In 2016 everyone has an opinion. Anyone can become an expert in fifteen minutes thanks to a quick Google search. Also, thanks to the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, we somehow think that we are obliged to form and share an opinion on absolutely everything and we rarely think about the real life implications of our cobbled together thoughts on other people. No one usually asks for it, but they are getting it anyway. This is especially true when it comes to chronic illness and social media.
By blogging, I know that I am opening myself up to this world and believe me, if it genuinely caused me distress, I’d close my blog down in an instant. I just find it all a bit puzzling. You’ll have a seasoned blogger who writes a blog to help and inform people, but in the comments will shoot down and belittle other people who are experiencing the same illness, purely because they have chosen an alternative treatment or route. I know that we all think we are an expert in our own illness but it is worthwhile to remember that our expertise only stretch as far as our own experience and that what really matters is everyone finding things that help them, even if they don’t help you or me.
Tonight I was reading a Facebook post shared by The Mighty. One woman commented: “Now I know some people get sick and post everything so the world can follow them step by step through their journey of illness on Facebook. I understand it is probably a coping mechanism. Although some people do actually do it for sympathy.”
This is the problem with everyone having an opinion. This woman may well have experience of chronic illness or pain… But I’m going to go out on a limb and say she probably doesn’t. People who wake up with a chronic illness that they didn’t ask for are surely the most deserving of sympathy, don’t you think? I also think she has failed to consider that a lot of illnesses completely decimate your “old life” and leave you with nothing more than pain, mobility issues, hospital appointments, the associated frustrations and a whole lot of loneliness. You can’t post photos of yourself all dolled up on Friday night because you’re not even sure what day of the week it is because every night is a PJs and peppermint tea kind of night. You maybe can’t go to work or do any of the hobbies or socialising they you used to enjoy – so what else is there? There is the big, looming cloud of chronic illness. Every aspect of your life now exists in its shade and there is absolutely no way that you should sensor this in case some judgemental boot thinks you are attention seeking.
If people who share their experience of chronic illness look attention seeking to you, the problem isn’t them, it’s you. Only when your life begins to crumble in front of your eyes and there is nothing you can do about it because you have an incurable illness, can you have an opinion on what information I choose to share about my life. If you can’t imagine what it’s like, sit in your house for a month. You’re not allowed to leave the house for any reason, not even to go to the supermarket or buy your kid a birthday present. You’re not allowed to shower without someone there in case you fall. You’re not allowed to do housework of any kind – but you may have people over to visit you in your filthy house if you wish – I hope they don’t mind picking up a pint of milk. You can’t sleep all day because every 15 minutes someone smashes a brick off your body. Oh, and you have the flu – but remember, no sleep, bricks. Try it. For a month. See how long you last before reaching out to other people dealing with the same rotten hand in life while being simultaneously judged by people like you.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but sometimes we maybe shouldn’t share them just because we have a platform to. I don’t think the need to be right should come before a sense of common decency.