I had a hard time learning that, since the diagnosis, I became somehow less than a person even to some people quite close to me. I had to end ties, what else? It was happening with a slow progression, one step at the time.
I can say that I’ve helped change the course of life for some of those people. I didn’t ask for gratitude, listening nor much empathy, only a tiny dosage of understanding and- no stigma involved. Something you often get from decent strangers. So- just no stigma, a space to breathe in and be the new me, coping with illness and everyday tasks. But I got contempt. I didn’t reveal my pain much, and I had, unlike so many, safe places to do so. I was just asking not to be judged! But people around me, many of my acquaintances indulged in my inability. Disability, if you want to call it that way.
I failed to understand as I still saw myself as very capable. Things were going in slow motion for me which was so much unlike me before but I couldn’t observe what is wrong with me. I was still making better, more informed, rational decisions in given circumstances, I was still more proactive when it comes to life, I was more honest, capable of making authentic connections and I just couldn’t see how it is that I have failed while my satellites from the past didn’t.
Why am I “less than”? Because of the mere fact that I am ill? I think it is pretty much close to that as any of the people I am talking of didn’t feel the consequences of my illness. They were never that close to know I sometimes struggle to get in the shower. That I am preparing for the whole morning to go and do something in the afternoon. That I can’t read as much as I used to.
I was thinking once that I might have had the attitude of the centre of the universe and some people wanted me to pay for it, but you can’t get as malicious for that for years. The average anger lifespan at someone’s ego just diminishes. Who knows, maybe people who needed me when I was “more than” equally needed me or someone else who is “less than”?
I hate it! I hate it that people see not myself, but anyone else battling chronic illness as weak. It is insulting when I read in the media that someone is analysing some vicious politician for his supposed mental illness. We had our jokes in the hospital about our condition but I simply hate when someone cracks dumb and crude jokes about people with mental ill-health. People with any illness. I am from Eastern Europe. Gay people tell gay jokes, mad people mad jokes but there are ways and nuances to it.
It can be a pit beyond dumb. One thing: many brilliant people, the greatest minds of all time, like Blaise Pascal, were chronically ill. Sustaining all chronically ill, provided they need sustaining, for one mind like his, is worth the trouble. That is the argument that comes before empathy argument, “it could be us or our loved ones” argument, “we never know when we might need help or tolerance” argument and so on.
Also, in the community of people with chronic illness, there are those who have strange attitudes, like showing how well they are coping, better than the rest. I feel a deep dislike for it, but it is human. Seeking “less than” even within the community is human. The ugly side of it, but still human.
Everyone should keep themselves in check in the first place. I learned that from the ones who indulge in the lowest. And this is what I mean by this title. I want to share gratitude for people who are trying. I want to salute all of my fellow warriors who are coping the best they can, who are finding ways to cope, who are balancing between life, illness, stigma and so many roles in life. Who are battling and refusing to be less worthy.