Sunday, October 12, 2014

Last Post For A While

This is going to be my last blog post for a while. I have to admit, when I’ve seen other people write posts explaining why they’re taking a break from blogging (or rather not explaining, as these posts are often quite cryptic) I’ve always thought it was a bit strange. I don’t imagine that if I stopped blogging, without a post saying why, that many people would actually notice, but as I’m sitting down to write my own version of this type of post I now understand why people write them. I’ve been contemplating the reasons behind this for a while now, so apologies if this gets a bit long and rambley.

The last time I stopped blogging for a significant period of time, I didn’t write any kind of explanation. I just stopped, because things were so bad with my health that I was struggling to convince myself I even wanted to be alive anymore, and writing about how awful things were didn’t seem like it would be of use to me or anyone else. Then, amazingly, I went into remission and I was too busy enjoying my life to think of writing about it. This time, my break from blogging has less to do with my health itself and more to do with my attitude towards it.

Recently I’ve caught myself in several unhealthy thought patterns about my illnesses, some of which have also been noticed and pointed out to me by people around me. After posting this piece, a friend sent me this message: 

“I hope this is OK to say, but have been thinking about it since I read your latest blog post. You mentioned a few times about 'being a sick person.' I just hope you know that this is not how I (and I imagine any of your other friends) view you. You're my friend Helen who happens to have health problems and we love you!”
I hadn’t registered that I had referred to myself as “a sick person” until my friend pointed it out. A couple of times recently, people have told me I need to be careful about letting illness become my identity. Both times, I felt myself bristle, and thought “what the hell are you talking about? There is so much more to me than my illnesses!” But once I managed to put aside my defensiveness I realised there was some truth to what they were saying. They probably weren’t trying to say that there was nothing to me apart from my illnesses, or that my illnesses were the most interesting thing about me. Instead I think maybe they were trying to caution me against overestimating the significance of this part of my life. When I refer to myself as a sick person, it does give “sickness” more importance than is warranted. As my friend said in her email, I am Helen, who happens to have health problems. Illness is a part of my life, and there’s no use denying that. But it’s not me
When I let illness become this significant, it can be easy for me to start discounting the other (good) things in my life because the illness feels all consuming. I realised I have been feeling some shame towards my illnesses, as if they somehow make me “less,” “broken,” or even “worthless.” At times, I’ve been feeling the need to downplay and hide them. For example, I find myself really reluctant to meet people in person if my first interactions with them have been by phone or email, as I feel as soon as they see me in person they will see I walk with a stick and it will change their view of me. At the same time, anytime I do downplay my illnesses I feel as if I am deceiving people, like they wouldn’t want to be around me if they knew what things were really like.

A couple of weeks ago, I fainted when I was out for the evening. And, because I had pretty much no warning that it was going to happen, and fainting usually makes me a bit disorientated anyway, I then had a panic attack soon after coming around. Everyone around me was very nice about it, but I found myself thinking: “Well, that’s that. They know what I’m really like now.” I felt that in their eyes, I would be reduced to someone who is frail and ill and nothing more. But then a couple of days later, one of the people who’d been there that night got in contact with me, not because I had been unwell, but simply because they had liked a poem I had written and read that night. It made me realise that just because I was busy discounting all the good things because of my health, it didn’t actually mean everyone else was. 

The other day, someone came up to me and asked if I was walking with a stick because I got into a skateboarding accident. I was about to explain, that no, I walk with a stick fairly permanently because I have lupus, and I felt the familiar sinking feeling in my stomach that comes with that conversation and the questions it usually raises. But then I stopped myself, laughed, and instead said: “Yes, that’s exactly what happened.” Now, I’m not exactly advocating lying, but it was really freeing to realise that I don’t actually have to explain, or apologise for, my existence.

I have fallen into the trap of letting my illness become my identity and I need to step away, and figure out who I am separate from that. This blog isn't the thing causing me to create this identity, but taking a break from blogging is a way to mentally separate from it.  

I want to say a big thank you to everyone who has read my posts over the last five years. It’s been a long journey, and it’s helped having people along for the ride with me. I’m pretty sure I’ll be back here again at some point in the future, but until then I wish you all health, happiness, and a whole cutlery store full of spoons!

Thanks for reading,
Little Miss Autoimmune

1 comment:

  1. Totally understand your reasoning for ceasing to post for a while and hope you are going well. Glad you explained what was happening as i would worry. Wishing you a wonderful 2015.