Working in the healthcare field, I come across many a soul who are far worse off than I am, or are they? Recently I changed career path and went down a road not well traveled, by me at least. I started doing Home Health Care (HHC). For many years I wouldn’t do HHC because of my phobia about cleanliness, yep I did say that. I just knew that I would be coming home every night cleaning my house, but you know it hasn’t been what I thought it would be. Now when I go into a home I see my patients and not how they live. I’m not judging them, actually, I was judging me because I always felt if my house wasn’t clean I could never have anyone over. I don’t know what I was thinking, I never have anyone come over! Enough about my dirty house.
When I started doing therapy in the homes I would listen as any good therapist does and then get on with my treatment sessions. I didn’t talk about my health or my problems until one day I was seeing a woman who had a myriad of problems but none that were life threatening or debilitating. She was very negative and continually told me I couldn’t help her. I begun to get so frustrated wondering “Why am I even here?” I sat down on the floor and looked at her, letting all the pain I felt internally show upon my face, because up until this time she had never seen me grimace let alone hear me cry out in pain.
She asked me what was wrong so I told her my story.
I told her about the last two years and how my life had come to an abrupt halt. How I lived in constant pain, couldn’t walk, sit, lay without yelling, screaming or crying. She never said a word, but listened intently. When I was finished I looked at her with tears in my eyes and told her that “I wish I had just one of her problems for if I did and not any of mine I would be jumping for joy every time I woke up.” After a few minutes I looked at her again and she said “I’m glad my health isn’t as bad as yours!”
After that day she did everything I put in front of her to do and in the end I discharged a much more healthier and happier person.
What was it that I said that made her change her mind about “her” life? She told me that she was being selfish and not looking at the bigger picture, that there are people out there a lot worse off than her. What she saw in me was a fighter and no matter what she was going to be like me!
Since that day I look at my job a little differently. Maybe I am doing what I am supposed to be doing because I can help these people. Don’t get me wrong I’m not out to fix the world because there are just some people you just can’t fix. But there are those who we can help just by telling them how we feel. You don’t have to have a disease to help others, you can just be empathetic.
This brings me to the “Invisible Disease” theory that we all know and love, and how we get others to believe in us. I have been fortunate that I haven’t undergone such criticism and no one has questioned my illness but other have and I truly feel for them. When I tell my story to these patients of course none of them have ever heard of Ankylosing Spondylitis but they listen and on other visits they always ask me how I’m feeling. So in a way the word is getting out about AS even if it is just in my own little world. But it makes me feel better that I get recognized for having something even if it is a “health condition”.
Last week I got a new patient with a head injury and luckily for her it is not as severe as it could have been. Again we went through the poor me and pity me stage until I hit my frustration point… “At least you have a recognizable disability” “People don’t just think all your injuries are in your head!” “How would you like to have an invisible disease where everyone thinks your just crazy and making things up?” Yep that did get her attention. “What do you mean invisible?”
Again I told my story and the look on her face was priceless. I honestly told her that I would rather have her head injury because if I did something people didn’t like I could say “Sorry I have a head injury!” but when I don’t get up and clean the house or go to town to get groceries it doesn’t go over to well when I say “Sorry my back/legs hurt!” People see your pain as real but my pain is just in my mind.
I’m still working with this patient and she is just super fantastic. She sees life in a whole different light now and is working to make changes and continues to make remarkable progress and hasn’t had the pity party since.
I think the more I tell my story to my patients the more they appreciate what they have got, and my experiences with AS are not nearly as bad as some have it.
So next time when someone you run into thinks that life has thrown them a shitty curve ball, tell em “Life could be worse, you could have mine.”
Categories: Helping Others