Sunday, 7 June 2015

Every-Bodies Talkin' At Me

How much detail is too much detail when discussing your illness with those around you?

It’s a question I find myself asking a lot. It seems finding a balance can be difficult, certainly depending on who you are talking to. My own general rule of thumb (bowel?) goes as follows:

Strangers: Description of my condition taken almost word for word from Wikipedia with the inaccuracies removed.

Family: General overview of the banalities in having a medical condition, such as upcoming appointments and treatments. A little on side effects and brief summary of how I’ve been feeling.

Friends: All of the above, plus obscenities and graphic descriptions of my bathroom habits, including random swooning over attractive doctors/nurses/hospital janitors. Lots of generally unreasonable whining.

Fellow patients: Rage at doctors/nurses/hospital janitors, more graphic descriptions of my bathroom habits and visceral descriptions and theories of my internal organs and beyond. NO HOLES BARRED. Literally. Although the whining is reigned in a little more here.

Maybe you have a similar system. Or maybe you aren’t a nutcase like me and don’t use a ‘system’ when communicating with other human beings. Either way, it’s something we all tend to do in some, if not all, aspects of our lives. Alter our tales for certain audiences. COME ON, don’t try to tell me you’d describe that first date you went on and your subsequent loose morals in the same detail you would to your best friend  as you would to your Dad? DIDN’T THINK SO, SMARTYPANTS.

For me, the main issues in talking about my disease openly with everyone to the same extent, are the fear of upsetting my loved ones, unnecessarily worrying people I care for, or disgusting relative strangers. I don’t think this is a conscious decision; to change tone, but it’s something I’ve found myself doing to a greater degree lately. I’ll also fall into the dangerous trap of whom I have told what, thus confusing myself and potentially hurting someone’s feelings when they inevitably think they aren't special enough to hear that particular never-ending-colon-story.

It’s exhausting having a chronic illness. So it’s doubly tiring when you have to relay the same sorry tales over and over to everyone in your life. Don’t get me wrong, I want those around me to care about me and my illness. I want them to want to talk about it, and to learn with me as my body changes and life progresses. I desperately want to rid the world and greater universe of shame and embarrassment around MY disease; but I can’t do that alone. I need my friends, family and all of YOU to help. Talk for me when I can’t. Talk for each other. Don’t think because I’m not talking it’s because I don’t want to share my life with you, it’s probably because my life often feels consumed by illness.

I can’t deny my disease is a huge part of my life, because it would be fruitless. Much like my Facebook friends around me having babies and getting married, going for manicures and getting Graze boxes delivered, my swollen colon is an active part of my day to day existence. I just don’t paint mine with glitter and post 480 photographs of it on social media. (Although if that was an option I SO WOULD). 

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