Tuesday, 21 June 2011

You'll get better, won't you?

Every so often, I find myself tied up in knots by a conversation that goes along these lines :

What's wrong with your knees / feet / hips / legs ?
I have a joint problem / connective tissue disorder / my joints are too bendy / mind your own business
Oh, are they sore?
You will get better won't you? / How long until you can stop using the stick? / You're too young to have joint problems
[Mumble something incoherent]

I know they "mean well" but can't people engage their brain before they open their mouthes. What am I supposed to say? No sorry, I won't get better, I'll probably just get slowly worse. Or, I'm sorry, I didn't realise 23 was too young, I'll stow my stick away for 60 years shall I?. Or, I'm sorry that my condition upsets you.

What do they expect me to say? How can it "not be fair"? It's my life, who "deserves" it more or less than me?

My friends get to say these things to me, my family. I'm not selfish enough to think that I'm the only person who has to deal with this, and I'm not arrogant enough to tell them how to deal with it. It's a really big deal.

But strangers or vague acquaintances - people on the bus, patients, folk at church, bored med students - please, think. When you think this stuff out loud I am obliged to make it seem alright. To say Oh, it's not so bad, you get used to it, actually the stick really helps. You oblige me to make it something simple, manageable, put-in-a-box-able.

And it's hard to do that, because it's my life. This isn't just about using a stick, it's about a condition that has changed my whole life. It's not all negative, not all the changes are bad - but it has changed my whole life.

It's not like you're stuck for options. Maybe try that must be hard / oh, I hadn't realised / your stick is AWESOME (because it is), or even just OK.

Just, y'know, I've had to reassure 4 complete strangers today. About my health. And that's really tiring.

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