Every time I see the picture above posted on social media, it stirs up something in me not unlike a pot of boiling rage. It’s quite a strong message but It doesn’t tell me anything about the daily struggle the poster is going through, nor does it tell me what they’re feeling. It doesn’t impart upon the reader any information except to say, “take pity on me” and even though I’m a great supporter of the ‘pity party for one scenario,’ (It’s a skill I’ve mastered well) I don’t need a picture to do the job for me.
I’m not saying that every picture has to detail someone’s daily struggle or must contain vital information about their condition, but I feel as though the words used could garner a negative reaction.
For me however, it’s an image that’s both blaming and condescending. In life I flit between wanting to be acknowledged and not accused of “faking it,” but I also want to be treated much the same as anyone else. Yet the line ‘I hurt at places you couldn’t imagine’ separates me from others, creating a ‘them and us’ status. it’s defeating and patronising, especially the part which reads, ‘beyond your comprehension.’ Okay, so it may be true that the pain that I and others feel is beyond most people’s comprehension, but that’s because most people haven’t experienced it. Everything can be beyond someone’s comprehension if they haven’t been through it themselves, but that particular line feels like the finger of blame being pointed at those who do not have a chronic illness.
And do I really need people to know how strong I am so that they can say “well done you for doing what so many other people with chronic illnesses do every day?” If the person who wrote that really was strong, would they need to advertise that fact?
In saying that, many people find solace in those words. It says what they think, which is that those who don’t have it, don’t get it and I understand that completely. But here’s the thing, many people who don’t know our story already view us as whiny, self-obsessed complainers with a fake illness that’s all in our heads, and posts like this do not help with that stereotyping. It could have so easily been written as
‘I hurt at places which cannot be imagined, at a level beyond comprehension. If this pain could be felt by anyone for just one day, then they’d realise how strong they really are’.
There is no divide in that statement, no finger pointing or self pity because both the person posting and the reader, are encompassed within those few words. Most of us want understanding and compassion, not a sense of ‘woe is me’, which is what this sadly portrays.