Being ill with all these glorious old and all the wonderful new symptoms is teaching me a lot about the people in my life and myself. However, I think the singular most important thing is that I should never allow another person – not even a doctor – to make me doubt my lived experiences. What I’m living through cannot be completely understood by another person, so why should I allow another person to question my experiences. Why should someone else get to tell me how much pain I should be feeling, why I shouldn’t take so much pain or other medications, or believe they have the right to question why my surgery didn’t deliver the results they expected. Why am I allowing their questioning about my health to make me doubt the value of my lived experiences?
I’ve caught myself allowing some of these doubts to creep in before. This morning a close friend reminded me why I shouldn’t allow that to happen. I spoke to him yesterday about the swelling in my legs and feet then sent him a photo so he could see the extent of it. He called me this morning to tell me how shocked he was by the photo. His exact words were, “When someone tells you their feet are swollen you try to imagine it, but when I saw the photo of your feet I gasped.” He was shocked at how “unrecognizable” my feet are. He said he couldn’t imagine how I must feel or what I’m going through while trying to cope with this on top of everything else.
His expression of empathy toward me was the jolt I needed to remind me that I should never doubt myself. Because of doubting myself, I was delaying going to see my family doctor to get my legs and feet checked because I told myself the swelling isn’t a big deal – the swiftness with which my doctor responded to my email yesterday clearly says I’m wrong. I downplayed this symptom because I was allowing the voices from other people telling me I should be better by now to cloud the reality I’m living with. I’m not better yet. My surgery did not eliminate my pain. I’m taking a significant amount of pain medications because they make it possible for my body to move so I can do basic daily tasks. My legs and feet are swollen beyond recognition and the swelling is adding to the difficulty I already have with walking.
What I’m experiencing is real. What I read that is written by others with health issues, general life issues, or just things from their lives they want to share, are real experiences. No one ever has the right to make another person doubt their lived experiences – their reality – and I have to remind myself of this more often.
Adele – Chasing Pavements