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How Fibromyalgia Has Taught Me to Be Careful About Judging Others

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It is certainly hard being ill. After a couple of months of my symptoms getting worse and worse, I knew something was wrong. I was not officially diagnosed with fibromyalgia until June of 2015, almost two years after my symptoms began. Even when I was officially diagnosed, it was hard to cope and take it all in. I just kept going downhill, and I did not know how to get well. I decided that I had to stay strong and fight. I had to find the good in being ill.

The most valuable lesson I have learned is one that I use every day. That lesson is that you never know what someone is going through, so it is important to be supportive and kind, even if you do not like the person. As humans, our instincts urge us to judge other people by looking at their appearance or maybe even who they surround themselves with. Whenever I find myself judging someone, I remind myself that I do not know them or their story.

I do many things differently than other people because of my fibromyalgia. On the outside, I may appear to be “normal” or “fine” but I am really in pain every second that I am awake. Although this is difficult for me, someone who was just an acquaintance of mine would probably not know about my disabilities. Throughout the years, I have seen people judge me for doing things a bit differently. These people have just thought I was “being weird” or “doing something strange” when in reality, I was trying to conserve energy or work through a flare-up. Some of the stares I have gotten from people whom I do not even know have really hurt me, because they have no idea who I am or what I am going through.

Although I have had some negative experiences with people judging me, there has been one very positive scenario recently. My health has gotten worse lately and has affected my everyday life. As a senior in high school, I have three classes on campus, one of which is the Advanced Women’s Choir. Our periods are 90 minutes long, and with my extreme fatigue from my medications and fibro, I have been having trouble standing on my feet and singing. In order to lessen my pain and fatigue, I started lying down in this choir class while everyone else stood. Before I started lying down in class, I mentally prepared myself for all of the outcomes that could happen. I was ready to answer questions or face some of those dehumanizing stares that I had gotten in different settings.

To my surprise, the class did not show any negative judgment whatsoever. I felt like a regular, normal human. And even though I was lying down, my peers did not ask me questions, stare at me, or make fun of me. My peers treated me just like they treated every other member of our group, with respect. They would ask me how my day was going and they would include me in activities. For the first time in a long time, I felt whole inside. I was ill, but I was happy. Singing has always been my outlet, and this group of 19 girls just made me feel even better.

That was my lesson in action. No matter what is going on, you do not ever really know what someone is going through. Things are not always as they seem. So, try to be kind to others. Saying hello and smiling can make someone’s day. Tell your friends and family how much they mean to you, and what qualities of theirs you admire. Just remember, everyone has a story.

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Thinkstock photo via monkeybusinessimages.

Originally published: April 27, 2017
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