This weekend I finally got out of the house. I ended up completely butts exhausted from it all, but I’ve been fighting the same sinus crap and hoping that the antibiotics are working (only to wake up this morning with a nasty sore throat) and I decided to get out and have some fun. I was lucky enough to see some old friends there and got to have a catch-up, but I also ran into someone from my days in reenactment.
I was quite taken aback at our brief exchange. We’ve known each other as acquaintances for almost 6 years now and I make no secret of my disability nor my mobility aids, so to have someone with such a bullshit attitude about it all really irritated in a way I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Bearing in mind, by this point I was on my way to exit the event. I was limping quite heavily and leaning on the cane a lot and thinking about nothing but getting home to bed.
Tool: “Why on earth do you have a cane?”
Me: (flatly) “Because I’m a cripple.”
Tool: “I call bullshit!”
Me: “… I’m sorry, what?”
Tool: “Since when?! I’ve never seen you with a cane before.”
Me: “Since always. I’ve had it with me at every camp* and event I’ve been to.”
Tool: “Well, I’ve never seen it before.”
*Every medieval camp I’ve been to, I’ve needed my cane by the time the evening kicks around. I don’t make a fuss of it. It’s just an extension of myself these days.
Their tone of voice was very accusatory and disbelieving, like I had suddenly grown a third arm just to spite them. I wasn’t expecting anything like that, especially from someone who has known me in the past. I think the bit that confounded me was the fact that I make no secret of needing my cane, nor do I make a secret of being sick. It almost seemed like their reaction seemed to say “Well, I wasn’t informed, so you’re not validated in being ill”. It’s probably an overreaction on my part, but something about what was said triggered instant rage on my part. I don’t know whether it was the fact that he was just an insensitive prick, the assumption that I’m faking sick for shits and/or giggles and attention or something I haven’t quite put my finger on yet, but I’ve spent the last two days brewing about it in my quiet moments.
I feel that, in instances like this, it should be entirely legal to pimp hand the shit out of the stupid.
The perception of illness also brings me to another point that’s been on my mind a lot this morning: Short term/new pain versus old/chronic pain.
Over the years I’ve seen a few friends of mine have accidents, break bones and generally get hit with the nastier side of life when it comes to pain. What always has me curious is how people react to it, especially on social mediums like Facebook. Now, this has nothing to do with the ‘attention’ raised from an issue, but more the general reactions over time. This can also apply to any long term or chronic issue, be it pain, depression and mental health or general malaise.
First and foremost here is that pain sucks. It really, really does, regardless of who’s experiencing it and for how long. But what I always find interesting is that, if you take an otherwise healthy person and they end up in pain (whether it’s short or long term), people kick up a stink. there’s a massive furor about how unfair it is and how they’re thinking of the person. There’s messages that they should stay strong and that it will pass and everything will be okay. There is generally some kind of outpouring of well-wishes, regardless of how big or small.
If we skip forward a few years and that one person is still in pain of one kind or another, the universal reaction is that it’s become old-hat. They still have the few usual friends offering support, but the uproar and discontent at the situation has died to a dull roar. It’s no longer a matter for outrage at the injustice, but becomes something that ‘just is’. The person going through the issue doesn’t suffer any less, but their suffering becomes commonplace. It’s something you expect. It’s something that you can’t change, so what was once this vociferous show of solidarity becomes a “well, you know we’re here” from the back seat.
Suddenly getting up and facing the reality of the situation, day after day, gets hard. You know what to expect. You know what’s coming and what you’re going to face. You just don’t have the crowd cheering you on from the seats, just the memory of the support you had when you first got sick.
Go and hug a chronic kitty. It doesn’t matter if they’ve been dealing with shit a week or eighteen years. Give them a gentle hug and let them know you’re thinking of them. It doesn’t matter if their illness is mental or physical or emotional. It doesn’t matter whether you can see it or not. Go and give them a hug. Write them a letter. Send them a message. Let them know they have their own personal army cheering for them on the hardest days ❤