A Chronic Euphemist
I’ve recently gotten in touch with a number of people from my past life. The life before Vancouver. And the life before my body became an anarchist. The reunion always starts with the same request for an update. I stare at the flickering line inviting me to type, stumped. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I’ve been in a bit of a haze for the last few years, not reaching out to anyone new. My circle has shrunk around me as the winds picked up intensity. But things seem to be settling and perhaps the world is sensing it, because while I reach out to certain people from the past, others are suddenly reaching out for me.
Beginning to type, I use words like roller coaster, bit of a blur, and crazy. I fill the message with emoticons. I don’t know how much to say, whether it would be easier to write it all out, like a timeline, or to merely acknowledge that my life has changed and wait for prompting to continue. I don’t fear them knowing my secrets. I don’t fear exposure. I fear seeing the words, typed out in black and white, able to be read over and over again at leisure.
Part of the problem is that the words are clinical, leaving no room for personality. ‘Sick’ and ‘illness’- they carve into my humanity, sculpting me into a sad story, a story of loss. And that’s just not true. My life is greater than the sum of my symptoms and limitations. I am so much more than a medical term.
In conversation I can alter and expand the picture created by these words. I can quickly sweep away instinctive reactions and prove that I’m still me, still whole. But in a short Facebook message I don’t have that luxury. I have a limited word count, dictated by the sacred rules of social media, with only so much that I can say before waiting for the recipient to absorb my words and come up with a response. And with this pause, the connotations lurking behind the text can grow, taking over the message and weaving their way into the perception of the reader. There is nothing I can do but wait, and hope for a chance to explain.
Of course, this experience isn’t unique to my situation. It occurs whenever extreme effort is required to integrate the salt that has shaken your life. After spending so much time balancing on an emotional, and sometimes physical, tightrope, it is never pleasant to write out an explanation. You know that the person on the other end of the message will not see your progress. It is no one’s fault, simply the reality of distance and written communication. Their expressions of sadness, their words of comfort and encouragement, pull you right back to the unsteady beginning. They themselves are teetering as they process the knowledge. Their instinct shouts that the batter is ruined and, no matter how settled we are, it is difficult to separate ourselves from their reaction. Especially when it is expressed with love and care.
Thankfully, I have discovered a solution-- euphemisms. Other, softer, words are needed to explain the change. Phrases equivalent to the likes of ‘bun in the oven’, and ‘tossing their cookies’ - although a baking theme is not a prerequisite. Something light. Something that leaves an open door, allowing for gradual additions to the picture.
Alas, in my case, it would appear that not a single established phrase exists. I have spent hours combing the internet, haven for all knowledge. The only synonym for chronic illness listed is chronic disease which, in my case, conjures up images of fleas for reasons that I’d rather not investigate. Our vocabulary has so much capacity for expansion, but expressions are borne out of dialogue. We are the ones with the power to alter our rhetoric.
That is my challenge to you this week. It really is a call to arms. Talk about it. Think about it. Channel your creative inner genius. And come back with some euphemisms for chronic illness.