So there is a lot I have to write about. There is the castle I went to on Saturday, the Nationalmuseet (National Museum) on Tuesday, and yesterday I spent the day at the Red Cross Asylum Center. These are all very interesting experiences that merit posts of their own, but right now my thoughts are otherwise consumed. I have debated for a while whether or not my chronic pain is an issue I would discuss on my blog. I am a generally private person, so I am not enthused by the idea of airing personal parts of my life on the internet, but the omission feels dishonest. I am the queen of the long prologue and instead of randomly mentioning my condition I wanted to give a bit of an introduction.
I started to have joint pain in high school and I spent hours combing the internet for pain blogs. I was fourteen, undiagnosed and looking for some sort of confirmation that it wasn’t all in my head. I never found that. I found sites of people suffering from martyr syndrome, who were convinced that there experiences were unique and unparalleled. There were dozens of people who had let their condition become an all consuming aspect of their identity. Instead of solace, these sites made me feel further alienated, as if there is no normalcy in pain.
I would be untrue to a younger version of myself if I did not discuss my health on this blog. By hiding this part of my identity I am painting a false utopia. My experiences look like a postcard perfect collection of snapshots from Europe but thats only part of the story. I feel obligated to write with the openness that I searched for when I was in high school.
The other reason I decided to “come out” is that, like mental illness, it feels as though there is very little respect or understanding for chronic physical problems. I spent years being self conscious of my physical limitations, feeling as though no one understood my experiences or even took me seriously. I had doctors who thought I needed to toughen up and peers who thought I was a hypochondriac. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with a specific condition that people started to take my pain seriously. The validation and permanence of a specific disease conveys legitimacy, but it also ignites pity which I despise.
One of the hard things for people to conceptualize about chronic illness (mental or physical) is that it is never going to go away. I am going to be like this the rest of my life, and as much as people care for me they cannot cure it. A broken leg is simple. There is an appropriate amount of attention and sympathy that it receives, and then in a few months it will be resolved and everyone can resume their normal activity. I have an amazing network of loving and supportive friends and family who make this much easier. But in the face of chronic illness many people are paralyzed by indecision. They don’t know if they should talk about it, or ask me how I am feeling. It comes from a good place, but many resort to awkward silence.
I think my fear in discussing my condition is that I will be treated differently. I want to be able to discuss the facets of my daily life, without them defining me. The reality is I am in muscle and joint pain everyday, all day. The severity fluctuates, but it never completely dissipates. I am learning my limitations, but I refuse to let my condition make me a bystander in my own life. So lets make one thing clear. This is not a pain blog. This is the travel blog, which will sometimes, maybe mention what its like to live with chronic pain.