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'Other People'

Despite trying my absolute best not to, I occasionally feel those painful pangs of jealousy towards ‘healthy’ people. I absentmindedly wonder how it must feel to go through your day not consumed with thoughts of illness. Not to feel some constant form of physical discomfort and mental anxiety. It must be so... easy.

OK I know that’s not entirely true. Everyone is fighting their own internal battle blah blah blah, but not everyone is ‘fighting’ an illness alongside it. Most people of course, have stresses and worries and anxieties and they deal with those as best they can, but thank-fully without the addition of a chronic illness messing with them physically too.

I wonder from time to time what it felt like not to be sick. I think back to my teens when I was undiagnosed and how I always felt a little ‘off’. Never something I could ever put my finger on but I knew that something within me wasn’t quite ‘right’. But I didn’t have masses of symptoms, life wasn’t unmanageable, I lived a pretty run of the mill youth. I fell in and out of love, I went out dancing, I cultivated wonderful friendships, I studied hard (sometimes not so hard) and achieved success in my career.  When I eventually became seriously ill priorities and my life changed almost overnight. Suddenly mere survival eclipsed any frivolous life of fun I might have planned for the coming months and years ahead.

But now, living with chronic illness on a daily-basis, life is vastly different. My condition(s) need to be factored into my every move. That doesn’t allow for a massive amount of freedom as you can imagine. This isn’t something I’m looking for any form of sympathy for you understand, its merely to express what it involves to adapt to life as a sick person. So, when I think of outsiders who don’t live with health issues I feel a tad envious and it’s difficult not to. It makes me feel guilty because naturally I don’t want anyone else to experience this type of life, but its frustrating feeling unable to express something to someone who may genuinely never understand it. Much like me with Maths.

Of course, you may be thinking why does it matter? Live your own life and stop worrying about what other people think. Be you because everyone else is taken. Reach for the stars etc. Well good for you, that’s a great attitude and one day I see you as the new inspirational meme on the block, but my answer to you would be thus: other people are everywhere. They are unavoidable, and as I can personally do nothing to aid the worlds’ population problems, I must coexist with ‘other people’ daily. It’s a cross we all must bear.

Throughout my sickly career my vast research of other people has lead me to the conclusion that as far as some are concerned your illness and all it entails will never be anything more than a speck on their windscreen. That’s fine, I by no means expect everyone and their Aunt Jean to give a toss about the state of my health, but I do expect just a little consideration from those who have a more daily insight into my life. This is often a dream akin to my ‘Kitten Island’ (trademark pending) – unachievable and laden with complications.

I’ve established the most difficult ‘healthy’ people to deal with are the dismissive ones, or maybe even worse are who I like to call the problem-solvers. Those who dismiss your illness through lack of understanding; if they don’t have any grasp on what we describe then it doesn’t exist and that’s their comfort zone. Much like me with Maths. Then there are those who try to offer countless solutions to your problem without it having any real basis in fact or knowledge. Potential cures are flung at us like snowballs filled with bricks – a quick fix to end the conversation abruptly and go back to talking about something they can understand and maybe even care about. Probably Maths, knowing other people.

It’s easy for me to sit here and complain about these other healthy people, sometimes it’s hard not to when we feel we are not accepted, pitied or simply ignored. But the truth is, most of them are just trying their best. Most of them are trying to offer words of comfort without any way of knowing the depths of our pain or suffering, and that’s kind. That’s all patients expect, a little kindness. It’s something we are all capable of, isn’t that wonderful? Kindness is in all of us; it’s visible when you smile at me rather than scowl when I pass you in a hospital ward, it’s there when you ask me how I am and maintain a look of genuine interest for upwards of 30 seconds, and its present when you are. You just need to choose it.

Kathleen NichollsComment