Monday, February 17, 2014

I don't want sympathy, just help.

As most of you will know by now, I have some health issues. Well, a lot of health issues; at 33, my daily prescribed pill count (when things are going as they ought, which at the moment is not entirely the case) is 9 pills. Five to adjust my brain in various ways, and 4 to allow my body to avoid tearing itself apart.

And for all the pill-popping, sometimes I go out and have to deal with being visibly disabled. It's mild, but it's there; I sometimes have to use a cane to help me walk. Normally, I present as a relatively healthy youngish man, and so people see me using the cane and assume it's a transitory thing. I'm frequently asked if I've suffered a sports injury.

And that's where the trouble starts, because I'm now forced into discussing my medical history with strangers. I can be churlish and impolite, refusing to discuss why I need a cane; but this upsets people. I can fake it, pretending it's a sports injury; but I dislike lying. I can be honest, and say that I have arthritis; and that's the option I take most often, despite my distaste for the inevitable result.

Every single time, when someone finds out I have arthritis, the response is along the lines of "but you're so young!" Yes, I am aware that osteoarthritis at age 33 is uncommon, but that doesn't change the fact that I have it. All you're doing by saying that is making me feel ashamed of something I cannot control. I wouldn't have chosen arthritis; no sane person would choose a life of impaired mobility and constant pain.

I have similar issues if I have to go out while suffering effects of migraine, or side-effects of the medication I take to defuse them. I'm invariably looking unwell in those circumstances, and people will insist on trying to be sympathetic, usually by rattling off a huge list of helpful suggestions, of which I've invariably tried all the sensible ones and the nonsense ones are so incredibly off the wall that I can't imagine why people would bother.

I am, in fact, fed up to the back teeth with people offering sympathy. I have health issues; they suck; if you're willing, I'd accept your help in dealing with the consequences of said issues. Such as, if you're limber, fetching me up a jar of pickled jalapenos from the bottom shelf, because bending down is going to be excruciating for me. Or turning the music down so I'm not having to strain to hear while my brain is full of rotted wood. Words may cost nothing to you, but that means they're no fit substitute for deeds. If you must talk about my medical status in public, keep it to a "how can I help?"

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