Chronic Snarkopolist: Healing Emotional Wounds
Hello my loves!
So many people have shared their vulnerabilities with me and I have always been grateful and humbled by how beautiful they are. The other day someone reached out and let me know that the work I do as a patient advocate sharing my stories as a patient is also valuable. It made me feel good. We are all necessary.
Meanwhile, it always amuses me how other people seem so perfectly normal and beautiful when they share their stories. Yet doing so often makes me feel so anxious and lacking. I sometimes push people away before they can truly get to know me. Or I hide behind humor or my intellect because of the vulnerability I feel.
Life is so much easier to talk than actually live! I was reading and sharing with doctors important research about how chronically ill patients feel. It included everything we discuss, from physical pain, loss of relationship, lack of connection, to financial problems. Never when I shared this “expert research” did I say, “I have felt this way too.” It was just easier to disconnect and report facts. Even though I live in fear that I will never be really smart enough to outrun my own illnesses and be a truly wonderful scholar, though that is my dream and goal.
There is not enough self-control in the world to control an illness inside our own body. Yet we might try. One friend once told me, “Don’t be damsel in distress Melissa.” And that voice resonated so much more than every single advice we give each other about, “asking for help when we need it.” The fear that I am too much or too overwhelming and make too many demands has followed me through life. I fear being a damsel in distress needing rescued and pitied. This fear has far outweighed my abilities to simply ask for help or tell people I am in pain or don’t feel good.
Similarly, when I do ask for help, it is often gone on so long my problem or illness has spun out of control. If I had asked sooner, I could have gotten resources or connections and surrounded myself with support. Instead, I stick my head in the ground and think, “I am not damsel, I do not need rescued.” I judge myself harshly because I am so tired of being sick. I want so badly to be “normal.”
For instance, if I don’t FEEL like going out, I don’t have to belabor an entire story of a lifetime of illness on someone. I can simply say, “I’m feeling under the weather tonight.” Everyone knows what that means. Why then, might I gut it out and come home feeling worse? Or, why might I not ask my friends to stay in and do something low key that works better for me? They might. I generally don’t ask because I don’t want to be a burden or I fear being rejected. I loathe my own needs – both emotional and physical. I resent my illness. And I live in terror of being rejected for my needs and weaknesses.
The other day, I was playing with a friend’s cat and I took a ribbon because my friend only has a ball to throw. But my arm and hands and joints were hurting so badly throwing the ball was terribly uncomfortable. My friend didn’t understand why I would prefer to play with a ribbon and had never used a ribbon. They kept handing me the ball and saying, “My cat REALLY likes to play with this.” I finally put the ribbon away and threw the ball. It was excruciating. I was so angry at myself for not explaining myself. I knew I wasn’t feeling up to throwing a ball. I wanted to play and connect with the cat. Why then didn’t I simply say, “I know, but this is something less strenuous for me, even though you and your cat can usually play with the ball, I can’t today, even though it is so much fun.”
I’m trying to remember this. It is important to understand how I tick and how I fear being too burdensome. And add that to the mix of asking for any kind of help. Add to that fear of sharing anything about illness or using it as “an excuse,” for kindness or compassion. Instead, I allow friendships to be cut off or I disconnect and break away from people because I fear so greatly my own vulnerability. It is time to heal from the inside out. I truly believe it is possible. Sharing it here was a start.
I would love to hear your stories and strategies for allowing other people to know your needs both emotional and physical. I would love to know how you ask for help. How do you go about healing your emotional wounds associated with illness? Do you have fears of being too much or too little? Have you had successes? How do you heal them? Do you worry about letting people get to know you and see the “real you?” How you handle that? I would love to know! If we are all in this together, your stories and sharing is necessary and valuable! Please tell me! I must know!
Tags: being vulnerable, chronic illness blog, chronic illness column, chronic illness support, feelings, finding our way through chronic illness, learning to cope with emotions and life and chronic illness, learning to share our diseases with others, Learning to share the truth