Because I have a chronic illness, I’m forced to lie every single day. When you see people at work or at the grocery store or when you see a neighbor out front, our standard greeting nowadays is usually some form of “how are you?”. It’s at this point that I’m forced to lie, for everybody’s benefit. For the person asking, they certainly don’t want to hear how I’m actually doing. How am I supposed to convey the enormity of how this illness affects me every single day of my life? How could I explain the very real impact of how I feel physically, mentally, and emotionally? How should I explain my life to them when, nice as they are to ask, they really don’t care at all; they simply asked me to be nice, as a social greeting. For my own benefit, I’d like to continue to see that person and say “Hi, how are you” and make small talk after today, so I will continue to lie and say “Fine, how are you?”. How many of us do this every day without really asking how the person is?
Then there are other, closer, relationships that we have, like our family and our friends. Obviously, those more familiar with our illness probably know at least a little bit about it; they’ve done some homework and know the signs and symptoms. These are the people in my life that ask me more detailed questions like “are you hurting today with the rain?” or “do you want me to drop you off at the door today?”. I feel like I owe these people a little bit more honesty, but only a little bit. By their actions and questions, my family and friends have indicated that they are genuinely interested in my well-being and really want to know how I’m doing and I appreciate that. Because of that, I’ll share a little bit more. I will acknowledge that my joints or muscles are aching or that I have a fever or I’m in pain and I will accept their offers of being dropped off or carrying my packages. I will even, on my bad days when I simply don’t want to talk to anybody, acknowledge in a text that I’m having a bad day (so that I don’t have to have a conversation). If pushed, I will talk about specific symptoms or I’ll throw out a comment or two, but it’s typically in an effort to pacify them and I change the subject. Even though I appreciate the attempt, I find it very difficult to be honest with even these people, the people I love the most. Why? Because they shouldn’t know everything; I don’t want them to know everything. They will be sympathetic, but also probably feel sorry for me. They will try to understand, but they can’t and I don’t want them to. We try to protect the people that we love from the reality of our lives. Every now and then, I will have a moment where I am unable to hide my emotions or my difficulties and I will break down and cry or want to explain how I’m feeling, but I try to keep these moments very few and far apart. They should not have to think about, let alone worry about, these things that I have to deal with on a daily basis. It doesn’t accomplish anything. I try very hard to remain the person that I’ve always been, both for myself and for them.
Lastly, I lie to myself every day. I wake up in the morning and convince myself that I’m feeling good and that I’m going to accomplish so much today! I have grand expectations of being able to do everything that I want to do. I’m going to do some housework, I’m going to walk, I’m going to eat right, I’m going to do some kind of mindfulness and I’m going to remain positive. In reality, I’m going to do a fraction of these things (for a myriad of reasons). However, I’m going to remain upbeat and positive and be grateful for the things that I AM able to do. If I allowed myself to be honest with myself, I couldn’t handle it. I CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH. I am simply incapable of waking up in the morning with the understanding that I will never be able to do everything that I want to do again. I cannot wake up and acknowledge the fact that I will only be able to do certain things based on how I feel, not just that day, but literally from hour to hour. Most of all, I can’t deal with the emotional and mental toll that this takes on me. To be consumed by thoughts of what if, what now, what does this mean, am I okay, feeling sorry for myself, feeling guilty for feeling sorry for myself…it’s exhausting! So if the physical limitations and pain don’t take you down, the rest of it will. So yes, I lie to myself every single day. I tell myself that I will get all of these things done, that I’m going to feel good today, that I’m not going to think about any of it, that I’m going to remain positive. If I didn’t lie to myself, I would break and I cannot allow that to happen. I’m going to do everything that I can today and I’m going to be happy with that. I’m going to bed tonight in the hopes that I can get enough rest to do it again tomorrow. Tomorrow morning I’m going to get up, lie to myself, and start my day with the belief that everything is just fine.