It had been a crazy day to top off a crazy week. Thursday was winding down and not fast enough. All I wanted was to get to 2:30 so I could go home. I just needed my day and my work week to be over. I was tired, stressed and achy. At 2:20 my boss called. She needed us to call a client right away. My coworker was already late leaving and would already have to rush to pick up her daughter at school. I had a little time before I had to go get my son. “Go.” I told her. “I got this one.” I didn’t feel like it. I needed to get some detailed information from the client and there was no telling how long this could take.
Please, please, please let this be an answering machine, I prayed as I dialed.
“Hello?” It was the wife.
Shit! Seriously God?!? Was an answering machine too much to ask for?!
So I introduced myself and asked my questions about the husband. She explained that she needed insurance for herself as well. She said she’d be harder to help as she has a chronic illness. She sounded ready to cry.
Okay, maybe I have a few minutes.
“I understand what that’s like.” I explained, “I have rheumatoid arthritis and I know making sure your doctors and drugs are covered is so important.”
“Me too!” She suddenly brightened up and grouchy as I was, so did I.
We went on to spend the next forty minutes, long past quitting time, talking about how we were misdiagnosed for years, how we finally got the right diagnosis. We discussed the weather and the havoc it wreaks on our bodies. We talked about what it felt like to deal with the undercurrent of skepticism from people around us and the frustration of being treated as if having a flare is somehow our fault. We delved into the feelings of guilt that come with not being to do the things we used to be able to do so easily – working full time being one of those. We touched on the anger we felt towards doctors who wouldn’t listen to us or treat us as human beings with thoughts and feelings, choosing instead to see us as guinea pigs, case numbers or both. We compared treatment strategies and the fear of the misjudging the complications from the drugs we use versus the damage the disease itself can do.
When we finally hung up, she was noticeably calmer and more upbeat. So was I.
Alright. I admit it. I needed that. Thank you, Lord. Okay. Quit smirking damn it.
As the conversation replayed in my head later that night, I realized how easily I fall into the trap of hiding or outright lying about how I’m really feeling. It’s not because I think people don’t care so much as I know they can’t truly understand. If you don’t know what it’s like to feel betrayed by your own body, you can’t truly relate, no matter how much you want to. It’s easier for me to just keep quiet than to try to find the right words to explain.
Yeah. Me. A writer. Struggling for words. I hope that paints a bit of the picture.
The problem with keeping those feelings hidden from others is that, after awhile, it becomes such a habit that I start keeping them from myself too. How many times do I have to be reminded that the secrets I keep are the ones that poison me slowly? Obviously, I needed one more.
This reminded me of another conversation, one I had shortly after I had filed for divorce. After an exceptionally raw session with my therapist, he told me, “Chris, you’re trying to get somebody to completely understand the pain that you feel. It’s never going to happen. No one will EVER understand it. That pain is yours and yours alone.”
That statement knocked the wind out of me. I cried uncontrollably for two days. Then I walked into church at the end of the second day and stood before a statue of Jesus, beaten, bloodied and dressed in the red robes and crown of thorns. As I looked into His face, it suddenly hit me full force that He knew. He knew my pain. He knew ALL of it. He’d been right there with me through all of it, not watching it but feeling it with me.
I guess I needed to be reminded of that too.
It’s funny how much healing there can be in those two simple little words: me too.