There are few questions that I have ever been scared of or didn’t know how to answer or didn’t want to answer truthfully. Note, I did say few, that means there are some and they are all thanks to my health. The first that comes to mind is one that has had me in a cold sweat more than once in my life, in fact, it’s probably closer to a million times and it’s one I ask myself. “Who on earth are they and what the hell is their name?” I suppose if I were to be picky that is really two questions, but they always come to me, as a one. It feels like it has been all my adult life that I have never been able to remember people. I am not just talking about stupid things like someone I might have met once at some drunken party-ten year earlier. No for me it goes far deeper than that. If I am totally honest I wasn’t that aware of it until I at last in my late 20’s found myself in the world or work, for the first time my world was bigger than coffee mornings and people appeared in huge numbers. It was when I was a DJ that I first knew something was wrong. Names and faces had become a sea of nameless shapes. I found myself hiding behind an excuse that I spoke to thousands of people every week, there was no way I could be expected to know who they were when we met in a shop three weeks later. Inside, deep inside, I knew that was a lie, I was forgetting people I should know.
It wasn’t until many years later and the last company that I worked for that it went way beyond a joke to a stark reality. I worked for them for 13 years and I wasn’t the only person who had worked there for that length of time. But it didn’t matter if they were new or had been there since birth, the chance of me remembering anything about them when face to face, was practically zero. Even to the day that I was last in the office, there were many people who I might know somewhere in the back of my head that they worked there, but their names, forget it. I should say at this point that at no time did the company ever employ more than 70 people at one time. I was lucky that there was one person in the company who knew my secret and was used to me wheeling up to them with the question, “Who is …… and where do I find them….?” To make it worse, most of them were technically my staff. They were people that I emailed daily, passed by daily, spoke to on the phone daily, some I even spoke to face to face once or twice a week and right now, I can only name two, first names only. I learned several tricks that hid my missing memory, the first was to hide in my office, the second to communicate with them from there and the third was to speed everywhere that I could. If they stopped me as a sped past because they wanting time off, or for me to check their commission or something of that nature, every conversation ended with “email me”, that way I knew who they were.
Adam is now also totally used to it. Yes, I do know his name and who he is, but he knows without a doubt that I don’t know anyone else’s. We have thousands of conversations weekly about what or should I say who is on TV. No, I don’t mean their real names, I’m talking about character names in shows I have been watching for years, like “Eastenders”. To me, they seem to all be called “You know………… who-do-you-flip” or “What’s their name” and not one has a real name, I could name a single member of the cast. Oddly, though I may forget their names but at that moment I might just be able to tell you who they are married to or who their kids are in the story, two minutes later they will go to. At first I did just think that I had a really bad memory when it came to names and faces. No matter how famous or how well I had known them, it was no guarantee to my knowing who they were. I had learned over the years to deal with all the other odd things that my body did and to brush things away as just my mad body, but inside I worried. Eventually, the truth had to be admitted, it was getting worse and yes I could cover much of it, but I knew there was something really wrong. With my diagnosis of Fibro followed by the news of PRMS supplied me with the reason, but it didn’t stop it getting worse and to be honest, it is one of the joys of being housebound, I don’t even have to try outside of those conversations about the TV.
The second big question that I hate, well it’s thanks directly to my health. “How are you?”. I would put money on it that there isn’t a single person who has a chronic illness, who doesn’t hate that question. You know the second that you hear it that there are two ways to answer and it depends on the person who asks it. If it’s someone who really cares about you or loves you or your doctor, well they actually do want to know. Anyone else on the planet doesn’t give a damn about the detail, just if you’re alive or not. As they can see or hear you, they don’t even really want an answer at all. 99.9 percent of the time politeness is a wonderful thing, the politeness of asking how someone who is never going to be well again, is irritating to say the least. I have been tempted so many times when someone who I knew didn’t actually give a damn about my health has asked “How are you?”, to give them a full and vivid picture. I am sure that I am not the only person who has sat there with the answer from hell swimming around in their heads, every word of it wearing little horns and coloured red, or to answer it with just one word “dying”. The same politeness that asked it has stopped me from answering.
It is a question that I actually normally avoid asking anyone now. When I do, it’s because I want the answer, not just OK. The longer you are ill and the more people you get to know who are not well themselves, or know you because of your health has brought a new way of answering it into my life. I now start with a basic statement of how I am, “tired…”, “not great…”, “in pain….” or something along those lines followed by “…but OK”. The open is then there if they want it to take it further or close it down quickly. “How are you?” is a question, it’s not a greeting nor is it just a filler as something to say. If I ask it, I mean it. I want to know, maybe not the full details in its fullest goriest, colours, but I am asking about their well-being because I care, not because I can’t think of anything to say.
Our health changes everything, probably the truest statement there is. It fills our lives with questions that can’t be answered by anyone, not even ourselves. There isn’t a day when another question doesn’t appear that sends me off searching for something that will if not answer it, put my mind at rest. So the third question that I hate is the ones that can’t be answered. I grow up believing that everything had an answer. When my daughter was growing up, there wasn’t a question she asked that wasn’t answered in full. If she managed to come up with something that I didn’t know the answer to or needed pictures to assist my answer, well we consulted the encyclopedia. These days, it’s my questions that send me into the modern replacement. If there is one thing I have learned about my health it is, it will always keep coming up with questions that not even the power of the internet can answer, and I hate that. Medicine started back in ancient times and in every corner of the world. Millions upon millions have studied the human body and mind, dissected it, mapped it and scanned it, so how can it be there are still no answers. Sometimes I can’t help wondering if it is just a simple case of not the answer that is missing, but the right question not being asked.
Please read my blog from 2 years ago – 03/08/2013 – The news starts well
It seems like a really long time since I filled in and I completed the endless pack filled with questions about my health, in the hope I guess that they might find a way of making me work again, believe me something I would do happily as that would mean I had my health back. I sent off all the paperwork and made myself ready for…..