(The fortress of Dros Delnoch by Gaius31Duke of DeviantArt.com
If you haven't read David Gemmell's "Legend", I suggest you remedy that quickly!)
This was quite a big post for me to commit to paper (screen?) and as such I’d ask a little indulgence and patience from readers. It’s not been an easy thing to write but I do have something positive to say about it.
I actually broke down about being ill in the last week. Not just once, but twice.
Why? Well I’ve some new potential pressures on the horizon which have been frightening me for a while, and I certainly think giving thought to those was the catalyst. More simple than that though? Because doing so has been some two years overdue.
This caused some quite necessary self examination. I realised I’ve very rarely given myself any leeway to be vulnerable with my situation. I had never once allowed a moment of upset, a brief storm of tears. I’d never screamed, shouted or hit anything.
Put simply: I’d never allowed myself to vent properly.
There are a few reasons for this. The first being I’m a person who doesn’t like crying, although the dislike is only for my own tears and doesn’t extend to other peoples – those I can approach in possession of an almost infinite capacity for patience and empathy (by comparison). Despite said profound dislike I’m naturally given to crying far more than I ever have been to shouting or screaming. The odd time I’ve shouted and really lost my temper about something I’ve ended up crying anyway because that seems to be my natural come-down from being angry.
Moreover though I think I’d become a product of others expectations. It had been made exceptionally clear that if I complained I was seen as seeking attention or begging for sympathy. Given that neither is really in my nature I felt the best thing to do was to be quiet – if I never said anything, surely there could be nothing to misconstrue?
On the flipside of this I’d had a lot of people tell me I was doing “so well” and that handling it with positivity was “amazing”.
Now they’re lovely things to hear, and I’m grateful for them. The problem is I’m a perfectionist, and so I couldn’t allow myself to be anything less than “amazing” from there on in. I felt I had to keep up that exact level of positivity, resolve and strength because anything less wouldn’t be “doing well”.
And lastly, crying was giving in. Each tear was a drop of failure. Getting upset was to admit I don’t have everything under control.
Crying meant Petunia had won.
That seems a rather depressing basis for a post, but bear with me. Here at TRB it’s all about the positives and humour to be found, so I promise it gets better.
Firstly, there was a terrific sense of freedom once the weeping had blown over. I’d finally let myself admit that the situation was a bit pants – a more elegant phrase doesn’t seem appropriate. I’d said the words that had been in my head for so long that it seemed I’d been wrestling them forever:
“I’ve forgotten the last time I wasn’t in pain.”
Now, that’s not a moan, a whine or a grumble. It’s stating a fact. I’ve been ill for two years – I genuinely don’t recall not being very clearly any more. I remember being able to do pretty much anything without consequence, but nothing clearer. Although the manner of the pain has evolved, moved round and progressed, I don’t recall not having any pain any more.
I admit I twitched a bit writing that out. Partially I struggle with accepting that it’s OK to say it. Whining to me would be saying it all the time, or constantly posting it on your Facebook status or on a Tumblr page. Saying it quietly to yourself though, or to someone you trust? Now I’ve let myself I would argue it’s not only reasonable, but necessary.
I’ve been thinking a lot about admitting (my other half copped for all of this, poor soul) that I was frightened. There’s a certain amount of conditioning involved here. I’m a Northern lass, I’m supposed to be as tough as old boots. We don’t do being frightened – it’s too grim up ‘ere for that sort of nonsense.
When you stop to think – why wouldn’t you be frightened? Your body is doing abnormal, uncomfortable and painful things which it shouldn’t be doing. The collective minds of medical science cannot stop it doing so. One of the first things I was told post-diagnosis was “You do realise you’ll be like this for the rest of your life, don’t you? Oh, and it degenerates with age.”
Being completely honest, that’s not a picnic in the park. It’s entirely human to be frightened by something like that. I think I’d actually made it worse for myself in the long run not owning up sooner.
In thinking my way through this post I actually went back through my Facebook feed from the time I first fell ill up to the present day. Most mentions I make of anything to do with ill health are humorous in nature or written with a positive twist – perfectionist tendencies aside, it’s how I am. Do you know how many times I’d actually made mention in a negative context?
Three times in two years. So I’m hardly the Queen of Whinging.
One of those times was when I went to hospital for my internal cameras, and after having eight weeks or so to convince myself I was OK in the run up to the day, I reached the doors of the hospital and my childhood crippling fear of them came flooding back. There was a fair bit of death in my family and extended family friends when I was a little girl – hospitals to my young mind were places people went when they were never coming home again.
I turned to Facebook for some support – I didn’t have anyone to ring as everyone was at work. It’s not something I would usually do, but exceptional circumstances call for exceptional measures. It worked – buoyed on peoples words of kindness I went in with my head held high. The fact I then nearly screamed the place down during a botched procedure is an almost amusing afterthought in light of that.
A couple of friends have told me repeatedly in moments of doubt that they don’t know I need extra support unless I tell them. It’s something to bear in mind – there’s no need to punish yourself for taking the help and support offered. We all need it sometimes.
It’s always worth remembering that everyone deals with their trials differently, just as they treat their successes in different ways also. For some people, a vent over the internet is just the right thing for them to do to let out a bit of frustration and to allow them to continue with whatever they need to do. For others that’s not the way that best suits them – they need to think about it on their own. Some people talk to a couple of trusted companions and nobody else. Yet others never say anything at all. For me, it’s writing a blog and occasionally letting myself have a cry.
As long as the path you find helps you and harms nobody else, then you should never be answerable to anyone else about how you cope. It’s your health and the way you deal with it has to be wholly yours also.
This isn’t a static state of being either – it’s a learning process. Therefore it’s worth bearing in mind that the concept of coping is a fluid one and you will occasionally stumble upon a hidden gem you were unaware of that may help more than whatever you did before. You’re not answerable for a change of outlook or method either.
Strength in dealing with an ongoing difficult situation isn’t measured in the amount you need to vent, or in whether you open up to another person and admit to struggling. Failure is not counted in the tracks of your tears. Nobody is black listed from an imaginary roll of honour of “coping well” for losing their temper or being overcome with frustration from time to time.
At the end of the day, we’re human beings and that makes us fragile creatures – we aren’t made of stone. However, the human race has an incredible capacity to learn, to adapt and to quietly subvert expectations.
And if all else fails I advise this, fellow Dragonborn:
(We hadn't had a Skyrim-ism for a bit.. Courtesy of ibrokemykeyboard of DeviantArt.com)
Wishing you all many spoons xx
Wishing you all many spoons xx