If a tree falls in a forest, and no one hears it ... does it make a sound?
To the chronically ill, this is more than just a philosophical question.
We are people living out of the loop and our connection to the rest of the world can be tenuous. Some of us have more of a social network and some of us have less.
Some people with a chronic illness are very much alone.
Most people don't want to hear the long descriptions of symptoms, the loneliness, the feelings of isolation and alienation. They don't want to be the sounding board for the person who feels they've lost any normal semblance of having a "witness" to their life and existence.
The invalid is very self-absorbed. They have to be. It is a full-time job rebuilding their life and they can't afford NOT to be very, very focused upon this. And they will repeat, and repeat and repeat the things that they need someone to hear.
When the sick one has a revelation, and no one wants to hear it, they are lessened. Their sense of self, of their place in this world, becomes precarious.
I remember being told by a well-meaning friend a few years ago, that I should not think that my value as a person was any less now that I was not able to "produce".
But she was wrong.
Should my value be less? Should my life be less significant than the life of someone who is healthy and productive, connected to others through activities, who makes an impact on the world and other people? No, of course not. But it is less. I started out believing otherwise but over the last four years, I have had it pounded home to me.
In a family gathering, the sick kid may be in the background, on the outskirts. He is the least able to draw attention to himself, because he is weak and easily tired. And he has, really, very little to say. He has no stories about school or work to tell. He has no achievements to share and be praised for.
His biggest achievement lies in the fact that he managed to get out of bed and dressed, and now is curled up in a corner of the couch, while the people around him share their normal life.
Lucky is the sick person who has a champion in their corner. And that champion is likely carrying a heavy load. Because the sick one has a great need to be heard. To be affirmed and acknowledged. To talk about their symptoms, their fears and their hopes.
They fear that, like the vampire, they have no reflection. They do not have an effect on the world around them. They throw a pebble into the pool and the ripples are so insubstantial that ... they fear that they may be disappearing. And that they may disappear without anyone even noticing.
That's why I'm here. Because I fell, a long time ago, and I want to be heard.
Can I get a witness?