I smile and joke about it.
I nod and participate in the world.
I blow off the overwhelming fatigue because it’s my norm.
In fact, I lived with the delusion that everyone was tired, everyone was sore all the time, that I was just weak and lazy for not being able to stand up to my fatigue and soreness.
I didn’t come to that delusion all on my own really, but kind of adopted it because it’s something I was fed, something we’re all fed.
It’s a byproduct of the cult of positive thinking we’re all subjected to all the time.
Whenever someone complains about being tired all the time, someone else is right there, ready and willing and able, to tell them that “everyone feels tired sometimes” and with that undermines their complaint, their fatigue, their feeling of hopelessness.
Whenever someone complains about constant back-pain, someone else is right there, ready and willing and able, to tell them about how their back hurts sometimes too but they don’t let it rule their lives.
Wherever we turn, there’s someone right there, ready and willing and able, to tell us how they or someone they know or someone they’ve read about is living with the same or “worse” debilitating illness who has overcome their illness and accomplished so much.
They don’t do this out of their own cruelty, but out of their unknown membership in the cult of positive thinking.
We seem to believe that if we just smile and think positive and find the silver lining and focus on what we can instead of what we can’t and work hard and smile and think positive thoughts and work on doing what we can and so on and so forth that we’ll be able to overcome anything and everything.
There’s a pretty good video about how this has been a contributing factor in social inequality and fiscal irresponsibility and the recent financial crash and so on, and how those who’ve had criticisms about the blind positivity have found themselves fired, on youtube. It was recently shared by upworthy.
I’m not advocating defeatist attitudes, not at all.
I’m not saying we should just lay down and wallow in our own pain.
I’m saying that I, like many other people who deal with disability, feel bad about feeling bad.
Think about that for a little while.
The constant reminders that others suffer too, and sometimes worse, and can still do all the things I’m unable to do, serves to make me feel terrible about being disabled, as if it’s my fault….
… and the only way I’ve been able to do anything to stem the flow of well meaning abuse has been to smile, make fun of it, joke, and pretend it’s not actually a problem.
The stories, the pat on the back, the “I hurt too”, and so on, isn’t meant that way, it’s meant to be a silver lining, a “look for the positive”, a “you can do it!”, a “just do it!”, or any other version of “smile, and you’ll be okay!”
It’s meant to be inspiring, uplifting, etc…
In reality, it’s anything but.
The reason why I don’t run isn’t because I’m afraid that I can’t run, or that I’m too busy being defeatist to run, or that I’m too busy being pessimistic to run, it’s because I’m literally too physically tired and in to much physical pain to run, and yet, even when I say these things, instead of being heard I get the suggestion that I just take a shorter run.
It’s easier to just put on a brave face, tell a joke, and imply that I’ll run… some day…
The brave face isn’t who I am.
It’s a mask I wear for others’ benefit and to avoid their well meaning abuse.
When I tell people I’m too tired, or in too much pain, it’s not negativity.
It’s not defeatism.
It’s not pessimism.
It’s honesty and reality.
And it incurs well meaning abuse.
I wear the mask because if I don’t I get told that I’m being too negative, or too depressive, or too defeated, or too pessimistic.
And when rarely I let the mask slip, be it because I can’t keep it up too long in close proximity or because I’ve become too tired to maintain it, I’ve usually found myself disappointed and hurt further by the ignorant well meaning abuse.
I’m disappointed that the cult of positive thinking has claimed my friends and family as it’s members.
I’m disappointed that I can’t have one bad day without being felt like I am to blame for all my ills.
I’m disappointed and hurt and too tired in too much pain to properly process what’s happened so all I can feel is an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness, loneliness and despair.
And so, to avoid that, I put on a brave face.
(As I write this, I haven’t slept more than 2-4 hours a night for over a week, ‘cept for that one night when I took my last sleeping pill, and I’m in so much physical pain I am having serious trouble standing up to go to the bathroom, and I realized I’m not letting myself rest up in bed because I’d feel guilty for not doing the very basic things that need doing around the house. I feel guilty for being sick.)