I used to be a “social butterfly”. I was the first kid on the playground to make friends with the other kids. My older sister, Kate, was too shy to talk to people on her own, so I’d take her hand and we’d approach the other kids at the park. I’d introduce us, and ask them for their names, and we’d play together.
As I got older, my anxieties grew. I noticed things more; the way people would look at the bone growths on my crooked limbs, the way their eyes would widen when they saw my angry red and purple scars. The older I got, the more surgeries I had. The more surgeries I had, the more noticeable my differences were.
It seemed like with each surgery, each scar, those anxieties grew, and so did that divide I felt with other people. Despite my best attempts at remaining a positive, social butterfly–I suddenly felt like I was on the outside looking in, never truly a part of a group.
Throughout high school, I had plenty of friends in different cliques. All of my friends were supportive and lovely, but I still didn’t exactly feel like I fit in anywhere. I still felt like an oddity, and I still do, a lot of the time. Social things are hard for me, because I focus on my differences, on how I don’t fit in instead of focusing on how I do fit in, on what I can bring to the table. I’m working on it, but it’s not an overnight fix. It’s a serious life change, and it starts with my internal voice.
That internal voice of mine spent years telling me that I wasn’t worth it, that I was too much of an oddity to ever really find a place in this world. That internal voice of mine would parrot my deepest fears, making them feel like reality. I’ve gotten pretty good at telling that internal voice to stuff it, but still.
If you’ve ever had someone in your life constantly putting you down and saying cruel things to you, you know it does damage. It’s harder to cut that person out of your life if that person is you though; when it’s your internal voice doing the damage.
Like I said, it’s gotten a little better over the years, but these feelings still linger and sometimes they resurface.
I was invited to a girls night out with some old friends, and I really want to go. I haven’t done anything with this group in a while, and because of that…I’m twisted with anxiety over it. My mind keeps whirling with all of my concerns. Will it be accessible for me? Will there be places to sit and still be a part of the group? If not, what should I do?
Then I’ll feel that horrible divide all over again, that thing that separates me from everyone else; and I’ve fought so hard to get away from that feeling.
I’m frustrated with my body, frustrated with the fact that nothing can ever really be simple. It’s not just a matter of simply doing something I want to do. I’ll worry that the complication of having me around is not worth the headache for all involved. Nothing sucks more than everyone else having to change their plans to accommodate you, and I hate asking that of anybody. So I don’t, I won’t.
I guess what I’m trying to say is; it’s not always easy living with a chronic pain disorder. It’s not always easy to put a smile on my face. Sometimes, it’s hard and it feels heavy and overwhelming. All the time, it’s exhausting.
Despite that–and despite the cruel internal voice–I’m not going to announce defeat anytime yet.