Sometimes, when someone lives with chronic illness, chronic pain, or a disability such as arthritis, lupus, or other rheumatic illnesses, the “normal” or “healthy” people around them feel the need to “walk on eggshells.” What better time than now, as Easter is upon us, to discuss this very topic?
I, for one, have always wanted people to treat me normally, for lack of a better term, and to treat me like everyone else. I don’t really like when people walk on eggshells around me or “baby” me because of my health problems. However, as I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that my conditions do occasionally cause inconveniences for or concern from others around me. And, at times, I do need special accommodations, or special treatment. Therefore, my conflict with wanting to be viewed as “normal” but sometimes needing to be treated as “special” can be confusing. If it’s confusing for me internally, then I’d imagine that it would be confusing or annoying for outsiders, as well. Thus, the inevitable, proverbial act of walking on eggshells.
While I appreciate when people make an effort to be understanding and accommodating, I only appreciate it if it is genuine and real. I don’t want someone fawning all over me because they feel obligated to, and I don’t like people making a big deal out of things that I myself am not making a big deal about. I do appreciate genuine caring and concern; I do not appreciate being singled out and made to feel like a nuisance or a weirdo.
As far as my Celiac disease, dear, sweet friends and loved ones, you do not by any means have to apologize if you eat a donut or ice cream sandwich in front of me. And even though I have rheumatoid arthritis and other muscoskeletal/mixed connective tissue disorders, you don’t have to apologize to me for talking about your marathon training or your co-ed softball team. It doesn’t make me sad anymore. We all have problems and struggles in life … and no one needs to walk on eggshells around me when it comes to living and enjoying their own lives. It makes me happy to see my friends and family doing well, eating well, and living well. You don’t need to do or say or omit anything to make me feel better.
Here’s why: after many years, I’ve finally learned that my happiness has nothing to do with you, really — and neither does my unhappiness. That may sound rude, but it isn’t. All I mean is that we cannot depend on others or any outside sources for happiness — it must come from within. The same goes for acceptance. But, the same goes for sadness, too. We can waste time of this precious life blaming others for things or playing the role of the victim because of our circumstances. Remember, we choose to think that way, or view ourselves in that way. If we do that, though, aren’t we just inviting people to then act differently around us? To walk on eggshells around us because, at any given second, we might fly into a fit of bitter rage or burst into tears? I don’t want others to have to worry about that, nor can I imagine that many of us do.
I don’t think that it is impossible to be treated normal and respected, while simultaneously having people understand and care about our health problems. I think that I can still be (relatively! ;)) normal and treated as such, while still spreading awareness and understanding about my diseases. Our health (or lack thereof,) and how able or normal we are perceived by others (and viewed as by ourselves) are not mutually exclusive.
So, I make this request: don’t walk on eggshells around me because of my health. Instead, let’s crack those eggs together, stomping out misconceptions and misunderstandings as we go. Even though my shell may be a little cracked, I’m still me, and, through all the tough times, it is the love and kindness of others that has helped to put me back together again. (A little Humpy Dumpty reference for all you Mother Goose fans out there.)
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Arthritis is Unacceptable.
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