As many of you know, I got very sick in February. My fireplace’s flue wasn’t functioning right, which resulted in me getting carbon monoxide poisoning. At its height, I passed out, hitting my head on the log holder beside the fireplace, passing out for around 25 minutes & getting a concussion. It’s been a long six months living with all the symptoms, & I’m still getting used to them.
A few days ago, I felt really bad because of it. Everything on my body ached, especially my head, I was exhausted even though I hadn’t done anything tiring, my moods were all over the place & I kept forgetting things. Yet in spite of the obvious & annoying symptoms, I wondered if I was faking them!
This baffled me. I don’t know how to convince myself of the body aches or make myself moody. Besides, I was home alone- no one knew how I felt. What would be the point of faking it with no witnesses besides my cats & dog?! They weren’t going to tell anyone anything. So why would I think this? I didn’t even get to ask God before He started showing me some things. I believe what I learned may help you as well.
God reminded me of many things that I experienced that invalidated any suffering I felt when sick or injured. There are many more but here are a few examples:
- When I was 5, my mother woke me up one morning by tickling me. To get away from her I hit my head on the edge of the bookcase headboard on the bed. She called the pediatrician who saw me then sent me to the ER. I ended up with several stitches & had lost a lot of blood. To this day, my mother says how hard that episode was for her. She also complains that when she took me to the mall after leaving the ER (WHY?!) I wanted new crayons & I already had so many. Seriously? $1.50 on new crayons after that experience shouldn’t have been a big deal.
- In elementary school, I hurt my foot in gym class, & my mother wrote a note excusing me from gym. That teacher told me I’d never amount to anything if I refused to participate. I was a failure, lazy & other cruel things.
- In fifth grade, I got the chicken pox. For whatever reason, it lasted 2-3 weeks & I was utterly miserable the entire time. My mother complained about being “stuck in the house” because of me, so my parents & I went out to dinner while I was sick. She told me to lay down in the back seat & hide. She also said to tell my friends she was taking me to the doctor if anyone saw me in the car as she drove out of the neighborhood. I never saw a doctor, by the way. She did get me two presents during that time, which made me think she actually did love me.
- Towards the end of ninth grade, I hurt my foot. One weekend several days later, my mother wanted to go window shopping & I said I’d rather wait in the car. She brags that she knew if I wouldn’t go shopping, I had to be in pain, then she got me to the doctor a couple of days later. She later complained about how her mother’s day was ruined that year because I was on crutches & my father had hurt his back.
- During that time on crutches, my class was to visit the local high school to see where we were attending school the following year. My mother sent me to school that day, even knowing how big that campus was & I was on crutches. Then while trying to keep up with my classmates, I stopped using the crutches briefly & a classmate made fun of me “faking” it.
- When I was 19 & my mother threw me into a wall, I had back pain for 10 years. For those 10 years, the only people who believed I was in pain were my chiropractor, my ex husband & later my current husband. The doctors, others I knew & especially my mother said I was faking the injury to get out of working, I was lazy, & I had a low threshold of pain.
- In 2010, I lost several furbabies & was under a lot of stress. I got the flu 3 times, probably from the stress compromising my immune system. My mother & another person said it was my fault for not getting a flu shot.
- Last year, as my father was recovering from a stroke, I volunteered to help my parents get things done around their home on Sundays. Unfortunately, the arthritis in my knees didn’t appreciate it & I had to quit. I told my mother this & she ignored me. My father listened & understood. He mentioned it to my mother who called me & asked if I “really had arthritis like my father claimed. Had I even seen a doctor about this” Just one of many times she’s doubted I had something wrong with me. She then told me if I’d just lose some weight, I’d be fine.
- I’ve been insulted for how bad my memory is & how hard a time I have finding the right words sometimes even when the other person knows what causes these problems. (C-PTSD made these things bad, but the carbon monoxide poisoning & concussion made them much, much worse.)
Incidents like these instilled some false beliefs in me:
- My pain or illness wasn’t as bad as other people’s.
- My pain or illness didn’t matter, but other people’s did.
- I shouldn’t bother anyone with any illness or injury.
- I just want attention, so I fake illness or injury in an attempt to get it. I’m not really sick or hurt.
- On the off chance I really was sick or injured, it was all my fault & I’m weak. I deserve whatever I get.
- I don’t deserve to have help while recovering.
- If I don’t look sick or have other solid, irrefutable evidence of illness or injury, then nothing is wrong.
Growing up with a narcissistic mother, I believe, set the stage for me to believe these ridiculous ideas easier than if I’d had a healthy upbringing & had normal self-esteem.
I never realized any of this until a few days ago. These false beliefs were so deeply ingrained in me that it took me until age 44 & healing from a life threatening situation to understand why I handle things so poorly when I’m sick or injured. Aside from wondering if I’m faking whatever the problem is, I try to cover it up so nobody knows I have the problem. I also trivialize it. For example, when I broke a toe last year, I said, “It’s just a broken toe. No big deal” even though it was my big toe (which I learned sees a surprising amount of activity) & a year later, still hurts often. I also never used crutches or sought medical care.
Dear Reader, please learn from my mistakes. If you too have a hard time admitting you’re sick or hurt when you really are, ask God to show you why. Chances are, you have stories similar to mine. If so, it’s time to reject those false beliefs that cruel people instilled in you. You are allowed to have problems, you are allowed to ask people for help in your time of need. You aren’t weak or looking for attention if you’re sick or injured- you are simply sick or injured! Your pain is just as bad as other people’s & just as valid as other people’s. There is nothing to be ashamed of if you get sick or hurt. It happens to everyone at some point in their lives.