I’m not liberal enough for Democrats or conservative enough for Republicans. I’m not Christian enough for Christians, but I’m Christian enough to have atheists and agnostics mock me. I’m smart enough to have been accepted into Mensa and to possess a near-genius-level IQ, but I’m not smart enough that people meet me and immediately notice my intelligence. I wear too many designer labels for some people’s tastes, but I don’t own enough of it — or the “right” labels — to be accepted into other circles. I am strong enough to work out almost daily, but I’m not athletic enough to run even a 5K.
I have more than enough tattoos for some people’s tastes, but my dainty tattoos are a complete joke to others. They’re not cool enough, not meaningful enough, not intricate enough, not big enough. I’m too philosophical for some of my peers, too eccentric, too “nerdy,” too into fashion, too obsessed with pop culture. But for other people? Nope. I’m not philosophical enough or unique enough; I’m not truly a nerd, truly a fashionista, truly a real fan of pop culture. I’m successful enough that many people would call me successful. I’m not successful enough to always feel super successful. My charity work is respected by many, but it isn’t taken seriously enough by others. The love I have for my pets is admired by a lot of people — but my pets aren’t ENOUGH in their eyes because I don’t yet have children.
The one that gets me, the most, though, is the old conundrum of “sick enough.” I’m sick enough to have required brain surgery, neck surgery, knee surgeries, and infusions, I’m sick enough — or have been sick enough — for medical leaves of absences from jobs, for doctor’s excuses to go into school late or miss a class here and there, and to have had to have taken dangerous medications. I’m sick enough to have qualified for a handicapped parking pass, sick enough to have undergone multiple biopsies, sick enough to have been hospitalized more times in one year than some people ever will.
But, because I don’t “look” sick, because I’m not sick all day every day, and because I live a full, thriving life, people think I’m not sick enough to TRULY have real health problems. I’m able to exercise, so I’m not sick enough. I have a positive attitude, so how could I be sick enough to REALLY have any problems? I do things. I contribute. I stay interested. I stay involved. So, I can’t be sick enough to give advice to other sick people, right?
Believe it or not, I’ve had people leave me comments on this very blog telling me that I must not be sick. I must not know what it’s like to have rheumatoid arthritis, I must not have it badly enough to TRULY understand. The fact that I’ve had it for 20 years and that it has imposed a plethora of problems and limitations on my life since a very young age doesn’t seem to matter to them, because they see me doing pretty well (after years of suffering,) and, to the naysayers, that means i’m not really sick enough to know what I’m talking about.
But I do.
I may be doing well, but I’ve been there. I’ve been sick enough to be stared at while at the mall because I’m walking with a limp, and made fun of in high school for the very same thing. I’ve been sick enough to have to cancel plans with friends. Sick enough to have to make sacrifices. Sick enough to have had multiple stitches, needle sticks weekly, the use of crutches, rides in a wheelchair, more MRIs and X-rays than I can count, and, had I kept them, a collection of (hospital) bracelets that could rival the bracelet section at Tiffany’s. I’ve been sick enough to have to get off an airplane while on a tarmac and quite literally about to depart, (that was embarrassing,) to have had to leave work or school early, to have been to hospitals in other states, and to have considered bedazzling some hospital masks of my own to wear around during cold & flu season. I’m not saying I’m sicker than you, or anyone in particular. It isn’t a competition for me, but, it does make me question what is “enough?”
How sick does a person have to be before they are considered sick enough for the general public to take notice or understand? When does one become sick enough for their friends, family, colleagues, and peers to really “get it?” How sick does someone have to be before their doctors take them more seriously? What is sick “enough?”
And when is “enough” enough?
We’re never going to be perfect; we’re never going to be good enough for everybody, or liked enough by everybody. But why can’t we just let who we are be ENOUGH? Enough for the world, enough for ourselves?
There is too much focus on where we all differ, instead of on our commonalities. Maybe political folks should accept that I see viewpoints from both Democrats and Republicans, and that’s why I’m registered Independent. Maybe they should focus on where we agree, instead of where we disagree. Maybe Christians can appreciate that I have an interest in science, and maybe non-believers can accept that I believe that science and spirituality can and should peacefully coexist. Maybe we could have beautiful discussions about this topic, and maybe both sides could learn that science and religion needn’t be mutually exclusive. Just maybe. Maybe my fellow Mensans can get to know me; maybe my fellow fashionistas would commiserate instead of compete. Maybe people will accept that for now, my pets are my kids, and maybe they can accept that the situation may change at any time … but for now, it’s enough.
Most of all, maybe my fellow “spoonies,” “rheumies,” and “lupies” will stop comparing our illnesses and conditions. Maybe we can focus on what similar difficulties we face or have faced, instead of picking apart the differences. We should celebrate our unique journeys, and learn from one another. We should bond with each other over the struggles that we face, that others may never fully understand. And that should be enough.
No one should be bullied, or made to feel they aren’t enough. And people toss around that word carelessly: “bullied.” But the truth is, bullying is real. Believe it or not, I’ve dealt with it myself since middle school, and, at age 30, still do today. From girls who called me a slut and a whore when I got on the school bus, who threw gum in my hair, who started untrue rumors about me, and mocked my clothes, to boys who made fun of my limp and my once-crooked teeth. After middle and high school, I at times still dealt with some “mean girls” who would gossip behind my back, spread lies, and purposefully leave me out of things. At my last full-time job, I even overheard a co-worker talk badly about me — and that’s when I was in the office. What did she say when I was telecommuting? And with almost every blog I write, every tweet I post, and every message I share online, I get Negative Nancies, Debbie Downers, and, yes, straight-up bullies looking to tear me down. From messages telling me I’m ugly, to people telling me what to write and not write, to trolls leaving hateful comments telling me I’m not really sick, that I’m a mindless sheep and a pawn of Big Pharma (even though I do things mostly holistically,) to a guy telling me “good luck at the butcher shop” as I prepared to head into brain surgery, I’ve seen and read it all.
An incident today reminded me even more how utterly terrible and destructive bullying can be for both sides — and it brought back some unwelcome memories, too. (Incidentally, today was also Day of Pink, an anti-bullying day in Canada. Here in the United States, October is the month for bullying awareness.) This morning in Pennsylvania, a 16-year-old male student, who was allegedly bullied, sought his retaliation by stabbing and slashing 20 individuals at his high school just 15 miles outside of Pittsburgh, where I live. Luckily, though some of the injuries could have been fatal, all were treated in time and are in recovery, and the suspect was arrested and charged as he should be. Justice will hopefully prevail, but, the whole thing is sure to start a larger conversation, and, in my opinion, one that needs to be had.
The incident reminded me of something I dealt with in high school — which now seems like ages ago. When I was a sophomore, I found myself and some of my friends on a credible “hit list” of another student. A teacher overheard him threaten to kill me specifically, and by name. When further investigated, a blog of his was found also threatening teachers and faculty, and a search of his locker was incriminating enough to send him to a juvenile detention center … and all of us to court. In hindsight, the “what could have been?” of the situation is a heck of a lot scarier than it was at the time. Back then, I was naive to how dangerous and volatile of a situation that could have been, and school violence wasn’t as prevalent, despite Columbine having been a couple of years earlier. The great irony of it all was that I always genuinely liked the student, and, through the process and the fallout, I felt bad for him, despite it all. He may have felt ostracized by a certain group or bullied by certain people, but I was surely not one of them, and, in fact, little did he know, I was being bullied, too. As life would have it, he ended up back at our school years later, and we became friendly acquaintances, and grew to realize that we actually had more in common than not, and were probably being bullied or ostracized by the very same people. I’ve thought of this individual fairly often since then, and am sure that he’s grown into a normal, well-adjusted young man — at least I hope so. But to think that being bullied or made to somehow feel “not enough” drove him to write and say those things, and that, had another week, or even day gone by, that the results could have been vastly different for all of us? It is chilling to even think about, and I’m grateful that the school did a decent job of crisis prevention and keeping all of our names out of the media.
I’m certainly not defending people who commit acts of violence. My husband and many of my friends are teachers, and I’m asking them all the time what kinds of protocols they have in place to prevent both bullying and school violence. And my heart breaks for all who are victims of either. But, my point is that, sadly, these kinds of kids (and adults) are not always “caught” in time. At some point, sometimes the bullied become the bullies: and often they become bullies who are yielding weapons and a vengeance. It’s sad, and it’s scary, and it’s time to rethink the conversation that we, as a nation, should be having about 1) bullying and 2) mental health.
That is a much larger topic, though, and not what this blog is about. What this post is about, though, is to remind you that you ARE enough. You should never let ANYONE make you feel that you aren’t. You’re good enough as you are, and you always will be. Don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t give in to bullies. Don’t become a bully. Just live your life to its very fullest and, in doing so, by nature, you WILL be enough.
I may not be an expert on these topics, but I’m an expert enough to know that part is true: YOU are ENOUGH.
Have you been bullied because of your health or disability? Have you ever felt “not enough” because of it? What hits close to home about this post? Please leave a comment and share this post with your friends. Let’s send a message of love and acceptance! 🙂
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Excellent and very poignant post, Ashley.
Wow! That’s all that is entering my mind after reading this spot-on post. I was bullied all through my school days. I have no tolerance for bullies. I’ve had RA my entire life, and I’ve always felt that I was not enough. I’m working on this in therapy. It will take time. I agree with your comments about disease comparisons. It’s not a contest; and if it were, I wouldn’t want to be the winner!!! Thank you for this post!
Spot on! I’ve noticed more online the people who want to compare their diseases, I’ve also read the extremely negative comments. I do wish people would realize these forums can be so beneficial and they can disagree but some truly cross the line. As always, love the post
Reblogged this on Lovely Joints and commented:
Sadly it is true: people get bullied because of their illness.
Ashley, Love your blog yet moreover am a great fan of You with your dynamic survivor mindset plus am so on the same wave length as You! Much kudos to You. Admire you greatly, too! Shared links to here on my health support network of mdjunction, also ! Like you am a positive individual even though have a myriad of health challenges, like you have been bullied even by fellow chronic pain individuals sad to say yet true & even though do not have arthritis have many moderate severe to severe health conditions including fibromyalgia(not able to work yet am an optimist who focuses on all that can do as well as tries to enable others as much as possible) am a mystical type of Christian yet am a down to earth one just like You, and am a thriver(do not give in to the pains and never say the word suffer yet say challenged instead)! Lost myself- fibro fog! Oh yes, have also been told am not enough as have not children either- really wanted children yet my body had other ideas, though it was just as well as with all my health challenges it would not have been wise- yet have a pet like You whom is very special! Totally echo your message- We are Enough just as we are in all our awesome uniqueness- yes You Are Enough- so vital a message when we have chronic pain! Your blog is awesome, you are awesome & the world needs more chronic pain thrivers that is for sure!! Bullies just make people like You and I more determined, more empathic & more caring so they failed in their mission ;-)! Am just as determined to stamp out bullying, too! Am really lucky as am a musketeer with some pretty amazing fellow musketeers on MDJ- these support groups are safe havens and have some fabulous resources! Wrote an article after being bullied by some fellow chronic pain individuals- Jumped Upon Then JUMP UP- please look it over.
Thank You for being You & thank You for this amazing blog- keep up the good work!! To use a British term- as am from UK- You are Blooming Amazing!!
Super gentle super soothing hugs to Your super phenomenal self, namaste Clara (username on MDJ is Clarita,btw) 🙂 beluga smiles across the miles to You 🙂
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