F.I.N.E. – Frankly I need empathy

I work in a fast-paced customer service environment; I cannot begin to tell you how many times a day I hear, “Hey, how are you?” Truth be told, even without the working environment, hearing that question is a commonality. It is ingrained in our brain as a social norm. We don’t ask out of a genuine curiosity, in fact I would say more than half the time people have moved on with their dialogue without even hearing your answer. Perhaps harder to stomach than the disingenuous population are the people who ask sincerely. As a chronically ill person, I know deep down nobody wants to hear how I am. Nobody wants to hear I am worse, or that I cry alone every night. They don’t want to know that I physically cannot sleep, or that on the nights that I can, I get woken up with an indescribable gutting pain. So I lie. I tell everyone I am okay, or I tell them I am fine. Maybe it’s a perverse way of sparing them, but mostly I do it to spare myself. The truth is…when I say fine, I really mean Frankly, I need empathy.
Often misunderstood is the difference between empathy and sympathy. I don’t want anyone to pity me, or feel sorry for me, I just want people to try and understand for a moment where I am coming from. I don’t want or need anyone to physically feel my pain, or shoulder my burden, I just want to know that I can be myself without hesitation.
If it were up to me, nobody would have to live this way. There is not a person living or dead that I would wish this disease on. Life is not always easy, but we can make it better by being good and kind to one another. All I ask is that next time you ask how someone is, do it with care, or with a sense of empathy or purpose.

Crohn’s- My angel, my devil

Growing up, we have all heard the story of the proverbial angel and devil that sit opposite each other on our shoulders. One speaks of innocence and is often portrayed as our conscience, while the devil sits askew and whispers of danger and seduction. I grew up with neither. Upon my shoulders for as long as I can remember has sat Crohn’s, my fair-weathered friend. It has guided me both consciously and seductively through my life, long before I knew its name. Crohn’s, you see, is my north star; for better or for worse, it counsels me. It reaches out to me in the best and worst moments of my life. It speaks of pain, insomnia, fear, anxiety, frequent bathroom trips, exhaustion, and fatigue. Yet, it also calls like a siren song and speaks of strength and courage. It reminds me that I am more, that I have survived. For as much hatred as I have for Crohn’s, there is an equal amount of love. For this disease, much to my own chagrin, is my best quality. I am who I am because of it.
Perhaps Crohn’s isn’t as eloquent or picturesque as Faust intended, but then…..what is?