I recently lost a friend. A Facebook friend. I’ve been coping well enough, thank you.
At first, I noticed her departure only indirectly. It occurred to me I suddenly wasn’t as pained through the hours I spend online as I had been previously. I had grown to expect every once in a while I would get some dull throbbing feeling in my side or my legs as an image passed up the screen. It wasn’t intense enough to discourage me from using Facebook. I guess I had just accepted it.
Then one day I recalled this one Facebook friend — an online friend I knew from some group or another — had seemed to post nothing but reminders of her chronic pain condition. There were cool little graphics and status updates stating how much pain she was suffering as she went through her daily duties. All day long it was pain, pain, pain. . . I started to hear it in a cheesy ’70s radio announcer voice: “Nothing but pain all day on 101FM K-PAIN! Coming up after these painful announcements, more pain!”
She had become one with her condition. She had become a pain.
And I had been feeling it too. With her departure from my list, that pain had disappeared from my life. This means I’m empathetic. Seriously. Look it up.
Looking back on it, I think she really felt she needed the diagnosis as a mark of distinction–something to set her apart and give her otherwise apparently-drab life a bit of drama. I know many other people living with diagnosed conditions that demand treatment and medication. Their lives are as full as they can make them, and they share their wide varieties of interests online. They are valued friends of mine on Facebook and even in real life–in some cases. There’s delight in knowing them.
Usually, the only reason I know of their conditions is that they might occasionally let it slip that they’re going back to the doctor for X and won’t be online, or that they had a bad night due to X. They are special to me because they are individuals with their own insights, experiences, opinions, not because of their conditions.
So in the cyclone that is my social media life, people who are cancer survivors float past people paralyzed in accidents who are floating past people with seizures and intense migraines who float past bipolar people who are floating past people born without proper kidneys and in each case, I see them first as “friend who is tall/short, older/younger, conservative/liberal, funny/serious. . . oh, who has this condition, I think.”
Except in the case of people who demand that they be seen as one with their condition. Those people stand out.
And not in a good way, I’m afraid.
I’m blessed because currently my only two chronic conditions are being fat and somewhat of an asshole. My cholesterol numbers could be better. My back occasionally goes out of whack. I hope and pray that I never have occasion to post a graphic sensitizing others to the plight of those, who like me, suffer from some dread condition or disease. But I kinda don’t think I would. I don’t want you to see the condition. I want you to see the person for better or worse. Whatever value I can offer you isn’t contained in a proclamation of my condition.
But if I ever get that way, please do me the favor of denying me my self-proclaimed specialness.
I beg of you.