my actions. No one understands my body like I do, so I have to make judgement calls...whether it upsets other people or not. 
  • Sometimes it's hard to explain this but I try to explain to people that my days sometimes feel like a shitty, charged iPhone. I have limits. There is only so much I can do every before my battery dies and everything takes some battery life. Especially those moments when you think you have 10% left and all of sudden you're at 2%. Sometimes this becomes an anxious social situation.  Situations where I am out with friends, I haven't drove--I have no control. I don't live in a city and if I need to go home but can't, I panic. I avoid these situations as much as possible. 
  • Having a "good day" doesn't mean that I'm better, just means that I am having a good day.
  • I've cut out a lot of friends and family that caused me grief and frustration for the better. It wasn't easy cutting ties but I do not have the emotional and physical energy to deal with drama, shit talking, etc. And as always, if anyone has any discrepancies, tell me to my face. Trust me, my skin is thick and I can handle it. I would always rather find out from the source than backhandedly. PS. Tell me if you're uncomfortable with my situation. These are things I need to know about. I have no patience with toxic behavior and am shameless to tell you so if it gets that point. 

  • Even if I'm smiling and looking like I'm having a great time, there's a good chance I'm screaming internally. If I need to leave right at the end of a dinner or cut things off early, again, nothing to do with you. 
  • Clubbing is never an option anymore. Do not even try to ask me to go dancing. It will never happen. 

  • When I say that I can't be cured or that I'll never be healthy, I'm not trying to be negative. Like I've said before, my life is not CrossFit. I have boundaries and limitations. This is my reality and I've come to terms with it. I've accepted it. I hope others do too. 
  • This needs to be reiterated but making plans is HARD. Other than doctors appointments, it's hard to truly keep anything. 
  • Like most people, when I say "it's fine", it's probably not. I have an amazingly stoic face when it comes to pain in social situations that pretty much only my parents can recognize as a red flag. 
  • Even the nicest people have their limits. 
  • Don't be offended if I forget things you've told me. When my pain is bad, my memory can be extremely foggy and my short term recall is really bad. Most people refer to it as "fibro fog" and it's a real thing. Google it.  
  • I don't want to be known as "the girl with pain". I want to be normal and treated like everyone else. I still want to be invited to things. I hate to play the pain card and truly feel happiest when I'm in a "normal" setting. 
  • Just because you see me posting online, doesn't mean I'm feeling better. Sometimes I am in a ton of pain but my choices boil down to sitting and crying or distracting myself. 
  • always try to be in a good, positive mood but sometimes when you're running on no sleep with lots of pain, it compromises your mood. 
  • Sometimes I just don't want to do anything with anyone. Or talk to anyone. I need my alone time. 
  • My love life is sad right now. It's incredibly personal to me and something I plan on working on more when I move to London. I am still trying to figure out how to have as normal a relationship as possible. It'll take me awhile. Until then, don't bother asking if I have a boyfriend. 
  • If I'm with you and we're meeting someone I don't know, my medical issues don't need to be brought up in the first five minutes, or at all. 
  • Small, thoughtful gestures mean the fucking world to me. Actions always speak louder than words. 
  • People that have known me forever have known me as an extrovert and that is changing.  Dealing with chronic pain drains me every day. 
  • I naturally have a really hard time saying no to things and turning things down, please don't push me into doing more than I can. 
  • Be open minded. 
  • Even if I'm having a bad day or a lot of pain, your problems are still valid to me. Never think that because my problems seem more serious that I don't want to listen to yours. I never purposefully try and make it a competition.
  • There are some things more than other that are hot buttons for me. And you'd never know what they are, but if you push one by accident, I don't mean to overreact. But it does happen from time to time. 
I know some of these things are probably related/redundant or hypocritical but I still struggle with figuring out what I need from my friends and family sometimes. 

I hope people understand that I never intentionally try to discuss my health for pity, sympathy or attention. I wish people could understand that dealing with this is just a big part of my life, whether I want it to be or not. I try really hard to help people that are dealing with the same problems. I don't want to be pitied, babied, fawned over or put on a pedestal. And certainly not be to looked down upon or judged. It's when people are uncomfortable with me that I become uncomfortable with myself. But, I am comfortable with myself and I own who I am.


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  2. THis is exactly how i feel on a daily basis - this made me cry. keeeping postive as best as can even on the hardest of days :( no one will ever fully understand each persons own chronic pain and their own struggle just finding what works and what doesn't
    I suffer chronic neck and rib pain.
    Really refreshing to read this so honest