Recently I read this wonderfully sarcastic post by Shelley entitled 5 Tips for Faking Chronic Illness, a fellow blogger from the Fibro Blogger Directory and in many ways, it gave me the inspiration for this post namely Fibro or Faker signs to look for.
Practically everyone I talk to who has Fibromyalgia or similar chronic health conditions at some point or other brings up the subject of guilt. They are constantly feeling that they are letting people down be they colleagues, family or friends. Recently I was talking (typing) with someone in a forum who was feeling really guilty for being off work. Let’s look at this from a different perspective, who except possibly the owner of a small business, ever feels guilty for taking annual leave? Not many people I’m sure.
Taking leave is “allowed and expected” whereas being on sick is seen as “doing wrong.” When I was in full-time employment I was always happy to muck in and do extra if a colleague was ill without thinking twice about it and yet I felt the same guilt if it was me taking the time off. Even though I now work (without an income still 7 years later) for myself as a blogger, so that I can take the time I need when I am not well to rest and recover I still have the feelings of guilt that I am not doing as much housework as I feel I should.
In the first initial year or so of a chronic illness you can’t escape the guilt. Although in time you learn that it only makes your symptoms worse. If someone develops an illness and there is absolutely no guilt coming from them, just maybe they are hiding laziness behind a chronic health label… Guilt leads on well to the second sign.
The majority of people I come across with Fibromyalgia have had a good productive life before Fibro hit. Many were even overachievers and you commonly find that they still have aspirations for what they hope to achieve. Depending upon the level of chronic illness they have their ambitions may have changed or reduced but they still have aspirations to achieve something and they can comfortably describe this.
If someone has no aspirations perhaps they never planned to achieve anything and a chronic illness label allows them to achieve this goal.
A common pattern you tend to find in the Chronic Health forums is that people are constantly researching, whether it is for an ultimate cure or even just a treatment to at least alleviate some of the symptoms. People with Fibro and other chronic health conditions want to get better and reclaim their lives they do not want to be ill. If someone seems to be uninterested in getting better maybe they don’t actually want to (unless they have been ill for such a long time that they have researched until they are blue in the face and have tried every possible suggested cure and could write the book themselves)!
Unpredictable Highs and Lows
With a lot of chronic health conditions, people can have good and bad periods, sometimes you can do things to try and reduce the chance of having the flares for instance by reducing or preferably removing stress. Some triggers cannot be controlled like weather changes that affect a lot of Fibro sufferers. The reality of living with a chronic health condition is that you can be sick at Christmas, you can end up missing things you have looked forward to and even end up cancelling holidays – that’s a different story. If someone seems to always be well for the good stuff and always ill when there is work to be done – yes, I’d hear alarm bells too! which leads me nicely on to the fifth one…
The very nature of a chronic health condition is the fact that it is variable. Everyone has good and bad not even just days but even hours. There are the dreaded Flare-ups and not all of them are the same, check out this post for flare-up information. But there are the good times too when you overreach even knowing it can cause pain the next day because then and there in that moment you felt like your old self and you grab onto the feeling so hard and don’t want to let go. Michael just has to look at my face to see exactly how I am doing. Fakers do not have that experience so they may feel the need to be visibly constantly in the same level of pain.
Fibro or Faker? It all adds up
It all adds together. Fakers do not feel the guilt because they have no aspirations. They are not busy researching unless it is to find symptoms to fake and ultimately they do not feel the pain of a bad day to display the difference a good day brings so they stay in the same state.
It would be all too easy to feel angry about people who fake chronic health conditions because they can all too easily end up making life difficult for the rest of us who understand the daily struggle, however, I think fakers need to be looked at on their own merit. There is a myriad of reasons from the basic defrauders who luckily the system tends to catch up with to a wide range of socio-economic reasons and just maybe I will explore these another day! Of course if somebody is choosing to completely limit the quality of their own life for no reason, it could also be argued they are dealing with a mental health condition and are therefore sick anyway, just in a different way.
The take away
In some ways this is a light hearted post and has over the years been one of my most read. If you have found this post for the purpose of being suspicious of somebody and looking for evidence to make an accusation. I urge you to stop. Instead, just approach the person with kindness and understanding coupled with the intention of really listening to them. Many people who are genuinely living with a chronic illness have been accused or faking, even my loved ones. It can take people a while to trust even family members, especially if they feel disbelieved. Don’t be that person who makes a bad situation even worse.
Until next time,