It seems as though it is assumed because you have chronic illnesses and a litany of health problems that you no longer experience embarrassment or shame. Speaking for myself, nothing can be further from the truth.
The fact is that there are a number of issues that I have to deal with that are deeply personal and incredibly embarrassing to me; despite being told that doctors have seen it all doesn’t make it any easier for me to share it all.
I have always been a very private and introverted person who rarely revealed personal challenges or struggles (especially emotional ones) so it is incredibly difficult for me to share things with doctors, health professionals and anyone in general. It doesn’t matter how many times I tell myself not to feel this way, the fact is it still remains… why hasn’t it got any easier?
Many of the health struggles that I deal with I have never told anyone about because of the deeply personal nature and the embarrassment that accompanies such topics. My feelings just didn’t change overnight because my body did!
A dear friend was probing me about my current health situation and as I felt more and more unable to conceal certain details I became very teary and emotional. My eyes welled up as I disclosed how I have been suffering from bladder problems for many years now and for days later I couldn’t help relive the humiliation of it all.
I feel caught in a battle between being truthful and authentic and being very embarrassed and shamed.
It is profoundly difficult for me to admit that in my 40s I suffer the most awful and embarrassing of health conditions from incontinence, constipation, horrendous menstrual pain, tremors, diarrhea, urinary retention and spasticity, to name but a few, and I have often wondered if there are others out there like me.
People have assumed that because I have a chronic illness and am always sick and disabled that I no longer experience embarrassment or self consciousness. Wrong! The truth is that the more disabled or impaired I have become the more I have struggled to come to terms with it.
My husband is a constant source of strength and encouragement, however it is much easier to be the person to offer support than to be the person who must ask for it with these intimate topics. I really don’t know why this is how I feel but I am also truly grateful for my husband’s kindness and understanding when I know many men would simply have walked away!
I come from a family, and a generation, of body shaming so when it is put in this context it is very easy to see where these phobias stem from. Overcoming them becomes incredibly difficult, especially at this stage in life.
When I consider that many of my peers are doctors, lawyers, professionals and independent women I find it immensely shaming to have to admit that I require help getting off the toilet!
Ask any woman what one of her fears are when giving birth and they will tell you that they are afraid of shi*ting herself whilst pushing out the baby. Imagine then if you had to live everyday with those fears, no matter where you are or whomever is around! You would soon get a better understanding of what life is like when your nerves become damaged due to diseases and illnesses.
Sometimes the shame and embarrassment of our illnesses is as painful as the illness itself. As sufferers we tend to congregate in closed groups to discuss these topics anonymously but it is still incredibly hard, even amongst virtual strangers.
I marvel at those men and women that YouTube themselves with stomas bags, catheters and tremors. I have nothing but praise and awe for those that face their deepest embarrassments every day and talk openly on such topics! They are nothing short of incredible in my book!
For the rest of us who are still struggling to come to terms with such topics and and trying to find peace and strength I hope that we can all do so in time. This has been my first step in trying to face my demons by blogging about them but I know I have a very long way to go yet… I hope this has been one small step at least.