Friday, October 16, 2015

My Response to "You Look Tired"

I've been sitting on something for several weeks now, unable to quite put words to my thoughts. Our society is so wrapped up in appearances, but I never thought I would feel that my ability to cope with my son's severe medical issues would be judged on the basis of my appearance. And it's happened more than once. Let me explain.

Several weeks ago, I had the chance to do something that I don't often have time for; put on make-up prior to going to an appointment. The specialist that we saw this particular day commented on the fact that I was wearing make-up and that I didn't "look so tired, so things must be going better with Jacob (my son)'s health". I chose not to say anything but thanked her for the "compliment". I brushed it off. Then I was in a meeting with a few other professionals in Jacob's life and one individual asked how I was doing and commented on how tired I looked without make-up and asked if I had a rushed day because I wasn't wearing anything to cover up my tiredness. 

That got me really thinking. How is it that in our society we have become so fixated on appearances that you think you can judge my ability to cope with my son's diseases based on whether or not I have make-up on? Did you stop to consider why I might look tired? Isn't it possible I'm tired from the fact that some nights, Jacob's IV feeding pump might beep several times? Or that I might have had to get up in the middle of the night to wipe tears of pain away, or to help with his nausea/vomiting? Could I be tired from trying to ensure that all the health care providers involved in Jacob's care are communicating, know what one another are doing, and all on the same page so he doesn't fall through the cracks. You see me for a brief time every few weeks/months. 

You see me at my worst. Every parent's worst nightmare is for their child to have serious health issues. You see me when I'm feeling completely helpless, on the days when hope seems so far away that you're left searching for a way to go on. When he's admitted, you see me at the end of the day when he's asleep shedding tears because I can't make this go away and I so very badly want it all to just disappear. You see me when I'm confused, frustrated and scared. Yet, I'm carrying on. I'm putting one foot in front of the other and taking those baby steps. I'm celebrating the small successes. But you don't see those happen because we want to address the problems that remain and are effecting Jacob's quality of life rather than the things we've already been through. You see us because we're coming to you for help, not because we're coming to you to brag about what we've done. You see us, but in reality, it's only a tiny part that you get to see. 

So in the future, take the time to consider the other person's situation before making judgment based assumptions. Take the time to consider that the person you're looking at has so much more going on for them than you can possibly know. Offer compassion instead of judgment. Kindness instead of pity. Most of all, offer understanding and encouragement for the better days ahead.

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