Imagine if we could see the emotional pain and scars represented on the skin of those around us. Festering, oozing, open sores on the skin of souls still trapped in their pain and black and blue bruises covering the bodies of those beginning to heal.
What about those with scars? Some may hide scars, embarrassed by their pain and past struggle, even though they had to be so very strong to survive. Those with scars that show, uncovered in the sun, for all to see might be the strongest of all. These are the scars of people who were strong enough to survive, heal, and continue living despite their past.
How different would we relate to people if we could see their internal pain? How different would we present ourselves if our past was visible on our skin?
I found Spoon Theory at a time in my life when I refused to listen to my body. When I was sick, exhausted, and in intense pain, I’d take a pill and carry on. Sounds brave, doesn’t it? Ignorant is a better word to describe my behavior during that time.
Pushing myself and ignoring my body served only to increase the number and severity of my symptoms. Eventually, the pills stopped working, and I was left bedridden. Budgeting my time and energy and learning to listen to my body allows me to be more productive than ever before.
I know for a fact that if I had a traditional “physical disease,” with outwardly visible symptoms, people in my life would be more understanding. For some reason, crippling depression, complex PTSD, and chronic migraine that not only offers blinding pain but impaired cognitive function are “all in my head,” and I should be able to “get over it.”
My family would not be embarrassed or disappointed in me because of my illnesses. My boss and co-workers may not have accused me of “faking it to get out of work,” and maybe I’d still have my job. But I don’t have a traditional “visible disease,” so I must work harder to heal and overcome the stigma others, with no concept of my ailments, place upon me.
Learning about Spoon Theory changed my life and made it livable. I’ve always been the kind of person who pushed through any illness or pain to get the job done. When I became chronically ill, this attitude only exacerbated my condition. I’ve had to change my outlook on life, learn to say “No,” and maintain a schedule to accomplish what is most important. No matter how much I want to, there are things I will not do because the consequences outweigh the benefit.
Chronic migraine brought me to my knees, and I have no desire to return to that position. Some days I feel good and energetic, ready to take on the world, but my body has limits and forces me to adjust. Instead of pushing through it, I must slow down and rest, or the consequences will be severe and painful.
The slowing down is a dance, and I am still learning steps to a new way to face life because pushing through the pain, no matter what, was how I always confronted challenges in life. I’ve learned that there is no use in overexerting myself because it leaves me in bed with agonizing pain for days afterward. Conservation and the careful use of precious resources is a priority for this new phase of my life.
I was sick for so many years at work my co-workers never saw me healthy. I was heavily medicated just to function in a partial capacity because of chronic migraines. When the medications stopped working, and the side effects became overwhelming, my dear co-workers thought I was faking illness.
Understanding chronic pain is almost impossible for those without going through the experience. Many times the chronic pain does more than just hurt causing cognitive impairment and changes in brain function. Some people fake illness for personal gain but I gained nothing but more pain and a new struggle – complete financial devastation.
Take your negative emotions and resentment about me missing work out of the equation, and you will see I had no reason to fake my illness and pain. When I was at my most desperate, you abandoned me. Someday you may experience an invisible illness, and I hope those in your life support you. I don’t wish for anyone to suffer the same kind of betrayal I did from all of you.