Airport Musings

I have always been a traveler. Partially because my Dad was a pilot, and flights were inexpensive in my youth. Mostly though, because I love to explore.

Before I got sick I had visited over half of the places on my “travel bucket list”. At 32 that was a pretty good feat. I’m not sure how many people that age could say the same. In fact, I was so grateful that I had, as traveling with chronic illness became less easy. Not so much the traveling with pain part (though it definitely factored in), but more because I couldn’t work anymore, so no money to explore the world.

These days most of my travel is around the country (New Zealand), to visit friends or take long weekend road trips. Once or twice a year I also go back home to Hawaii to visit the family remaining there. So while I don’t travel as much as I like, I still frequent airports.

Airports.

*sigh*

No one likes airports, let’s just say that right now. Crowded with people, long security lines, and overpriced mediocre food.

I dislike them even more now that I live with my disease. My pain isn’t usually visible, so I often don’t request wheelchairs when I really should. I push myself to walk the long halls to the gates, each step becoming more crippling, as I ignore the pain tweaks traveling up my spine. People scowl at me when I stop abruptly to stretch my sore limbs, not understanding why someone my age is clutching her back like that of an elder. They don’t understand the stress on my face when I finally get seated, muttering under my breath about the pain. But this has been my life for seven years now, and I’m used to treatment from others. My disease is invisible, and might as well not exist to those rushing past me to get to the gate, like a car speeding up to a red light.

Today I’ve luckily given myself ample time to get to my gate. I woke up with a terrible pain flare in my left knee/fibula. It has me walking with a limp, and I’m cursing myself for not bringing my cane, which sits uselessly in my closet at home. People have pushed past me in a hurry a couple times already, causing a few painful stumbles on my part. I see them now sitting at the same gate as I, annoyed at their rudeness.

*sigh*

In front of me is a wall with “Baggage Claim” posted on a sign with an arrow pointing westward. Amused, I wonder if that’s where I can find my illness insecurities. Perhaps they are making their rounds on the conveyor belt. Perhaps someone else will pick them up by mistake, maybe even take them home so I will be rid of them at last. How fortunate I would be.

I watch a hysterical child run around the gate like she’s been given candy to keep her quiet and it’s backfired. Her parents look tired and uninterested in her antics. As she repeatedly jumps up and down on the bag weigh machine, I pray it stops working so the anxiety of my bag being too heavy is alleviated, despite my knowledge of it being under already.

Airport anxiety + chronic illness = more pain. Hopefully it will cause me to pass out on the plane.

Why is support such a hard word to comprehend?

I’ve been thinking a lot about support recently.

We, the chronically ill, think about it all the time to be honest. We lay in our beds, or sit uncomfortably in our chairs, just wondering when we will have enough.

The ladies in my support groups get it. We can talk all day about the lack of support we get from our own doctors, friends, family members, even spouses. Some of us have been sick for many years, and yet we always are surprised by the painful sting of the lack of understanding around us.

And it’s not like our disease is uncommon. You can find a wealth of information online regarding the disease and its symptoms. Rheumatoid Disease is unfortunately common, I know at least four other people with varying stages of it. So, I find it fairly ridiculous when I’m faced with comments from people I know, saying “Oh I don’t really know much.” Yet, these are the same people that feel the need to lecture me on how I could be cured if I started yoga and went gluten free. *insert eye roll here*

Just for the record (in case you’re a new reader), I have tried so many diets, workout routines, and herbal treatments. I’ve tried acupuncture, CBD oil, vitamins, spiritual healing, magic moon rocks, I mean I could go on for ages…

When you are as sick as I am, trust me when I say this, you will do anything and try anything. I never asked to be sick, this wasn’t in my life plan. Do you think when I was young I dreamed about one day being 37 and unemployed? Do you think I imagined dealing with pain day to day that was so bad that most medications in the world don’t work for me? Do you think I hoped to have such a debilitating disease that it scared away most men in my life, leaving me often single and lonely?

No. The answer is no.

I have tried everything in my power to find something, anything, that would work. So, once again I am here pleading with people to not be bad friends to your sick friends. They don’t need your judgement. You will not and cannot ever understand what they go through day to day, unless you’ve experienced it yourself.

The best support is just being there. You promise to show up, then show up. If you promise to listen, then listen. Be supportive by understanding that what we are going through is something difficult for us. That we didn’t ask for this life, but that we struggle through it every day. And we want to be better.

A women in one of my support groups is realising that her husband is not the man she thought. He is very unsupportive of her struggle, and instead of trying to uunderstand, he checks out. This is not the support we want or need. Spouses and family members may have it the hardest, it’s true. They see us at our most vulnerable, at our weakest moments. The best way to support us through that is to just BE THERE. Don’t make it about yourself, your needs, why it affects you. We know it affects you. But we need you to be strong for us because sometimes we can’t be strong for ourselves.

This last month was a hard one for me. I was in the hospital for pneumonia, an ailment which I’m still recovering from. During the worst of it I cracked My ribs on both sides from all the coughing. It has been a hard month of pain on my body, and a very slow road to wellness.

Because of the multiple hospital stays I’ve had within the last six month, my mother and I decided to move in together. It seemed the best way to give support to each other. We move this weekend.

Now obviously I don’t have to tell you how painful it is to move with broken ribs. Packing has been a nightmare. The last two times I’ve moved I was in a romantic relationship. Now that I am single again I am reminded how hard it is to do things like this without the support of a partner.

So, I took to Facebook and asked if any friends could help me with the move.

I was shocked at the lack of response. During the best times I’ve always had close friends offer help if I need it. But when I call in that offer? Crickets…..

At the same time, a friend who I don’t know very well, stepped up. Not only offering her help, but also that of her partner. It’s times like these when I feel my faith in humanity gets restored bit by bit.

But I’m still disappointed.

I am a giver. I will give and give until I have nothing, if only to ensure the comfort and well being of others. I know this about myself and I know it has been overly taxing on me before. Especially in the midst of me living day to day with the illness that consumes me. But I will always offer help, and give whatever I can. That’s how I was raised.

It’s taken me many years to realise that not everyone is the same. Some people take. Some people are only present when it suits their needs. Some people are flaky. And honestly, some people just don’t care. And it can take you a while to really figure that out for yourself. I’m 37 years old and I still hold on to the hope that everyone cares the same degree that I do.

I’m an optimist, what can I say?

I guess the point to my litany is to be self aware. Be supportive to those who need it. Be a good friend, spouse, family member. Give what you can, not just take. Try to understand what it’s like to walk in the shoes of others. Listen. Care. Be.