I Wanted To Be Sick

In more ways than one!

For the longest time I actually wanted to be sick.  I know I’m not meant to say that, but it’s true.

Not more mental illness, I wanted to be really sick.  I wanted a physical illness that could be seen and that could be put down to something going wrong in my body.  I was tired of this overwhelming sense that my mental illness was my fault, it was all in my head,  and so it wasn’t a real illness.

During the time that I have had a diagnosed mental illness, most of that time that illness was described as Major Depressive Disorder.  Depression.  There was a big part of me that said it was just an excuse.  I just couldn’t pull myself together.  It didn’t help when people said all I needed was… and that sentence could be completed with a man, a baby, a job…

Seriously people thought that if I had those things, everything would be okay.  No wonder I wondered for myself whether this was real.  Let me say that had I had those things I suspect I would have killed the baby (yes, really), killed myself to get away from the man (well, yes I tried that more than once), and the job?  I couldn’t have got myself a job if I tried.

I stopped eating when I became depressed and eventually I was diagnosed with Anorexia.  And that actually felt better.  It was something that could be seen and it definitely wasn’t something that would be solved with a baby (not possible considering my body weight and lack of ovulation), a man or a job.  The weird thing was that even though I was skin and bone (literally), and I looked awful, people continued to tell me how good I looked.  The most compliments I ever got about my appearance was while I was Anorexic.  There was nothing good about how I looked but some people think any weight loss is good.  The only problem is that Anorexia (or any eating disorder for that matter) is not about weight loss.  That’s just the by-product.

So I went back to wanting a physical illness.  It didn’t matter what.  A cast on my leg would do, anything that would show I was sick.  It didn’t happen.

Fast forward a few years and I have physical illnesses. In 2010 I was diagnosed with an auto-immune condition, Graves’ Disease, which mostly affects the thyroid, heart and the eyes.  That was caused by spending too many years taking lithium, and unfortunately a doctor who forgot (for a while) to check my thyroid and lithium levels.  I felt so sick that it really didn’t occur to me that I now had my physical illness.

Then last year came the symptoms of Fibromyalgia.  It wasn’t diagnosed until March of this year and one of the problems I had was that nothing could be seen.  It wasn’t until I convinced my doctor to send me to a Rheumatologist that I got a diagnosis.  Having the diagnosis helped me feel like this was actually real, but still it’s not something you can see, so how would one know whether it was real?

I know it’s real.  I know that I am in pain all the time, that I am incredibly tired all the time, that I have unexplained rashes on my body, I am dizzy for no reason and more.  There are lots of things I know, but I still struggle to know whether anyone else thinks it’s real and will accept that I am sick.

I read an interesting article from FibroTV called When Emotional Pain Turns Into Physical Pain.  It tied up with what I’ve been thinking for a while now.  They say that Fibromyalgia is often caused by some sort of trauma, they also say it can be brought on by an auto-immune disease (like Graves’).

So I find I’m back to denying that my emotional pain is of value and is significant.  If the trauma theory is correct then I suspect that my Fibro comes from the trauma of our earthquakes in 2010/11 and my father’s death shortly after.  It’s interesting that I have never felt so physically exhausted as I did the day Dad died and I had to do CPR on him for 20 minutes, while waiting for the ambulance to get through a city blocked by earthquake damage.

If you’ve ever had to do CPR you’ll know that it is exhausting and that 20 minutes is a long time.  I have run 20 kilometres before (several times) and hadn’t felt so exhausted.  What I’m driving at is that it wasn’t just the emotional trauma but the physical trauma of that day.  But you know I’m still back to the realisation that my physical difficulties from fibro are perhaps caused by emotional pain, and to be honest I hate that.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with the ‘joys’ of fibro, it involves periods of worsened pain, fatigue, and what’s known as fibro fog (my brain doesn’t operate properly and feels like I’m trying to move it through a thick fog of resistance).  These are called flare-up’s.  My experience is that sometimes I can predict these coming on, and sometimes it’s just a case of waking up in the morning and discovering you’re in the middle of one.  Interestingly the first flare-up that I had (after I was diagnosed and knew what was going on) was at Easter this year.  The significance of it was that it was also the anniversary of Dad’s death.  I hadn’t done anything physically to bring on the flare up, like more exercise than normal, for example.  I spent the five days of the flare-up adamantly denying that the anniversary had anything to do with it.

Some weeks later I had another flare-up.  I crawled to my therapist, determined to keep an appointment I would have to pay for regardless of whether I was there, and came to the eventual conclusion that actually there was some emotional reasoning that could be given to that flare-up too.

As I’ve explained before I am unable to take medication for my fibro, nor am I able to afford alternative treatments.  If this pain and sickness, which is far from pleasant, is caused by emotional pain, what I am going to have to do is work through it with my therapist.  But to be honest, I’m having a hard job accepting that.  If this is caused by emotional pain I trust my therapist to be able to help me but it’s weird.  Getting my head around feeling so bad physically because of my emotions is really hard when I’ve spent nearly 20 years struggling to accept emotion anyway.

Does that make sense?  It’s like a whole new way of thinking for me.  It doesn’t help that I’m looking over my shoulder waiting for my friends and family to say “all she needs is a baby, man,  or job”.  I’m convinced they’re going to say it.  Maybe not the baby.  Hopefully they’ll accept I’m too old for that but only recently I was told to get a job and everything would be alright.  Somehow I have to accept for myself that actually it’s okay to be sick, and no, I might not have that cast on my leg, but I am in sick.

I’m coming to the conclusion that this attitude of mine is a kind of stigma.  Now it’s not just against mental illness but also physical illness.  I struggle to accept that it is okay to be sick, when no one can see what is causing the pain.  In my head, I can tell myself this is okay for anyone else in the same boat.  But accepting it for myself is so hard, but if I want to reduce stigma, I’m going to have to start with myself.  I have to accept that it’s not only okay to have a mental illness but it’s also okay to have an invisible physical illness.

After all, when a stone is dropped into a pond, the water continues
quivering even after the stone has sunk to the bottom.” 

― Arthur Golden,    Memoirs of a Geisha


21 thoughts on “I Wanted To Be Sick

  1. I wish that you didn’t have all this pain sweety. It is terrible that you can;t even get meds for relief. I wrote a post about Fibromyalgia because I wanted to understand it. A lot of my friends on here suffer with it. But I remember it talked about how it is connected to mental illness sometimes. But they don’t know if it happens just because you are dealing with the illness and it is affecting you mentally. So nothing is definite yet. I have prayed for you and I will again 🙂

  2. I’m so sorry that you are dealing with all of this. The pain that you describe sounds so difficult to have to live with. You stated, “It didn’t help when people said all I needed was… and that sentence could be completed with a man, a baby, a job…” This really hits home for me as it has been the same told to me at times from family. I’ve been told to just get a job and it will fix it all. I’ve been told just go out with friends and have fun and I’ll feel better. People who say those things are not only frustrating, but sorely misinformed. I’m sorry that you have had to deal with those recommendations being thrown at you too. That is the last thing you need when going through what you deal with daily. You have a lot of strength for sure! However, I can definitely understand how those comments would make it even harder to accept that it’s ok to have an illness of any kind. I send well wishes your way, and just as Carla said, I will also keep you in my prayers. 🙂 Take care!

    1. Thanks Summer. Yes those sorts of comments are so annoying but also so damaging, and the people behind them have no idea how much damage the are doing. If only those things would cure us! Wouldn’t it be great? But yes, people so sorely need to learn to keep their opinions to themselves and just offer compassion.

    1. Thank you. I go on the basis that if I feel this way then probably someone else does too. And if we know that someone else feels a similar way it somehow can lighten the burden.

    1. Thanks. Yes, I think it can be more easily understood and sadly, more acceptable. But then if it can’t be seen anyway it’s hard to understand for all of us.

  3. ...But She's Crazy

    Oh, Cate…I wish I could wrap you up in a the beauty and love in the universe and take *all* your pain away! Now that I mention it, I’d probably join you in there because that sounds lovely. Plus, good company never hurts. 🙂

    I really get the desire for concrete, visible illness. I’ve felt that way myself on countless occasions. There’s a certain validity afforded irrefutable physical illness that is all too often not given to honest and immense emotional/mental illness. Plus, after living with unbearable emotional pain, sometimes the physical alternative seems far more preferable. I suppose that’s part of the reason some of us have taken to causing ourselves bodily harm. If only the world, the people in our lives, understood how very real and often debilitating psychic pain is and how very strong the mind-body connection functions.

    I’m so sorry you’re nor in a position to pursue more medicative/physical treatments for your fibro. If I came down with it, I’d be in the same position, too. But maybe it’s for the best that you’re tackling it from a psychological perspective. All the reading I’ve done on mindfulness (oh god…here she goes again with that mindfulness crap…) talks about how we store our emotions, particularly the unresolved ones, in our bodies and that can create genuine physical suffering. I believe there’s more than a little validity to that idea. So I’m glad you’re working on this with your therapist. I hope you are able to exorcise some of you emotional demons and release some negative energy that’s harming your body. Truly, I wish you health and wellness in all arenas.

    Thanks for the terrific post, Cate, and take good care of you. You are so very much valued and loved by those of us reading. ❤

    1. Thanks Eileen. It’s so nice to know that other people get this and actually I think you’re quite right about why perhaps some of us end up in a pattern of creating our own physical pain. I should say I never once went “og god, here she goes again” LOL as I read, but rather I am actually coming to the conclusion that mindfulness and meditation make a lot of sense. That said, I’m terrible for not naming things by their correct name. What I mean is that from what I’ve read I actually practise mindfulness regularly, but I never call it that. It’s just what I do. LOL. I really hope that makes sense or else your will be thinking I am totally ridiculous. 😉

  4. NZ Cate, sorry to hear about what you are going through. I hope you feel better soon! I just stopped by to say congrats on your nomination for the Versatile Blogger award!

  5. There are so many things that stood out for me here.

    I wanted a physical illness that could be seen and that could be put down to something going wrong in my body.

    There have been various periods of time throughout the course of my illness that I felt very much the same. I wanted some kind of illness or wound that was visible, just so others could see that I was hurting so much. Here’s the deal with that. I ended up with cervical cancer and had to have two different surgeries. And still, even though people knew that I was sick and I was impaired, it didn’t inspire them to be any nicer to me. They would offer help in the first few days after these surgeries, but mostly, I was on my own. It really complicated things.

    I was really sick after I had my son. After a long, hard pregnancy, I ended up with severe anemia after having him. I was bed bound most of the time, just because I barely had any energy to take care of my kid. People helped for awhile, for the sake of my kid. And after that, I was once again on my own.

    People seemed to think that I could heal from even physical wounds in an amount of time that even a superhuman would be unable to do it in. The fact of the matter is that people are selfish, inconsiderate bastards. It didn’t matter how much I was physically or emotionally tortured. It didn’t matter that there was distinct possibilities could have had serious health effects. It doesn’t matter that I’m fairly young and have problems with my heart and blood sugar. And sometimes that’s really hard, because it makes me feel like there are people close to me that value my life even less than I do. That’s saying a lot sometimes.

    It didn’t help when people said all I needed was… and that sentence could be completed with a man, a baby, a job…

    That is really backward thinking. It’s not to say that I don’t love my husband, my baby, and my job. They are very rewarding in their own ways. I love my boys, and I care for the children that I work with. But, that doesn’t fix me. It doesn’t even really put a band-aid on it. Some days, admittedly, I only get up to take care of my son and not to disappoint the children at work.

    But mostly, when I’m not in my right mind, they are stressors on my already fragile framework. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change it for the world. But, to tell another person that certain things will “fulfill” them and make them “better”, it’s just straight out lying. A person that says those things is a person who really doesn’t know what they are talking about.

    It’s awful to hear about physical and emotional pain that just can’t manifest in a way that can be fixed. But, I’m glad that you’re on the road to acceptance.

    1. Thanks Lulu. I think you’re quite right about the world being full of miserable, selfish bastards and I’m realising that physical or mental illness, you’re still subject to the lack of compassion that exists.

      Somehow for me there was something in a physical illness that I thought would justify my reason for feeling pain. I couldn’t just pull myself together. But I’m learning that actually whatever type of pain, it is still a lonely road.

      Thanks for your comments. 🙂

      1. Yeah, I feel the same way. Like it would justify all of the illness I was feeling. In reality, every single time I get anything more than a cold, I get kind of whacky. I had pneumonia last summer and didn’t know it. I walked around on it for four weeks, just thinking I was tired because I was depressed. It turns out that it was the other way around.

        I try to keep my body fit so that I can focus on my mind. That’s truly what is ill.

  6. Pingback: Demolishing Stigma | Infinite Sadness… or hope?

I would love your feedback...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s