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I have had a pretty good summer! As I said in my last post, I had a great visit from a friend. I then had another friend come for a week and although I felt quite awful at times and had lots of sensitivity to noise, light and sensory overload as well as other things, she is the kind of friend who made the experience more pleasant. She just kept me company and we still had fun. It is hard to be around people when symptoms are severe so I was so grateful to have someone so chilled out and who knows me so well to be here with me. After that I had a few days to gather my self, my strength and my essential belongings before heading up to Scotland for a week. I was really surprised that although the travel was hard (and I slept literally the whole day after we got there) I managed to go out briefly three times during our stay and really enjoyed the things we did and saw. After that we again had a few days break before my partner went away with work, and my mum came up to help me cope with my daily needs and keep me company. We had a good time, and it felt quite busy despite only going out to a doctor’s appointment one day and a quick trip to see the sea and sit in a cafe another day. That was last week and this week we have the builders in – they may still be here next week actually. So it has been really busy!
I was a bit daunted by this summer before it happened. I worried about how I would feel, whether I would be able to enjoy things or if I would feel too bad to make the most of things that were happening and feel I was missing out. I have been pleasantly surprised by what I have done and how I have recovered quite quickly from each thing. I have been very careful, of course, but think my post-exertional malaise is not as severe as it used to be, particularly looking back to last year. I do get a flare up of symptoms, more pain and neurological symptoms rather than fatigue, per se. The sleeping all day the day after travelling was really unusual for these days, though so was such a long journey. It took three hours.
So here I am back at home and contemplating what I want to focus on over the next few months. Some things have come out of the GP appointment which will take some time and focus. I will talk about them in another post. It has been interesting to be without a computer, or accessing it less over the last couple of months. I really want to keep my blog going and interact with my online friends, but I also want to be online less and do more creative things. I did not really miss the extra internet hours and think I need to set some boundaries for myself so that I am only online at certain times of day and for short periods. I doubt I will miss out on much and it will focus my attention to the important stuff.
I really want to actually DO more creative stuff rather than just think about it and I need to make some space. The health stuff is going to take some time each day, so I need to make a plan! I would love to go with the flow more, as I expect I have expressed in previous posts, but with such limited functional time each day it is really hard to do that. I also find it really hard to remember what I need to do, so unless I have a plan I use my energy on non-essentials and forget the important stuff. Not good and does not give any sense of achievement. I have a new creative project with a friend so I need to make time and space for that. I am quite excited about it!
I subscribe to Sustainably Creative, by Michael Nobbs who is an artist living with ME. He is trying to earn a living through creative means in a way that fits around his energy issues. He has helped me to think about how I can fit in more creativity and work out what is important for me to focus on. He sends out regular digital postcards, an illustrated newsletter and daily podcasts which I really enjoy. This month new members get a free copy of his latest book! (He has produced others too). Whilst I do very little and could not contemplate trying to earn money from creativity right now, it is really good for me to do little bits and bobs and feel some sense of identity as an artist, not just as an ill person. While the latter wins out most days, the creativity and ideas are always there bubbling beneath the surface, even if I am not doing anything about them. It is good to see how others are trying to navigate these issues.
So, while I am back to the old routines in many ways, I hope to shake up a few and make some small changes, hopefully for the better.
I read a post by my friend today where she says she wants to pretend to be normal for a few hours, and it got me thinking. She says:
Hell yes! I know what you mean. In fact last Friday after three weeks of planning, worrying and not feeling well enough, pacing the whole week before, watching the day itself grind so slowly along while trying not to use up any energy and rest as much as possible; I went out!
I just wanted so much to have an evening of doing something normal, feeling normal (or at least not really ill), having some much-needed fun and by and large i did. I had the best indian meal i think i have ever had and spent time with a great friend. It goes without saying that this was a rare occasion for me (but i will say it anyway) and that i have suffered the consequences since (but it was worth it).
I got dressed up (as much as my limited wardrobe of non-pyjama items allowed). I put on makeup for the first time in ages which felt very odd and like i was pretending to be someone else by hiding my pallor and ill-worn face: yes, pretending to be a well person. I sniffed it warily (it goes off and smelly you know when you only use it once a year) and i was feeling very out of practice.
I also had a big dilemma about whether to take my walking stick…
I quite often have this dilemma about my walking stick. Without it i can pass as “normal”, as able-bodied, though that illusion can soon dissolve and i need to explain myself anyway. If i am going somewhere by taxi and it is door-to-door with no walking or needing to stand and wait outside, and if i am not going to be alone, i will sometimes leave it at home.
Quite often when i don’t take it i find myself in a situation i did not expect and wish i had it with me, though it is rarely a major issue as it is not really a whole lot of help to me if i feel really bad. It has a seat at the top and this can temporarily help me if i have to stand still. Mostly it is a useful signifier to others that there is something wrong with me. People will be more accommodating if i ask for help or make a request to be dropped right outside my house, they will help me with my bag etc. It makes life easier and gives people warning that i cannot walk as fast or as far as they would otherwise assume.
It is nice to feel that i am escaping my ill life for a couple of hours, that i do not stand out from the crowd as a young (ish) person with a walking stick. It is nice not to attract questions and have to explain what is wrong with me to all and sundry and then have to use energy to deal with their reactions and questions. But should i “pass” in this way? In a way i feel that it is only passing due to the assumptions of people i meet that i am able-bodied and healthy, so really the problem lies with them doesn’t it? But i cannot help but feel it is important to make visible that not everyone who is young (ish) and looks healthy really is. It feels like pretending and hiding to deny my disability by not having my stick, even though it is almost useless in a practical sense!
I wonder if this feeling comes partly from my experience as a lesbian – another situation where it can be easier to pass/pretend and rely on other people’s assumptions that everyone is straight. I make a point of correcting people when they assume i am straight (unless i feel threatened, and even then i feel guilty for not challenging them). I cannot divorce my personal actions and identity from their political impact, small as that may be when i am hardly a visible part of society 99.99% of the time. Am i using an unfair priviledge to be able to pass as straight, able-bodied etc?
Should i want to be “normal”? Should i have got over that by now and embraced my disabled identity? Well i would say in many ways i have, but being chronically ill 24/7 with no break is not something that can be embraced and loved at all times – so why do i feel a traitor to the cause? I actually do not even hope to be “normal” again or 100% well (i cannot dare to hope that far, and it seems such a no-no to even speak of it within the disabled community – but hey i am used to not fitting into the club) but a break from it all and to try on a different identity that is more a choice would be nice occasionally… is that wrong?
Am i the only one who even thinks about this stuff?
Had planned to go out to the local Gay Pride today. Only thought about getting taxi there and back and sitting on a bench for a little while, watching the world go by and chatting to anyone i knew… it was never going to be high octane but i woke up this morning for the second time and knew there was no chance.
Have since been back to bed again and felt up to a bit of tv and lunch etc. but can’t help feeling disappointed that i could not go. Sometimes it’s easier than others when i can’t do something i want to do, depends what it is and how long it has been since i went anywhere. I have not had a good week and was really pinning my hopes on a couple of hours out today.
An old friend is getting married in August and has invited us to go, but it is being held where I grew up which is a long journey and i know i can’t go. Also we are planning to go away for an over ambitious few days away the week before so i know i will still be recovering from that, if i get to go there anyway!
It is things like that that only happen once that really get me. If i was a well-woman i would be there without question.
I was looking forward to today to feel part of the community and part of an event which i miss. My identity as someone who is chronically ill/disabled has taken over all my attention and i rarely focus as much as i used to on other aspects, such as being a lesbian. I am very interested in identity politics/issues and i find it so interesting how the aspects of our identity that we feel are most relevant are the ones that are affecting us most at any one time. I barely feel like a lesbian these days, which may seem ridiculous as i love and live with my female partner but it is not something which causes any issues for me on a daily basis (i am not visibly lesbian as i am rarely out in public with my partner), whereas i am reminded that i am unwell and unable to do so many things on a minute by minute basis.
Well i don’t feel able to be very articulate right now so will leave it there…
Maybe i will feel better tomorrow…