Feelings about feelings

You know what’s a bummer? Having a chronic illness. There’s nothing fun about always being sick, missing out on everything, and having to rework your plans for the rest of your life.

You know what else is a bummer? Having a cold. There’s nothing fun about being extra tired, dripping with snot, and having to rework your plans for even a few days. The only upside to having a cold is when you’re a kid and you get to take Dimetapp because that stuff is delicious.

By the way, I don’t have a cold. That’s not where this is going.

So having a chronic illness is a bummer. And having a cold is a bummer. They are two very different situations and I think it’s safe to say that if given the choice between a lifelong chronic illness and a temporary cold everyone would choose the cold, but having a cold is still annoying. And just because there are people out there with more pressing health issues than the snot fountain in the middle of your face, you’re still allowed to be annoyed that it’s there.

Okay friends, now I’m going to tell you something really important. But first zoom out from the chronic illness vs. cold situation a little bit. A little bit more. Ready?

No matter what someone else is going through, no matter how much worse you think someone else might have it, you still have a right to every emotion that you feel about your own situation. Your experience is just that, it’s your experience, and it’s valid.

All the time people say things to me along the lines of, “Oh but I shouldn’t complain because it’s nothing compared to what you’re going through,” and it honestly makes me so uncomfortable. In no way do I have the monopoly on suffering. And in no way do I want it! It saddens me to think that people don’t want to tell me what’s going on in their lives because of what’s going on in my life. That’s not how human connections are supposed to work.

I believe in finding the good, yes. No matter how bad things seem, I believe that there is always good to be found, but I do not believe that just because there is good to be found, just because things could be worse, that you can’t acknowledge the problems you’re facing, as well. It’s not realistic, and it’s not helpful. In fact it’s the opposite of helpful, because only by fully facing a situation, the good and the bad, can we figure out what we need to make it better and what we need to help us through.

The truth is, it could always be worse. And there will always be people out there who have it worse than us.

But we still deserve the chance for things to be better.

Context is of course important. Time, place and audience are everything. If you’re terrified of needles and you have to get your flu vaccine, freaking out to your friend who just underwent a major surgery probably won’t elicit a very compassionate response. Sometimes life is so overwhelming that it limits our ability to support someone else. Sometimes we become jaded by our own experiences. Because we are all individuals shaped by our own individual pasts, memories, support systems, personalities and perspectives, we will never have the exact same experience as someone else. We all go through the same things differently. What’s hard for you might be no big deal for another person, but that doesn’t invalidate your fear or your struggle.

At the end of the day, all of this leads to opportunities for empathy. Recognizing what others are going through doesn’t discredit what we’re going through ourselves, but it does give us a window into their lives, and it does give us a chance to develop a new respect and understanding for each other.

We also have a chance to practice empathy when we are the ones in the subjectively worse situation.

I’ll be honest, when I see a Facebook status about a cold that is ruining someone’s life, my first instinct is to roll my eyes. They don’t know how easy they have it…but isn’t that a good thing? Do I really want them to know what I know about being sick? Of course I don’t. And begrudgingly, I can remember what it felt like when a cold showed up at the most inconvenient time. Even still, I can’t say I’m going to be the most sympathetic audience, but that’s on me, not them, and that doesn’t mean they’re not allowed to feel the way they feel.

I only know what I know. You only know what you know. We all only know what we know, what we’ve been through ourselves and what we’ve been through with the people close to us.

So we take what we know and do the best with what we have.

And we feel what we feel.

And we don’t need to feel bad about it.

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This is entirely unrelated but it’s pretty and I had no relevant photos nor the energy to take any.

 

Finding my Miracle meets CTV News!

About a month ago, on an ordinary Wednesday night, I got an email from someone named Katelyn Verstraten, a journalist at CTV Vancouver with an interest in health and science reporting. She wanted to write a piece about invisible illnesses, and she wanted to tell my story. She wondered if I would be interested in talking to her more about it.

Ummmm, yes please! Sign me up! I was blown away that someone I’d never met before was even interested in my story.

We set up a Skype meeting for the following week. I was excited, but also nervous, because I’m usually much better expressing myself with written words than with spoken ones, but I needn’t have worried because talking to Katelyn was awesome. After our near hour and a half conversation my mom asked me what we had talked about and I wasn’t even sure. We had talked about everything!

The next day, with my totally worth it “I talked too much” hangover, I wondered what she would even end up writing about. What had we talked about? What hadn’t we talked about? The details were already blurry.

Earlier this week Katelyn sent me a preview of the story and I was so impressed because somehow she had taken my hour plus of rambling and picked out the parts that were most important, the parts that made me think, “I’m so glad she included this!” whether or not I even remembered saying it. Oh, and when I mentioned in passing that my best friend was really excited about this whole thing, she decided to get her involved as well. How fun is that?

So anyway, after all that pre-ramble, here’s the link to the story!

‘Finding my miracle’: The hidden struggles of living with an invisible disease

Big thanks to Katelyn Verstraten and to CTV News Vancouver for this opportunity!

People are not potatoes

People are not potatoes. Just in case you have no concept of taxonomy, or even rudimentary biology, I’m going to say it one more time. People are not potatoes. People are people and potatoes are potatoes.

Duh.

So a couple of weeks ago I made mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner. Is it just me or does anyone else enjoy peeling potatoes? I like peeling carrots, too. And yams. I imagine I would also be fond of peeling parsnips but I’ve never actually tried it so I can’t be sure. The point is that I like peeling vegetables, although my interest in root vegetable peeling is not imperative to the actual point of this post. For the record, I do not like peeling apples, but that’s not important either.

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Are you still with me? I promise if you keep reading we will end up at a point-worthy point.

Anyway, there I was in the kitchen peeling the potatoes, and I was making sure to strip away all the dark spots and blemishes so that they wouldn’t end up sullying the mashed potatoes. Had you been in my kitchen it would have been very easy to tell the difference between the potatoes and me because, as I said, people are not potatoes. See?

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Tell me you can see the difference.

But as I sat there peeling away, I found myself kind of wishing that I was a potato.

Think about it, if we were all potatoes living potato lives then everything we didn’t like and every problem we came across could be easily peeled away. No more blemishes. No more bumps. No more scars. And not just on the outside, on the inside, too.

I mean I’m sure we’d all love to take a potato peeler to our physical appearances now and again. Wouldn’t it be fun to be able to easily just smooth out that cellulite or do away with that muffin top? Maybe turn a cankle into an ankle or a Pinocchio nose into the nose of someone who had never told a lie? If we were potatoes we could do all of those things.

(Safety warning: you are a person, not a potato, so please do not attempt to change your appearance with a potato peeler. Finding My Miracle is not responsible for any medical costs should you choose to ignore this warning.)

But it’s not just outside changes; imagine if we could peel away the parts of our personalities that we didn’t like. The spots, defects, and scars, the lasting effects of everything we’ve been through and every time we’ve fallen to the ground, all of them would be removed. From there, all the bumps and lumps, the things that make us stand out and feel like we don’t fit in, all of them would be smoothed out. And eventually, if we kept peeling, all of our weaknesses, faults and insecurities would be stripped away.

We would be these perfect potatoes living perfect potato lives.

And then I realized that we would also be boring.

Do you know what happens when you peel a potato until it is perfect? A lot of it gets wasted. In the pursuit of that smooth and spot-free spud, perfectly good potato gets unnecessarily peeled away. And just like potatoes, when we as people try to be perfect, pieces of who we are get lost. We end up smaller. We miss out on opportunities and adventures. And we all start to look the same.

So thank goodness we are not potatoes. Thank goodness we can’t just get rid of the parts of ourselves that we don’t like and the things that make us unique. It takes all kinds of people to make the world go round. All kinds of people and their all kinds of personalities and everything that makes them who they are. Short tempers, stubbornness, self-doubt, social anxiety and everything else. Even the cankles and big noses.

We can’t change how we are built. We can’t change what we’ve been through. We can’t change who we are. And we can’t change how other people are built, what they’ve been through or who they are.

We are people and people are imperfect, but that’s what makes life interesting. That’s also what allows us to grow and change and become better people. Not perfect, just better. It’s what allows us to try new things and learn from our experiences. It’s what allows us to make connections with each other. It’s why we get to be individuals.

Don’t give that up. Don’t let yourself become smaller. There are plenty of potatoes in the world but there is only one you.

So put down the potato peeler.

And go be imperfect. Go be awesome. Go be you.

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