The Icefall Doctors
I selected “Earth’s Natural Wonders by BBC” amongst a list of Netflix series, and began munching on my dinner alone. The first chapter shone a light on the Icefall Doctors, whose job is to secure the safest route up Mount Everest for other climbers. Call me ignorant for not knowing about them earlier; I was only aware of the sherpa porters. But I was appalled by how these men’s lives are literally used to pave the way, before the ‘heroes’ and ‘conquerors’ even get on the trail. (P.s. ‘conquer’ is such a poor word choice for climbing, but I digress).
How many lives were sacrificed along the way just so people could meet their personal goals, and go on to become famous or celebrated worldwide? Sure, it’s an admirable achievement, but is it ever worth another man’s life? This made me think about the many times I’ve pressed on in order to preserve that fragile thing called ego, and its cost. The intention behind such actions isn’t anything to be proud of, and does have an impact on those around us as well.
Facebook Status: “Hi, I’m in Hospital…Again”
I tend to only update my personal Facebook status when I get admitted to the hospital, and did so again recently. If you knew me a few years ago, you’d know that I was the sort of person who rarely posted about my private life online because, who cares?
Yet now I share about my life with chronic illness at liberty, because I’ve come to realise that there are many good reasons to do so as well. I may begin with the thought, “what if people find it annoying, or think I’m being weak, or stupid?”, and feel embarrassed before I even do anything.
Then my thoughts would wander off to those who are going through similar situations, yet are unable to speak up for whatever reason. This gives me that push I need to post; I am simultaneously voicing out the suppressed concerns or struggles of many others out there, whether I know them personally or not. One of them may be that old lady who was screaming and begging to die in my ward. Another would be that teenage girl who emailed me for support, as not even her mother could understand her pain. So I put my useless pride aside, and post that goddamn status flaunting my vulnerability in all its gross glory. I try not to go overboard though, as too much of anything is never good and gets stale, thus losing its impact.
I am Not Indispensable
Just the other day I had to deal with a bitter poster on Twitter. While I’d usually block such people, I hesitate when it’s another person who lives with chronic pain. I think to myself, “I should tolerate and accommodate them more than the average person because they’re in pain, right?”. Or, “What if I’m blocking them from an important resource on my feed?”.
And then I realise that it’s my ego at play again, but on a sneakier level. I am only one of many who are sharing information and raising awareness on chronic illnesses. And guess what, there are tons of good resources available. In fact, they’re where I get my information from to begin with! Hospitals, research papers, and other bloggers – I am not indispensable.
The Need to Protect My Peace
The most important realisation was, however, the need to protect my own energy as well. Sick people are still human, and we all have different perspectives. While I try to be as open-minded as I can, I will not agree with every single person, and that’s okay. The world would be a very dull place if we all thought and behaved in the same manner.
When such people infringe on my peace and drain me of my already limited energy supply, then I need to cut them off, no matter who they are. This is necessary if I want to be able to continue doing what I do without burning out, and to retain a measure of joy from it. It’s more important to focus my energy on those who find my content useful, who nourish me in return, and who show mutual respect, kindness, understanding of differences, and support. Isn’t that what community is all about, after all?
At the end of the day, I’m just not that important. Wait, I need to rephrase that. I am important, but my ego is not that big a deal, and often trips me up. If we want to be of real use, then we need to put our petty prides aside, and celebrate both our individual and collective humanity instead.
Don’t be Ashamed to Chat About Chronic Illness Casually
Finally, the best thing you can do to raise awareness on an everyday basis both on and offline, is to chat with others as if chronic illnesses are normal (because they are for us!). Instead of fretting about how others will perceive me or take advantage of my weaknesses, I worry instead about how little is understood about chronic illnesses, and the stigma it holds within society.
In that sense, any ridicule directed my way doesn’t really matter anymore, because I took the brunt of that shame or embarrassment for millions of others. Those who listen and want to learn more, or who didn’t even realise such problems existed, will now be wiser and become our allies instead.
With humility, all judgment, negativity and worries recede into the background, so that I can become more useful. You can choose to view it another way, but I like looking at myself as a ‘tool’. Use me. Sharpen me. Harden me. Let me be the arrow that pierces into the heart of humanity. Humility releases me from the grips of fear to give me strength and focus. Humility toughens my protective shell, so that I can stand in the frontlines, and dare to make a positive difference in this world.
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For More Insight:
- 17 Things to Consider If You’re Debating Whether to Post About Your Illness on Facebook (themighty.com): http://bit.ly/2sZyNlz
- A New Idea of Self-Care (runningonbalance.com): http://bit.ly/2W0Eaih