This Is How I Was Made

Repeat after me, “This is how I was made”.

The word “cosmetics” is said to have a few origins but most believe it came from the Greek word “kosmos”, to make order out of chaos. A brilliant word. Eyeshadow, apparently, is intended to address an issue or enhance a feature. I guess. I’m not even sure what eyeshadow is. Which is the one where you use the Nazi torture device to pull on your eyelids? Reason number 127 why it’s great to be a guy. That peeing standing up thing is like number one through sixty-four. But I digress, as usual.

We all have parts we are not very proud of. If this hasn’t been your experience then just wait a year and get back to me. Gravity works. Even the beautiful people look like crap under fluorescent lights and north of forty. This is, sadly, referred to as reality. There are some things even Botox can’t fix.

I have worked with Fibromyalgia patients for a number of years now. Some of you who read here know me from that world. Fibromyalgia is a fascinating disease. It is literally true that, at least in my small piece of the pie, a majority of doctors still don’t believe in FM. I was once a skeptic; then did Intake for 5 years at a chronic pain clinic.

There are valid reasons why many do not believe in Fibromyalgia. We do not understand completely, and often this becomes a diagnosis of exclusion for many for whom the medical system has failed. There seems to be a myriad of causes and an internet full of “cures” which do not work. But that’s not why I am talking about FM.

I have patients, and some of you know who you are, who still struggle, often after a decade or longer, to even accept that they are sick. There is something insipid about this illness that, at least initially, seems random and normal and most undiagnosed Fibromyalgia patients tend to believe they may be “wimps”. Friends are often quick to point out that they “have pain too but still go to work so what is your excuse?”. In Canada we apologize before and after but it amounts to the same thing.

I cannot tell you the number of times FM patients have whispered to me that they secretly wish they had any other disease, even cancer. I am fully cognizant of how politically incorrect that sounds, but I am not actually advocating this position. I am only telling you what real people say all the time. So the question for the rest of us is, why would anyone wish for cancer?

No one really wants cancer, so a few of us can unbutton our corset a tad and just think about something we may not have considered. Cancer patients have Facebook Rallies and fundraisers and are said to be “courageous” and an “inspiration”. FM clients are often labeled as lazy or whiny or in the throes of a fake illness. I am in no manner seeking to diminish the terror of cancer, I’m just telling you a story. Families rarely understand, and I have watched spouses leave, and there is often a long slide towards immobility, a briefcase full of medications with side effects, and poverty. There are no parades for someone who has chronic fatigue, pain that changes almost daily, a labido that moved to Orlando, and looming mental health issues.

So when someone tells me they aren’t sure they have Fibromyalgia even though someone with a Mercedes told them, you can begin to appreciate how difficult it must be to accept something that no one understands, doctors dismiss as depression, displays symptoms which perpetually change, all with a spouse who is constantly disappointed in you.

You should be able to do more. You should be working or helping or horny or superdad or whatever. Who needs someone else to remind you of your shortcomings when you have the list memorized?

In counseling we come across Should Statements every day. I should be doing something else, right now. You should lose weight and you should go to the gym and you should eat more vegetables and less red meat. That’s super swell but you are still going to get old and die and I will be damned if I am going to go out without eating a few more KitKat Blizzards. Screw broccoli.

Body image is a little slice of that same pie. Umm, pie. But I digress.

I was never the eye-candy. When people who will never be the prom queen hear about the objectification of beautiful people it’s natural to secretly wish that someone would look at us like a piece of meat, as horrible as that may sound. I have had multiple clients admit this horrible secret when no one is there to judge them. Humanity spends billions trying to cover up stretch marks and crows feet and cellulite and baldness and facial hair and that unibrow your sister has going on. On television the hero is always beautiful and Steve Buscemi is never the leading man unless they want someone who is Hollywood ugly.

The only thing worse than constantly getting hit on is never getting hit on.

Most of us feel unappealing, from time to time. I have a growing list of things I do not like about my physical presence and you probably have one as well. I have spent years feeling ashamed of physical characteristics over which I have virtually no control. Time to give up, but not in a bad way.

You should still shower.

Give up the guilt and the pain and the constant need to measure up to standards imposed by Photoshop and duckface selfies. Give up the perpetual micromanagement of a battle you cannot win’ that most of us chase for all the wrong reasons. Antiperspirant, do not give up. You can still love your hair and buy Saxx underwear if you can afford it, that’s not the real issue. It’s not even about body enhancement or hair plugs or spray-on tans which look like you eat too many carrots, even if no one will tell you to your face.

Let’s all repeat together, “This is how I was made”. You can’t change some illnesses, injuries, or flaws. Sure, you can spend the money and do the stuff that makes you feel good about yourself, but perhaps it’s time to recognize that this is only a shell and I need to stop basing my self-worth on whether or not I look good in Lululemons.

I do not.

This is how I was made. I repeat it in my head, “this is how I was made”. I can either deal with this or live my life wishing I someone different. This is psychology, and psychology isn’t about words like “fair” or “should” or “someday”. We don’t learn to “wish upon a star” or base our retirement on winning the lottery. This isn’t about me pretending to have it all together or telling you something you haven’t heard a hundred times. This is about doing it, finally. Many of us have spent our lives caring far too much what random strangers and intellectual car bumpers think of us.

One of the sad truths you observe, sitting in this chair, is that most people do not learn this. It is tempting to hope that one day, when your ship comes in, things will finally line up for you, and the world will make sense, and you will get your much deserved reward.

In counseling we call this bullshit.

I watch people come back, year after year, and nothing has changed and they are still waiting for the world to punch their dance card (I’m not even sure what that means). Dr. Seuss sums it up swimmingly in his classic “Oh The Places You’ll Go”. I have referred to this psychological masterpiece on another occasion but these words continue to haunt:

Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come,
or a plane to go
or the mail to come,
or the rain to go

or the phone to ring,
or the snow to snow

or the waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for the wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil,
or a better break

or a string of pearls,
or a pair of pants

or a wig with curls,
or another chance.

Everyone is just waiting.

Everyone is just waiting.

This is the way I am. Tall, balding, aging, deeply flawed, excited, passionate, unpretty, childlike in wonder, and addicted to learning. That (and my Canadian Tire pool) needs to be “enough”. Fibromyalgia or not, beautiful or not, rich or not.

Repeat after me, “This is how I was made”.
Some of my FM clients are shaking their heads “no!”.

13 thoughts on “This Is How I Was Made

  1. I’m a FB “victim”. Life hasn’t been easy. It’s taken a long time to get to the point to say “whatever”. Today was good. Tomorrow may not be. I have to take it that way. Just getting off my own back has helped my depression, most days, and my anxiety immensely. Some B vitamin supplements + all the other meds I take have helped Ike out the past few weeks. Never again will the label “lazy” cross my lips or my mind for that fact. FB is real and alive in my body. I still work on making the most of what I’ve got. My family accepting my differences has helped my guilt trips. I have more to give than energy. I have compassion, understanding, and wisdom that I’ve developed by watching the world go by at breakneck speed. I share this with my family and friends when times are hard or sweet. I’m appreciated for my talents. Days are very good when I remember these truths. Yes, get to the truth of the matter, and the truth shall set you free. Peace, love.

  2. Reblogged this on SassaFrass, The Feisty and commented:
    LOVE THIS!! “THIS IS HOW I WAS MADE” I accept that, and I’m NOT going to fit into society’s box of what I SHOULD be. Fuck that bullshit. I am me. I am SassaFrass The Feisty for a fucking reason. I have Bipolar 1 and that makes me pretty fucking awesome. I love to see the world through the eyes of a child-child-like awe I say. I’m not rich, I’m not skinny, and I’m not spending THOUSANDS of dollars to make myself look like someone I’m not. I accept myself, and that’s the MOST important thing. IDGAF if others do or don’t. I live my life for me and my kids ❤

  3. About 30 years ago, I knew a young guy who was diagnosed with Barr Epstein virus and later suffered from chronic fatigue. It was sort of at the start (at least as I knew) of ‘mystery diseases’ and people had difficulty accepting his affliction as real. Shortly after, I had began to have emotional difficulties and came up against the same attitude. It’s quite terrifying to have symptoms you know are real, but others refuse to acknowledge. Or at least have inadequate solutions for.

    I find such an arrogance in the discounting of a person’s physical or emotional experience simply because western medicine/science can’t validate it. There are a lot of things in life that can’t be validated or explained. (yet) It doesn’t make them any less real. I’m pretty sure the medical profession and scientific world are going to make discoveries in the next decades that will blow current understanding out of the water. I’m all for alternate therapies, eastern medicine and anything that seems to provide a way of lessening symptoms or helping to cope with the currently unexplainable; or make order out of the chaos.

    Even after years of therapy, my brain still plots against my best intentions. Everyday is a dance (sometimes an all out war) with my neuropathways. I don’t like it, but am learning to live around it as well as I can. And life is getting better on the whole.

    Cheers and kudos to all of us waging war against the invisible.

  4. I gave up antiperspirant a few years ago and I have never been happier. Haahaha!!
    I still could use the mantra, “this is how I was made” and will try to remember it every morning, thank you!

  5. Well Scott, I happen to like Steve Buscemi 😏.

    I am one of your patients blessed with Fibro and chronic fatigue, and the libido that went to Orlando a long time ago. I am still saying “no”. It is almost impossible to feel like I am, what this is, is enough. To feel like I am not my illness. FM may be fascinating, but I would much rather it was dead boring and I could see understanding in other people’s eyes when I say I have these illnesses.

  6. I don’t know if you want this comment or not. Feel free to delete. I work for one of the leading specialists in FM/CFS. He’s conducted studies and taught at numerous conferences, endeavoring to educate doctors about these frustrating and very real problems. You’re right: The diagnosis is mostly about finding out what a patient does not have. There are, however, some criteria now. They’re debilitating illnesses and affect both women and men. All doctors can do is work to find what helps the most, from medications, to trigger point injections, to changes in diet, to supplements. Patients have to be treated as individuals because what works for one might not work for another. There was a time when no one believed PTSD was real. I had a doctor, about 30 years ago who didn’t believe allergies were real.

  7. I don’t know that this is how I was made, but it is what life has made of me. I’d planned to retire next July at 66, my “full” retirement age, but after 18 years of struggling to work despite CFIDS, I finally reached the end of my ability to teach so completed the retirement paperwork a week ago. The energy’s just not there, too often not even enough for pleasurable events. Still, I cannot complain, because I was able to carry on much longer than most, and so many are being diagnosed at much younger ages these days. If not for the love of family, an abiding faith and the pleasure I get from reading and writing, I might also be depressed, but I do what I can when I can – putter around in the kitchen, grow fresh herbs, enjoy an occasional meal out with a friend, or take a drive into nature. After nearly 20 years of “dealing,” I’ve found that it’s all a matter of doing what one can – and letting that be enough. Prayers for those who have yet to make peace with an otherwise intolerable reality….

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