Friday, September 4, 2015

Through Sickness & Health & False Assumptions

We all have moments when we question the sincerity of others, especially when it comes to sickness and health. I've learned that when most people say things like, "I don't understand why I can't lose weight, I work out all the time and I barely eat!" it really means, "I occasionally walk around the block and skip the 8th piece of pizza." I know this because I do this. When really thin people say, "I eat all the time!" what they usually mean is they nibble on a small amount of food throughout the day or eat a normal amount and exercise obsessively. We all share these slightly fabricated visions of our own realities at some point. 

A similar thing happens when it comes to sickness. I usually tend to think people exaggerate their conditions, especially when I've never had that condition and don't know what the fuck I'm talking about. A friend's mom used to have wrist pain and carpal tunnel syndrome from her job as a secretary. She'd miss a lot of work because of it. I always thought she was being dramatic. When people complain about migraines and miss work because of them, I always used to think that was bullshit. It's a headache. Go to work. That was of course until I experienced my first migraines and wanted to crawl out of my own skin and jump off my balcony to ease the pain. 

You just don't know until you've gone through it. Even then, it may affect someone else in a completely different way. As I experienced more, I learned not to judge and that I really don't know what others are going through. I still had (have) moments of stupidity though. A while back, one woman I worked with had a hypersensitive sense of smell. She always complained about barely perceptible scents in the office and she once asked my boss to tell me to never wear cologne. I took offense because I barely wore it and who was she to tell me I couldn't smell how I wanted? It was not like I had a cloud of Curve following me. Get over it. 

That was the mentality I had going into an adjunct instructor meeting a few years back. A woman in her 50s comes in and sits close to me. She was holding up a white duster mask over her nose and mouth. She explained to another adjunct that she had a hypersensitive sense of smell. 

Here we go again.

She said how difficult it can be when there is a class full of students, all with different chemical compounds in their hair and on their body and clothes, in poorly ventilated classrooms. And some of them with their damn cologne!

Ugh. I hated her immediately.

She went on to explain that she had worked for a company that didn't properly protect its employees from a certain chemical they used and she was basically poisoned. The chemical got into her system and caused her allergies to go into overdrive. She was currently in a lawsuit against them. She had to quit her job and could only work part time as an adjunct. There were times when she could barely breathe. 

Huh. This didn't sound like the whiner at my old job. In fact, it sounded like I rushed to judgment. It sounded like I was an asshole.

As the reality of my assholeishness started to set in, she said the name of the company that poisoned her. It sounded familiar. I had seen it somewhere. 

I looked down at the bag containing my books and other school supplies laying by my feet. There on the bag, I kid you not, was the logo for the same company that had poisoned this woman. 

What. The. Hell. 

I slowly moved the bag underneath the table with my foot as I continued to nod my head, listening to her awful story and wanting to disappear.

Kinda like this.

So that incident helped me realize that I can't possibly judge other people's health situation. I still have doubts about that lady at my old job (she called out and complained constantly) but even then, how do I really know? After the poisoned lady shared her story, there were still times I doubted people who complained about allergies. Recently I discovered the horrors of many allergies, in particular Lavender allergies, and I now thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster everyday for not giving them to me. I get bad headaches sometimes and I think about how much of a jerk I was for questioning other people's toughness in dealing with headaches. Yes, there are certainly some people who blatantly lie about their conditions, or play up their conditions for sympathy or financial gain, but for the most part, there's no way to know how a sickness or an injury affects each individual.

I see this a lot with mental health especially. People with severe depression are told to "get over it" or "shake it off." People don't understand it is a chemical imbalance. The brain is just another organ, and sometimes it doesn't work properly. You don't tell someone with kidney failure to get over it. You tell them to get treated. People who have no experience with depression have no frame of reference. Just because you were sad once when a family member dies doesn't mean you know what depression is. Same with anxiety. Just because you get nervous before you have to speak publicly doesn't mean you understand what someone with an anxiety disorder goes through. It's not something you can just think about real hard and will it away. 

I guess the point I'm trying to make is, don't be an asshole? Yeah. Don't be an asshole. Stop judging or trying to "fix" people's illnesses. 

And don't ever carry bags with any type of logo, ever. Just to be safe.  

I Love You All...Class Dismissed.

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