Friday, 29 November 2013

The Silent Force

I’m going to make a very broad, very direct statement at the start of this post – please just think about it before you continue on to the rest.

Just because I am not talking about being in pain does not mean I am not in pain.

With me so far? Good.

There seems to be a bit of a double standard here: if you talk about being in pain or feeling ill, then you’re moaning and seeking attention. I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of assuming this on occasion regardless of the subject involved, but it’s an attitude I find consistently across the wide world of the internet.

However, if you don’t talk about it very often or at all, there must be nothing wrong. If there was then you’d be talking about it. Then you’d be moaning and seeking attention…. I’m sure nobody needs me to point out the circle of false assumption involved here.

I’ve been thinking about where I sit in this circle and maybe it would be helpful to explain not only where I am but why I’m there. I’m entirely certain of my reasons but that doesn’t mean anyone else is, because I’ve just read back a way and despite this being a blog about chronic pain conditions I don’t actually illuminate on it all that much, and when I do I’m fairly vague or playing it for laughs.

I’ll start with the more selfish reasons. Most importantly to start with is the cold fact of the matter, which is that I am in fact in pain all the time. It’s obviously not always at incapacitating levels, but some measure of it is a constant, irritable companion.

(Maybe we should all come with appropriate signage? Image from

What I try to do is force it to the back of my mind and not concentrate on it – essentially pulling the smoke and mirrors on my brain and trying to convince it that no, it’s not actually that all encompassing. If I talk about it then obviously I begin to think about it and my concentration is very quickly invaded by awareness of every single joint and muscle which feels like voicing a grievance, let alone all the peripheral problems I’d rather not spend thought on. It might not be helpful to anyone else and especially to people who actually do need to know, but for pure self preservation and maintenance of the whopper of a fib I’m continually telling my own mind it’s far easier for me to just not talk about it.

The second somewhat selfish reason is that I just don’t enjoy talking about it. In all honesty this is more down to aspects of my personality than anything else. If I’m asked about it or begin to explain, I’m immediately put on the spot and that’s not a situation I’m comfortable in no matter what the topic at hand.

Despite being quite talkative and usually having something intelligent to say in a group situation I’m usually the type to do more listening than speaking.  I don’t hold court and I don’t enjoy being the centre of attention. As chronic illness isn’t an every day occurrence for many I usually end up being the only person speaking – cue one part coherency to three parts “Er...” and squirming. Clearly I am never going to forge a career as a public speaker.

You only have to see me when faced with being approached by a stranger at a bar or a similar scenario to know this is all the truth – rabbit caught in the headlights does not come remotely close.

There are of course certain people I’m entirely comfortable with talking to – they’re the ones I don’t say “I’m fine” to when I’m not, but for the most part I’m just more comfortable that way.

Finally, there is a reason that’s far more altruistic. Whilst everyone will at some point need to vent about whatever it is that is bothering them and may need to do so more than once or regularly, it’s not an enjoyable thing to listen to times many. I’m quite acutely aware that some people ask how you are and only want the answer if it’s positive. Personally I think “Well why ask then?” but I do accept some people are just like that. They like everything to be sunshine and rainbows 24/7 and your clouds of less-than-stellar feelings aren’t welcome on their horizon.

The point for those like me who are suffering something incurable is that it’s never going to not form a part of the honest answer to the question of how you’re doing. It’s not going to disappear one day to the next, and the fairies aren’t going to come and magic it away. It’s here for good. Aside from those few I mentioned previously who I’m comfortable talking honestly with, I’m aware and understanding of the fact that constant ill health is a burden not everyone wants to share in, and that’s quite all right.

It all comes back to the invisibility problem once again – anything which can’t be seen is open to doubt and suspicion. It can be worth bearing in mind though that just because someone isn’t discussing something regularly or answers “I’m fine” more often than not when asked, it doesn’t mean their condition or problem is fictional.

(I don't swear much, so if I am swearing you are more than welcome to assume I'm in pain. Or that the cat's stolen dinner again, whichever seems most appropriate. Image from

They may just not feel like talking about it at that given point in time. They may even just be sparing you from the details and it’s wise not to look a gift horse in the mouth – particularly if you’re the type who would then complain about moaning if they didn’t spare you.

My final point makes this idea personal once more. Fibromyalgia and Interstitial Cystitis are the particular problems my body copes with, and they are both personal and an entirely unique individual experience. That makes them mine – my news (good or bad), my problem and my prerogative if I want to share it or not.

I do not exist to oblige your curiosity, and I’m not being rude if I choose not to. That does not mean I’m necessarily telling the truth if I say “I’m fine”, but I ask only that people respect my wishes and bear in mind the reasons why I (or anyone else) may wish to give that response.

Wishing you all many spoons xx

No comments:

Post a Comment