Posted in Chronic illnesses

The Pressure to Appear Healthy and Well



There are so many things that I have learned since my diagnoses but the one that stands out is this perception that I have to pretend to be well or that I am normal when it comes to my health. I do this in every aspect of my life, including my career and my family. Well, the pressure to appear to be well takes a toll on a person as I found out this weekend. What I found is that everyone wants a little piece of my time. The problem is that I don’t have the time to offer, and I am really upsetting people because of that.

As chronically ill patients, the biggest issue we have is not our health. It is the challenges and difficulties with relationships we have whether personal or professional. What I have learned from my own experiences and the experiences of others is that if you suffer from a chronic illness and/or chronic pain is that we want the one thing that we can’t have: understanding. We want others to know that how hard our lives are both physically and emotionally. What we find is that people who do not suffer from chronic illness don’t know what it is like so they can not offer the understanding we are seeking.

Sometimes, I find myself complaining out loud about how much I am hurting without realizing it, in particular when I need help and no one is helping. This weekend is all added up that I had to let my husband, my brother, my mother, and even my kids have it. My toddler woke up at 6 am and holding the salt shaker and pouring it onto my bed. So, I cleaned up his mess, put away the salt shaker, and laid down on the couch while he watched Nick Jr. Then, his dirty diaper was off and that was yet another situation for me to deal with, and it kept going on for the next three hours so by 9 am, I had a headache and a pot full of coffee in my stomach. There was also a second salt incident in between and someone sitting on the door of the open dishwasher. (I don’t know my toddler is obsessed with locating and dumping salt or sitting on the door of the open dishwasher. These two incidents weren’t the first.)

There was not a single joint in my body that was spared when I woke up yesterday morning and I continued to pay for it for the rest of the day. Meanwhile, my husband is snoring and when I asked for help, he complained how hard he works and that he should be entitled to sleep in on his day off. What a double standard! So, by noon, I probably let him have it three times. Then, my younger brother calls because he in town and needs me to take him a hundred different places. Then, my mom calls and needs me to take her places too. Meanwhile, I can barely make lunch for my kids and I am in a crappy mood. My ten year old is whining that his friends are riding their bikes to the park that is two miles away and he should be allowed to go. My home looked like Fort Knox even though I was cleaning from 7 am to 7 pm the day before. (Where are the booze and why did I quit smoking?)

By 2 pm, the day had taken a toll on me. My toddler was refusing to nap, my ten year old still complaining about going out with his friends, cleaning Fort Knox, my mom and brother calling every ten minutes, and my husband grumbling because I was complaining. Then, finally the tears came. I closed the door in my toddler’s room, sat behind it and starting crying. At that moment I realized that everyone wanted me to give them time that I did not have. When I calmed down, I told my ten year old to get ready and got my toddler dressed. I took them out to lunch (without the grumpy, needs his beauty sleep, husband), then to the bookstore, and to a few other places at a local outdoor strip mall. I called my brother and my mother told them that I was busy and they needed to leave me alone.

For whatever reason, my family thinks I am capable even when I tell them I am not. I am chronically ill and Rheumatoid Arthritis and fibromyalgia are a part of my daily life. I have a long time ignored the fact that there are people in my life, including family, who question whether I am really as sick as I say I am. Some think my problems are in my head and others think I am sick by choice to avoid having to do things like helping out and social events. Yesterday proved that ignoring the situation and the people doesn’t make the problem go away.

The pressure to appear healthy and well exists in all of our lives. Others expect us to somehow be “healthy” and “well” simply because they think we should be and because they are. I am tired of trying to please everyone and having my health pay. I am learning everyday the price that my health pays when I fall into the pressure of trying to appear well and healthy. I don’t want to pretend to be healthy and well; I want to be healthy and well. 

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9 thoughts on “The Pressure to Appear Healthy and Well

  1. Stop pretending. For one week, let everyone who comes into contact with you know exactly how you feel.Oh and I'm glad you said no to mom and brother. Do it more often.

  2. I am sorry you had such a rough weekend. :(I know for myself that RA has been good for me in that I have had to decide what my limits will be and stand by them. Each day is different and we have to have in our own minds what we are willing to accept and stop there. We have to be good to ourselves.

  3. I catch myself complaining out loud sometimes. I worry that I will eventually do it when someone is around. Crazy huh? trying to keep up the image that nothing is wrong.I don't know how you do it day after day. I know you have to and we can push ourselves to do what we need to but … damn, too bad our family members can't have RA for 1 day just to see what everyday is like for us.I agree with you, I want to be healthy once again!

  4. Good for you, telling people "no" when their requests aren't reasonable!I'm sorry you had such a crummy weekend, and sorry that your dh isn't more supportive. Hang in there!

  5. Dee, Honestly, I know that I cannot do it all. I just everyone would believe me but I guess telling me off works well too. :)Cathy – Thanks for visiting. Our conditions are going to worse and we will have good and bad days, but sometimes, it take a reality check for us to stand up to others about what we are feeling.Terry – I wish that our families could understand and I think a lot of it has to do with whether we appear well and healthy. We spend so much trying to appear well because we are expected to and we forget that we aren’t healthy.Warm Socks – I generally don’t say no but I can’t stop everything that I am doing whether I feel like crap or not to satisfy everyone. And I can’t change my husband. He was lazy when I married him; the difference is I wasn’t sick.

  6. Lana, I can totally relate to this whole post. One other thing I have noticed that really irks me though about relatives is that even though I am sick and have kids and am busy like everyone else. I still take the time to see how they are doing and check in on them and when people being friends/family say they will call me or come by, I think wow they must care…. then I am brought down by the fact that some of the same people who always want me to listen to them never call me, end up making plans with me then cancelling last minute with no reason. Its disheartening. Makes you feel like to some people you dont really matter at all.Can you relate to this at all?

  7. Nessie, Thanks for stopping by. I think that when you are this sick, you have to learn how to say no regardless of who you are saying it too.Anonymous, I have come across this myself. They treat the situation as a game or as if they are mocking us. What I have learned as a result is that there are people that really matter and those are your children and your top priority. She need to change the way you forward to people or they will continue to treat you this way. Believe me, I know.

  8. Lana, I agree with you…my daughters think I’m a 24 hour babysitter. Now, I tell them I’m not. That’s good you told your brother and mom your busy…you need too have your “YOU TIME”. I’ve been doing a lot of my “YOU TIME” for my insanity. The Lord has told me too have your “YOU TIME” as long you want…cause I’m here for you.So have your peace of mind for you…okay!!!

    Love Your Fibromyalgia Friend,
    Sandra Cortez

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