A Day In My Life Photo Challenge for 30 Days Of RSD/CRPS Awareness, June 2013
Day 22 – A picture of your smile
My smile has different aspects behind it:
1) My smile is an expression of who I am. It shows the joys I find in the beauty of love in friendships, the world more broadly and even in the smallest things in life. My smile is more than a representation of how I cope, it is a representation of who I am. And it is real. It is not fake.
2) My smile also gets used as a tool to reassure others. When I am in so much pain that those around me do not know what to say or do, how to react, how to comprehend what is happening… I smile. It is not a fake smile, it is because I have lived with these conditions for many years, the smile is me showing through the pain. The smile is because, well, what else can I do, eh? Beyond getting me somewhere comfy to rest, a hot water bottle, a blanket, some painkillers… all that practical stuff, what else can those around me do to help? They can’t take away my pain, and they are in pain seeing how much pain I am in. So I smile. Because to have people in my life who haven’t legged it into the sunset, who still see me once in a while despite how helpless my condition makes them feel, that means so much to me. I smile my appreciation, my love, and my recognition that what they’re witnessing is affecting them too but that they still choose not to run away.
3) The people who don’t know about my condition. When I’m in pain and just trying to get on with things. I appreciate their care and concern, but they’d be there for hours if I explained all that is wrong with my health! Sometimes there is some conversation about it if they ask me, and if there is some time to discuss the basics. I appreciate people wanting to know, and I realise that raising awareness and understanding falls mainly on the shoulders of the patients. So I share information. I try to keep it simple but informative. And I do not get emotional about it. I care that they care. I am grateful.
But back in the day, before I had the knowledge about my health conditions that I have now, before I had such a calm acceptance of this being my new reality, and before I started to learn about how the body works and what I can do to help improve my day-to-day quality of life…. my smile was my shield.
Truly. A shield.
Work colleagues (not you lovely handful of ex-colleagues who are still my wonderful friends – this paragraph does not apply to you, xx) would ask me on a Monday morning the traditional “Hi, did you have a good weekend?” The apologetically toned answer “Well I tried to rest but the pain just never calms down enough for me to function” resulted in them giving me a weird look and walking away. Some felt awkward. Some just didn’t believe it. Even when coupled with an apologetic facial expression and apologetic smile whilst thinking: ‘I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but trying to make myself say yes is just too hard’. They stopped asking me. Started avoiding me. Didn’t want to know. Like I was being negative or something instead of apologetically trying to soften the reality for them.
Great. <sarcasm> !
So in the end I accepted the distance, but I would not lie. If they asked I’d just smile thinly at them. I mean, they knew the score, they knew they couldn’t take the answer if I’d bothered to reply, they just didn’t want to hear it. Sometimes I’d kinda say “mm, the usual”, but my face clearly belied my words, a wry smile says a lot! Sometimes they’d ask me out of sheer Monday morning habit and then suddenly look scared as they realised who they’d just asked!
That was the kinda situation when the fake smile would crop up. That was the smile-as-shield.
We have enough to deal with. If a fake smile and a quick exit removes us from more misunderstanding and emotional pain, then all to the good. There are others out here who do understand. Even if we’ve not met them in the 3D world they make such a wonderful difference to us in our hearts. Nearly all of my smiles are genuine, and the rare fake ones are saved for situations with strangers who do not know me. All who know me get real smiles, xx
I don’t have a photo’ of me sporting a thin wry smile! So I created today’s pic’ with my smile as a shield instead….