Smiling and Pretending

The hardest part of having a chronic illness is not the pain, it’s not the fatigue or the worry, or the medical bills or the medication – it’s the smiling and pretending to be fine.

The hardest part of depression is not the dark thoughts, the isolation or the continuing sense of impending doom – it’s also the smiling and pretending to be fine.

Sometimes I want to be depressed. Yes I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s because being depressed is a lot less effort than being happy. I understand it’s usually the other way around for most people, but I gather that I am not most people. And sometimes I want to stay in my pajamas and shuffle around and eat ice cream for breakfast and smoke rollies (even though I don’t smoke anymore) and drink copious amounts of tea instead of eating because it’s easier. I also really like laying on the sofa.

Looking after myself is hard work, I’d quite like to stop. Washing my hair leaves my arms aching until a few days later when I pluck the courage up to do it again. Showers are exhausting. Putting mascara on hurts my shoulders. So I’d like to give up on my appearance for a bit and have hair like a bird’s nest and shower every 3 days or so. I’ve done worse when at festivals, so why not?

I want to give up. I don’t mean this in a “woe is me, my life is over, the end is nigh” kind of way; please don’t call the Mental Health Crisis Team again. I just mean I want a break. I’m bloody tired. When the average person gets ill they lay around on the sofa moaning about it and being miserable for a few weeks. I’d like to do that for a bit please. Then I’ll pick myself up, wash my hair, put down the ice cream and get on with it; until the next time I get fed up of smiling and pretending of course.

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17 responses to “Smiling and Pretending

  1. Yeah I feel the same. I get really angry and upset with people who get ill and then can’t stop talking to me about how awful they feel. It’s as if they can’t put two and two together and realise this is what I deal with ALL THE TIME! So frustrating. I get tired of my illness and my life generally. My faith keeps me going but sometimes I really just want a break from it all. It’s never been easy and I wish for once I had a taster of an easier life. Thinking of you and sending hugs.

    • If only there was a retreat for the chronically ill where we could go and be miserable without feeling bad! I think it’s ok to allow yourself to feel fed up sometimes, it’s almost like an indulgence for us lot. Be kind to yourself.

  2. I feel you. I also wish that we could take a break from work when we need to – openly and honestly without having to call in ‘sick.’

    • You’re right, I think there needs to be a better understanding of mental health problems within the work place. Calling in depressed or with anxiety issues is the same as calling in with a migraine or the flu if you ask me – you are unwell and need time to recover.

  3. I’m not chronically ill and I have felt like that recently. I have felt like making myself so painfully that I have no alternative but to stay inside and hide and not have to make any choices or decisions or effort. I suppose a welcoming home and family or friends can provide part of that indulgence for a while. Love you xxx

    • I suppose I have an excuse at least! I’m hoping home will be a good place to rest and share all of the warm fuzzy feelings that only friends and family can provide. You included. I hope Wales becomes a positive place for you xxx

  4. Great blog Helen! I can mostly say, yep, I identify with all you said. And I love that idea of a retreat where the chronic stuff is gone for awhile. It’s something I daydream about. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    • Thanks for reading and reblogging! So many of us feel the same, it’s so sad to know how many people are going through the same thing and ferrying the same way. But at the same time I suppose there is comfort in knowing you’re not alone.

  5. We suffer from different types of pain, but I can definitely relate to this! I’ve learned to live with my pain and function through it as best I can, but I wish I was “allowed” to just stay home on the couch and watch Animal Cops every time I woke up in pain. I’ve been unemployed for a while so I was actually able to do that for a few months before I started school again, but I couldn’t help feeling bad about it because I knew I was expected to brush myself off and keep chugging away even though it felt like I had railroad spikes in my head. I had managed to do it before when I couldn’t put my life on hold, so why couldn’t I do it every day? Because forcing yourself to fight through it every day is exhausting. :/

    • You’re so right. I don’t want to sound over dramatic but every day is a fight…even the best warrior needs a day off! Trying to balance the pain/fatigue/bipolar with having a good life is a full time job…I think I need to watch some Animal Cops with you!

      • Agreed! Animal Cops is a very cathartic show when you’re feeling really awful. It’s a great way to get some emotions out if you feel like you need a way to release, and seeing the animals get help and find new loving homes is always a boost. 🙂

  6. Great post. There have been so many times when I have wanted to give up – but didn’t know how. I, too, am not suicidal when I think this – I am just tired of being tired. Being in pain is a pain. But I also know that if I stop working hard at staying functional I will only get worst. You described it so very well – thanks for having the courage to put it in writing for us.

  7. I wish there was some socially acceptable way to tattoo, or hang a sign, or something to tell the world we have an invisible disease/disorder. Then, we wouldn’t have to smile that smile. I have chronic pain, bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety disorder. Fortunately, my mental/emotional disorders are being successfully being treated with medication, and I finally feel like a human being for the first time in forever. My pain, however, well, that is a completely different story.

    I hope that you can get the same help with your depression that I got with mine. It has taken too many years, but I finally found it and I am grateful to God. God bless. Gentle hugs {{{{H}}}}

  8. Hi Helen,
    I definitely feel you. Sometimes even the drop of water from the shower is really painful and my sister can’t seem to understand. Like Stubblytroll, fortunately, my mental and emotional problems have been tamed by medications, unfortunately, the pain is persistent. Oh and I have oftentimes thought I wish I have a recorder or a sign explaining fully what I’ve got, instead os people speculating, worse, thinking I am just a lazy bum. I am no longer as depressed but the pain isn’t really something to life my mood up =)

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