Friday, 28 June 2013

Thing's I learnt at clinic: Personality

I was really nervous about going to the M.E clinic at first. I thought that I would turn up and everyone would just look horribley ill or be in wheelchairs. I was stil quite weary about meeting others with the same condition back then, somehow I thought that it would just make it too real. I'm not too sure how to explain it or why I felt that way. Call it denial or perhaps even fear: a fear of what was perhaps to come for me: a fear of not being able to relate to anyone else and an overwhelming fear of falling asleep during the session and seeming incredibley rude. I even joked that the waiting room would be full of people fast asleep, strewn out on the seats, like when you see elderley people fast asleep on their sunbeds on holiday with their mouths wide open and a book on their chests. However I got there and everyone seemed well 'normal', the epitomy of that tiresome phrase 'but you don't look sick.' I have since discovered that this is what is known as a spoonie. According to the Urban dictionary this is the name for a person that suffers from a chronic illness but doesn't look unwell, according to Christine Miserandino's spoon theory. More accurately this theory describes what it is like to live with a chronic illness in comparrison to a healthy person but I will go into that in more detail in a future post as it is very apt and could possibly fill an entire post. Anyway less about spoons and more about clinic. It was only when I heard people checking in at reception for the M.E clinic that I could tell what they were there for. The others I couldn't tell whether they too would be in the group or waiting to be called through to a podiatry appointment. Somehow this relaxed me and I began to hope that the group would be less about comparrison and "who has it worse" and more about support and insight.

There was 10 of us in the group, 9 females and 1 male. Lucky man right! Well not really no as he was blighted by M.E of course and if I was feeling like I couldn't relate to anyone then I definiely bet he was too. Apparently though this is a common occurence as statistically the composition of M.E sufferers is made up of 80% women. So why are women more likely to have M.E? Not wishing to alarm any ladies out there, so please do not scare yourselves. Could it be down to stereotype? That our personalities are so different to men's, the whole Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus concept. Well let's examine that: or more accurately let me relay what I learnt about that as the post title sugests. Now if anyone thinks that people with M.E are just plain lazy, can't be bothered or 'lucky' that we get to spend so much time in bed or resting, or not work then think again. Before most people develop M.E they are hardworking, successful, dedicated, compassionate people that will always strive for the best in everthing that they do for themselves and others. We take on many roles at work and at home, being many different things to different people. For example Mothers, Fathers, housekeepers, Husbands, Wives, bill payer, worker, boss, friend etc etc. The list could be endless. Generally someone with M.E will have more than 3 roles that take up a significant proportion of their time. This is where the theory about why more women than men develop the condition could stem from as women seem to take on more roles than men. Modern women in particular are striving to do everything and be everything to everyone. No longer shackled to the kitchen and surrounded by constant media feeds about successful women. We are almost programmed to think that we can take on so many roles, at home, at work, with family and friends. Blending being successful at work with being a home owner and family woman, domestic goddess and having an amazing social life. And why shouldn't we? There are plenty of women out there proving that women can have it all if they want it and good for them. Let's face it in this economic climate how many people can afford not to work or rely on government money? However for some of us we simply get streched to thin, playing all these roles and often putting others needs before our own that we neglect ourselves and never rest. So stereotypically, without being sexist as there are plenty of men out there that can identify with this, not the being mothers and wives bit of course though, it is easy to see how women fall into this category. The idiom A woman's work s never done springs to mind.

Whilst we were in clinic on that first session  we got asked how many of us identified with the following statements:

" If something's worth doing it's worth doing right"

"I've started so I may as well finish"

"I'll do it myself, I'll only have to check it anway"

Hopefully you catch my drift I have been trying to remember them and then think of similar phrases of a similar effect but my brain has gone blank. Basically they were phrases that suggested that only you could do it and that things can't be left half done or completed half heartedly. For example if someone else has done the hoovering then you may feel like they haven't done a good enough job and that you should have just done it yourself so that it would be right. When asked how many of us agreed with these statements though all of us put our hands up or the majority at least.

It could be argued that this means we have what is known as type A personalities. A type A personality is a term that was coined to describe ambitious, highly driven, successful people. Back then it was generally associated with business men but now more and more women are fitting that description. It also has negative connatations such as being highly strung, impatience and having agressive tendencies and has therefore been the subject of many studies into heart disease. But before anyone goes off into a panic because they have type 1 tendencies and fear having a coronary this research failed to take into account  diet and age and it's main demographic was managing directors etc. Plus we all know that stress has a negative effect on the body. We are simply not designed to cope with constant stress. 

Personally I know that I have a lot type A tendencies, well I say have but I am mostly referring to before the onset of M.E. Now of course that's just a bit too tiring and there is less stress. I was hardworking, constantly on the go, striving for the best for myself and going out of my way for others. I rested only when I slept and even then would sometimes wake up in the night my brain full of ideas and I ate and worked at the same time. Never able to just sit and watch the tele without doing something else too. What's more I chose to work in a demanding job, with lots of responsibilty and deadlines to meet as well as looking after others. It was both physically demanding, with long hours and heavy lifting but also mentally intense with lots of paperwork and health and safety assessments to complete. All very type A characteristics. But I loved it, getting there had  been my sole focus towards the end of my degree and as I have said it broke my heart when I had to stop and in accepting that role is a long way off my current capabilities. However I cannot relate to being highly strung, overly impatient and I am definitley not agressive. In fact I'm far from it, I'm pretty placid and nice and many a person would say quiet. That is not to say I'm a push over, I'm determined and quietly confident but have no problem in standing up for myself. Especially the more I found I was good at what I did. It made my confidence soar. I just don't fly off the handle and I have never particularly wanted to be loud or extravert to show my confidence, that just isn't me. Strange for a theatre student! I can head up meetings and give orders but I am more fun loving than a show off and unless I have to raise my voice then I won't. I often think that those that shout the loudest or overly show off are masking themselves. As for impatience well I can happily be in a cue unless I'm busting for a wee and can wait quietly in a waiting room- except the time that I had a major panic attack and was pacing the floor. I would say that these qualities are also true of the other people I was on the course with. No one seemed to be confrontational but everyone appeared to have busy lives, at work or home and identified with the above statements. In fact many of us could not see what was wrong with them. Why shouldn't we do something well? Or make sure a task is finished. Wasn't that normal? Apparently though it is only a select section of people that are switched on to this way of thinking. I still don't really see it as necessarily a bad quality but obviously M.E is beating that right now and I can recognise how it doesn't need to apply to everything. If someone else wants to do something then let them. Without checking or redoing. Of course I could be wrong about my fellow course attendees but that's how it seemed. Some people were more outspoken than others but then we were there to get help, desperate for answers about this maddening condition: it was a good time to be outspoken and if we are angry then it's because M.E has made us so. 

I will admit that I was one of the more outspoken ones because I wanted to get as much information as possible. They had got the nail on the head about my personality but I was adamant that these were good qualities and that I was so proud to have a degree that I had worked so hard for and stepping into a consuming career. When I got home I was absolutely shattered. The sessions can be quite heavy going. It's a long time and there's a lot to take in, not just from the clinicians but from the other members. I also remember that shortly afterwards when I started to digest the information more I got really upset because I thought that I had somehow brought M.E upon myself by being the way I am and I blamed myself badly. This of course isn't true, you can't bring M.E upon yourself. I just had to remember all that I had achieved from having those qualities and how I enjoyed helping others and there is certainly nothing wrong with being happy with yourself. In fact it's really important, especially after having depression and low self esteem. 

Anyway I hope that this has been insightful. Please remember that these are my personal experiences and some personal research. I am not a doctor or researcher just a sufferer who like many would love some answers. I'll be posting some more things that I learnt at clinic soon so keep watch.

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