We often associate the term Coming Out with a milestones within the gay and lesbian community. Coming out as a gay person, I believe, is a very big step and is probably filled with many emotional challenges.
I am mindful of how difficult that coming out must be for a gay/lesbian person and I can only imagine what reactions they encounter from their friends and loved ones. I won’t pretend that I know personally.
I like to believe that friends and loved ones would want to know and want to share their support for their gay/lesbian loved ones, but I know that the reality can be vastly different.
After centuries of discrimination and oppression the homosexual community still have many struggles and still fight for basic human rights. Sometimes I find it difficult to believe and even harder to accept that this is where we are as a society. Still.
However, this piece is not about the plight and the rights of these brave and wonderful people; although I do hope I live to see sweeping changes in my life time. This piece endeavors to draw tenuous similarities between how people feel that they must hide their realities from main stream society.
In the case of the chronically ill, rarely will we make our struggles known or publish pictures of ourselves when we are sick or suffering with chronic challenges. Even with other chronically ill fighters.
I can only speak for myself, but it feels as though it’s not allowed. There seems to be an unspoken rule about showing anyone your truth; so I don’t.
If I post a picture of myself on Facebook or social media I will endeavor to show myself at my best, even if my best lasts only for an hour before the meds wear off and I am in tears and pain again. Even if my best requires assistance from my husband/carer and strong drug cocktails.
Sometimes a forced smile and an outing is too much to manage, despite how much I yearn for them. But I feel that sharing my pain and reality with the rest of the world will somehow make me even less acceptable and label me as a whinger or seeking sympathy; So I don’t.
The truth is that the last thing I want is sympathy. Sympathy doesn’t change or help things. However I would like people to know that there are reasons that I am not the person I was and hope that it might help them understand a few things through my eyes and reality. After all, we become close to others my getting to know who they are and their experiences of life. It’s how lasting bonds are made and sustained.
Sometimes I have posted a picture on Facebook of a swollen joint or a painful spasm and I may get a comment from a few fellow chronic fighters wishing me good luck and comforting thoughts, but rarely from healthy friends / family. Rarely do they make comments so it makes me feel like it’s not acceptable and that I should keep my realities to myself; Despite leaving comments about their children’s party, their last meal, their holiday antics or their smashed up cars.
Those of my friends or family who have had children and have shared the difficulties of sleep deprivation and various other child raising issues seem to get a lot of support and appreciation from their social networks, but that same appreciation doesn’t seem to extend for those of us with chronic issues. Why?
Coming out as chronically ill person who must deal with pain, progression, a myriad of symptoms, fatigue and isolation, it becomes a huge decision and carries with it great risk and consequences .
You stand to lose friends, family, employment and many other opportunities, through no fault of your own! It’s incredibly unfair and indescribably painful!
It is also worth mentioning that there are even some chronically ill people that may feel the urge to judge you as well. Perhaps this is where the chronically ill and the gay community differ, I hope that they don’t judge or criticize each other for coming out or sharing the realities of their everyday life.
I have been forced to think that my reality might seem very boring or uneventful to many people so I try to edit my life accordingly.
I long for the day when sharing a recent struggle or painful event is acceptable for public consumption and will not cause embarrassment or labeling from friends and family.
I often shake my head when I think that this is a time where it’s normal to share naked selfies, sexting, and pictures of drunken exploits but shameful and self indulgent to show the cruel effects of life with diseases.
It seems that even today in 2017 the rules of dont ask, don’t tell apply to many different groups and many different situations … and almost always hurts those who least deserve it.
But I will always live in the hope that things can, and will, change.