Sunday, 19 October 2014

Ten Pin Bowel-ing

There is a certain, fairly unattractive attitude that can rear it's head from time to time in living with a chronic illness. It applies to both patients and those around then alike. There's nothing particularly wrong with it, but it can be dangerously catching. Patients of chronic illness may find themselves becoming increasingly frustrated with friends/family/colleagues who complain of ailments which can appear decidedly trifling. 

When you are (perhaps, barely) coming with an array of horrendous symptoms and feeling like you've been run over by a 10 storey bus OVER and OVER and OVER... It's hard to sympathise when the person by your side has a sniffle and is complaining as though they have mere moments left to live. It can be hard to bite your tongue when all around you, people are suffering from seemingly nothing more than acute cases of hypochondria. 

But what to do for the best when encountering these people? Grin through gritted teeth and sympathise, or tell them straight that you feel they are acting like toddlers and to get over it? Neither is a particularly pleasurable option, let's be honest. Pretending you feel for them generally makes them feel slightly justified in their whining, but does nothing but cause frustration and a bubbling rage inside your already decidedly burny-burny guts. On the other hand, getting vocal on how selfish and dramatic you feel they are being can lead to massive rifts in relationships and perhaps finding those people who were once your biggest supporters drifting off into the friendship ether. 

For me personally, I tend to go for my own form of option 1. I really wish I didn't but I find it abhorrent listening to people complain of something which amounts to nothing. Not that I WANT people to be ill of course because I absolutely do not! It's just that I've found my sympathy for people suffering from chronic illness much more acute and intense since I became ill myself, but this has, in turn lead to my tolerance for bullshit falling rapidly. If someone is genuinely ill and trying their best to make a life for themselves DESPITE sickness; I have nothing but admiration, respect (and if required, cuddles) for them. But it just makes bile rise in my throat when I hear phrases like; "Ah I had a dicky tummy last night after a curry so I feel your pain" or "I've got swollen glands this week, my throat feels like cut glass so I can't eat either" (*commence internal screaming*)

I tend to take, and again I wish I didn't, these types of comments as a personal insult. They always seem like such a disappointing lack of understanding. A total failure to grasp the complexities and serious nature of my illness. But are they? Or is it just human nature? Is it not in our make-up to compare and contrast? Share our experiences, however different they may appear? I know when I tell stories about my youth and how I could, for example, drink 5 men under the table, I may be bending the truth very slightly. [it was only 1 man and he may have slid under the table after slipping on a rogue salted peanut]. So perhaps people think I am applying the same exaggeration rules to my own condition? I certainly know patients like myself who do. I've encountered enough of them in hospital for a start. 

Either way it's not easy trying to walk the conversational tightrope between feigning compassion and punching someone square across the jaw. It's important to remember we are all intrinsically the same. We all want that little bit of attention and some see illness as a way to garner some much needed care. There's nothing really wrong with it, which is why I always feel disappointed in myself for taking things so personally. I want to be able to treat someone with flu with the same kindness and understanding as someone who has a life-threatening illness. But really I can't. And I won't. Why not continue on my crusade to weed out that drain on modern society: hypochondria? I feel it's almost part of my life's calling. I will don my cape and gold boots (I wouldn't really to wear a cape and gold boots but I would look AWESOME), and gently reassure those with "the worst headache in history" that they need to take 2 paracetamol and get on with their lives. People may call me a hero, but I'm really just a regular girl. I'm not into dramatics...

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