Last week I went to the post office and had yet another enlightening conversation with the clerk helping me. It's a conversation I've had many times with many different people during a variety of activities. In fact, it doesn't seem to differ much at all regardless of who I am talking to. She took one look at my The Fibromyalgia Crusade return address labels and repeated the name slowly. "I'm tired all the time, how do I know if I have Fibromyalgia?" she asked. The way the question was phrased indicated this person had some prior knowledge of at least one facet of Fibro symptoms. I paused for a second to figure out how to best answer this question. "Well," I answered honestly, "when it gets so bad you'd rather die than continue living it's time to go to the doctor." Was that dramatic enough? She gave me a rather perplexed look. "It's extremely painful too. A central nervous system disorder that increases painful sensations in the muscles and ligaments," I added. "So it hurts like when you work out too much?" she asked with an utterly obnoxious smirk. Ahhhh, I thought to myself. Someone in her life has Fibro and she doesn't like it one bit! Doesn't understand it, doesn't believe it...
"Oh no," I answered, unwilling to be painted into a corner on this one. "It's like the flu. A really bad flu. Forever. For years. It never goes away." That reached her. She got a look on her face which was a wonderful combination of shocked horror and blatant discomfort. Our conversation about Fibromyalgia ended there and I quickly paid and left. Well the second we stepped outside the friend I was running errands with got a wigged out look on her face. "You sure handled that a lot better than I would have!" she yelled. "I wanted to reach over and smack her across the face!" I laughed and thanked God for the supportive people in my life. So I explained my diplomatic approach, how getting people to understand and relate it to their lives is far more important than being right or caring how strangers perceive me. And as we talked through this twelve second conversation and the many layers of meaning it held I realized something overwhelmingly profound had happened.
I didn't get upset! I was confronted with a doubter and didn't experience one blip of spiked blood pressure. There was no taking this person's disbelief personally or feeling ashamed I have something so many people don't understand or give credence to. There was me, explaining it, putting real world comparisons to my pain and symptoms. And then ultimately walking away and not giving one rat's woo-ha if she changes her opinion about Fibromyalgia or not. I'd done my part and hopefully made her think about it in a different way. That's all I can do. Encounters like this used to leave me outraged, frustrated, bitter and completely bent out of shape. And wondering why I had no ability to tend to my own life. I've been working very hard on releasing the need for approval and acceptance from people who aren't relevant to my existence. I guess it's working...at least for a twelve second conversation that took place one day last week it is.
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