Or does it?
Maybe it was the case in your school as it was at mine that there were two types of award handed out at the end of the school year, one for achievement and the other for effort. The reason for anyone to receive the achievement award was clear, it was something quantifiable and something to be proud of. The other award? Well that was less quantifiable because who can tell if someone is really making that effort, really trying? An award may be something to be proud of but this always had a tang of failure attached. You did your best but you didn’t actually get there.
Is that something to be celebrated?
I was told just the other day in a conversation about my health with someone who should really know my health condition (ME) and me rather well that I should just keep trying.
I have two questions from that cheerful statement which left me wretchedly despondent.
Does that mean I am currently not trying enough?
I am not one of those who attains in life. I never have been. I struggle to get people to recognise and accept my achievements too. I put in heck of an effort though. Although you may choose not to believe that.
I am currently doing so much that it would leave a Well Person tired. I am currently dealing with so many stresses and issues that would cause a Well Person burnout.
Is that not enough?
Is it possible really that if I just ‘tried enough’ that I would overcome this illness as though it was just an expression of the weakness of my mind or personality? Somewhat invisible neurological conditions are much easily understood and accepted when they are blamed upon the victim. Just try enough and you will cure yourself. It’s trite. And tripe.
Which leads really to my second question:
Should I keep trying?
This is a somewhat dangerous thought. It means that I accept that I have a genuine, bona fide illness, I who is that me that I do not believe in or trust, the me who is never as deserving as the other Ill People who merit attention, support and understanding. It means that I believe in doing the right thing for my condition rather than what is deemed socially acceptable, rather than what has been drilled into me as the correct response to illness: pretend it isn’t there, save other people face and lead as ‘normal’ a life as possible. Even if that means collapsing behind closed doors afterwards.
The damage, the irreparable damage in this condition comes when you don’t rest. When you don’t lay your worn out systems down and let them catch up with themselves. If they ever can. I have never fully rested, I have fought to get back up and continue fighting every single bad bout for fourteen years. Rest is a sin, it is tied irrevocably to laziness. In my childhood, if you were ill, you had to be up before nine, dressed and ready for the day. You may lie on the child-sized sofas that have always graced my parents’ house in a squashed uncomfortable foetal position with a cricked neck but you must be up and you must be dressed. I didn’t know that being ill (or even, not being ill) could allow you to stay in pyjamas all day. Duvet days for the soul rather than wretched illness which would barely let you crawl to the bathroom.
So do I accept that dangerous thought? Do I start to see myself as Ill through bitter tears and the smashing of my pride? Do I let myself be seen as Ill by others through bitter tears and the smashing of my pride? Or do I just keep trying?
The answer isn’t black and white because there is always Life. Life has great demands on me and my energy levels. There is a house to ‘keep’, appointments to attend and crises to deal with. There are my expectations and those of others, the things that I must do or be at. I’m not prepared to surrender everything to this mongrel-beast, even if perhaps it compromises my future health.
Shooting myself in the foot perhaps.
But it is Other People who are the hardest to deal with. Their expectations, of me and of both my Illness and Illness generally.
Should I give up trying and let my body have the time and space it needs?
It is worn to the point of collapse, it is beyond that collapse but I have had to keep fighting because Life doesn’t give you sick leave.
I have no answers. Just a worn out body, mind and soul.