Monday, September 27, 2010

What Am I Smiling About?

The other day, Don and I went out with some friends to enjoy some of our favorite beers together.  During the conversation, I started noticing my back was making sitting uncomfortable.  At first, I ignored it and tried to make the most of the socializing fun.  Eventually, I gave out and slouched, noticeably.  Apparently, I maintained a big smile on my face while I slouched in pain, oddly.  I wasn't aware until one of my friends looked at me and curiously asked me what I was smiling about.  I don't know!  I guess I was trying to remain pleasant, despite my personal struggles.  Perhaps the slouch itself made me smile because it was a silly position to take, in public.  Whatever it was, it made me realize that I must do a great job of disguising my pain in front of others.  

When asked about my smile, I confessed that my back was hurting me and I didn't know how to relieve it, I got a bit of a pitiful, synchronized groan from the group.  I don't want people to pity me.  This became apparent to me while I was using a cane to get around at work for a few days.  The cane elicits such a pity response from everyone who knows you!  I found it ironic that the cane really only indicated foot/leg pain or balance issues, while the other pains and problems of Fibromyalgia and my myriad other health problems continue - cane or no cane.  When the cane stopped accompanying me to work, these same folks would delight in my improvement, assuming I was feeling perfect because there was no cane.  This assumption is so wrong it disgusted me.  I blurted out my feelings to some of my coworkers who felt compelled to celebrate my caneless walking.  I also recall telling people not to pity me when they saw me with the cane and instantly frowned and gave me that look. 

So, as I slouched, smiling like an idiot, it occurred to me that I am enabling this whole perception problem to continue.  I'm part of the problem.  People are confused about how I feel and what I'm experiencing because I'm not being true about it.  I'm trying to fool them.  But why?  I never though of myself as a dishonest person.  In fact, I suck at lying and always try to be honest with people, even when it's uncomfortable.  You can't help someone understand you if you lie to them.  So what's with my phony public persona?

Like many folks, I have learned that talking about pains and problems that others don't have is usually no fun for either party.  I hate being a whiner - I want to be tough!  Everyone wants to be strong.  Nobody likes to be weak.  I don't like to ask for help.  I don't like pity.  I want to be independent and able to help others.  

Well, it's nice to want things, isn't it?  I need to face facts.  My condition is limiting, sometimes more so than others.  It is poorly understood and poorly managed.  I have ups and downs and I don't know when the direction will shift.  Sometimes I think it's about time for an up, but I drop down a little more first.  Fibro hurts.  I need to work on the realization that I am chronically ill and am not as healthy as many others out there.  There are others who are ill as well, and they will understand better my ups and downs.  I need to trust that they can handle the truth about how I'm feeling.  I need to give my friends more credit.

Being a party pooper sucks, too, though.  I hate to ruin a party with my awkwardly depressing status updates.  Everyone wants to help, though there is usually nothing they can do.  Perhaps I'm hoping I can fake it till I make it by pretending I'm not feeling quite as badly as I really am.  Sometimes, that works for me.  

At any rate, I'm learning about my ever-changing self and how to best handle the various situations that arise.  Do you have any stories or advice on how to handle the inconvenient symptoms with others around?  I'd love to hear from you.