Thursday, August 11, 2016

My disease is worse than your "condition"...

Funny that this picture appeared on Facebook's On This Day for me.  It really fits in with today's topic.

There was an interesting Facebook discussion that went on yesterday.  It started when a friend of mine posted the photo below...

I must admit, I hate it when people post these things...  It smacks of attention whoring.

My friend made the comment that she couldn't see how anyone would compare Crohn's disease and multiple sclerosis with depression or ADHD.  I must admit that I kind of agree with my friend, to a certain extent.  At the same time, I have struggled with anxiety and depression and I can attest to how painful and debilitating those conditions can be.  The struggle is definitely real.  I just don't know that they are always really in the same league.

Anyway, I commented that I hate posts like the one above.  A few others chimed in, mostly agreeing with us.  Then, there was an impassioned post from a woman who has issues with bipolar disorder.  She got up on a virtual soapbox and beseeched us all to be more sensitive to people like her.  A long discussion ensued, but not before I explained why I think the above status is annoying.  My exact response was this:

I would never say mental illness is not a struggle. I had a pretty severe battle with depression and anxiety myself. I just don't like the constant guilt laden requests to share poorly written spammy Facebook statuses about so-called invisible illnesses. If I feel the need to post about such things, I'll probably come up with a lengthy and far too personal blahg post instead.

So, dear readers, here is my lengthy and far too personal post (for those who are wondering, the non-word "blahg" is an inside joke among locals).

First of all, I don't see how posting someone else's poorly written Facebook status about "invisible illnesses" is going to do anything to change people's perceptions about others.  When I see someone's cut and pasted status that has been passed around from friend to friend, I typically scroll right past it.  If I do take the time to read it, I usually end up feeling annoyed that I'd wasted the time.  I'd be very surprised if someone read a post like that-- one that utilized a "U" for the word "You"-- and suddenly checked themselves when they felt the need to judge someone who might have a condition that isn't obvious to the naked eye.  Maybe I'm wrong, but my guess is that these types of posts do nothing but irritate a lot of people.  They're basically useless.    

Secondly, offering this laundry list of so-called invisible conditions as examples of illnesses we shouldn't judge is a bit like comparing apples to oranges.  Some of these conditions are deadly and some are just merely unpleasant and/or make life more difficult.  Moreover, no one person's experiences with illness is going to be exactly like another person's.  These conditions can vary in severity.  

Clinical depression, for sure, can be a very serious and even deadly condition for some people.  For others, it's easily managed with medication.  Multiple sclerosis can put someone in a wheelchair and lead to an early grave.  For others, it's merely a nuisance.  I had a couple of friends in college who had Crohn's disease.  One had a perpetually puffy face due to the steroids she had to take.  Another was extremely thin and had spent a lot of time in the hospital trying to get enough nourishment.  Each of these illnesses are experienced differently by different people.  For some, they truly do remain "invisible".  For others, they definitely aren't.  Either way, a stranger's health condition is not another person's business.  

I appreciate the sentiment not to "judge" people who are dealing with a condition that isn't easily recognizable.  I also appreciate the idea of just plain not judging whenever possible.  Don't you have your own life to lead?  Why is another person's health status any of your affair?  If you see a stranger acting questionably, are you really going to expect them to explain their potential hidden illness?  I don't think so.     

The only time I could see the above Facebook plea as slightly useful is if people are judging someone who "doesn't look sick" for parking in a handicapped space.  I figure if someone has a handicap placard, they obviously need it.  It's not up to me to judge them.  In fact, I rarely pay attention to where someone parks unless they happen to park next to me and make it impossible to enter or exit my vehicle.

I know other people do pay attention and sometimes leave cowardly nastygrams on the "offender's" car, even if they have a placard.  Often, the person who made the judgment is wrong for doing so.  Besides, someone who is going to brazenly park in a handicapped space they aren't entitled to is unlikely to give a shit about your nasty note.  Someone who is legitimately sick or injured is simply going to end up feeling worse after they read your note.

Other than the parking scenario, why would this even come up unless you're somehow in a situation where you legitimately need to explain to someone why you can't perform?  Are you looking for sympathy?  Attention?  Or is this really just about spreading "awareness"?  If it is about awareness, don't you think lumping a bunch of unrelated conditions into one group is kind of counterproductive?  Of course... I suppose a person with Crohn's could also be clinically depressed.  A person with lupus could also have issues with anxiety.

Some people manage their illnesses with grace and aplomb.  Some can barely function.  There are any number of possible scenarios that could apply here, most of which are, again, no one else's business!  Aside from that, a person could be perfectly healthy and still struggling with something not health related.  Almost everyone is fighting a battle of some kind, right?  Should we feel right in judging them because they don't have the misfortune of being sick?

I suppose I should thank my Facebook friend for opening this discussion.  It's because of her that I looked up the above quote and learned about Scottish theologian Ian Maclaren, who spent some time studying in Tübingen, a place near and dear to me (physically and emotionally).

I'm sure I'm kind of preaching to the choir here.  Suffice to say that I don't cut and paste boilerplate Facebook statuses, especially when they are simply about getting other people to cut and paste.  I think those kinds of posts are stupid and pointless.

If you really want to effect change and get people to think about issues they might not otherwise consider, come up with something original.  Write something from the heart.  Make it engaging and personal.  Make it matter to others.  Otherwise, you're just wasting your time and annoying a lot of people.  


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