Credibility. It's such a simple looking and sounding word. "The quality of being believable or worthy of trust." Even the definition sounds simple, doesn't it? It's so much more than that, though. It's really so in depth, that it's mind boggling.
How do you decide if something, or someone, is credible? Does something have to be tangible? Do you have to be able to see it or feel it, to believe in it and it's credibility? What about God? Or religion in general? You can't see God, but a lot of people believe in Him. A lot of people believe in the bible. What lends credibility to the bible, for people to believe in it? They just do, right?
What about the credibility of people? Or of illnesses? Or of people who have illnesses? What makes their feelings, their symptoms, real and credible? Many people will answer that question with "Well the doctor saying so makes it real and credible. Duh. The results from their tests make it real. What a dumb question!". No, not really.
Let's pretend we have four people standing side by side. They're lined up on a stage, in front of a large audience of people. First, we have a person who has cancer. They have patchy hair on their head, and they're pale and have dark circles around their eyes. They look at you and say "I don't feel good. I'm sick to my stomach and my body hurts. I'm really in a lot of pain today. I'm just completely exhausted. I have to go lay down now".
Next, we have a person who has MS. They're standing there with a cane. Their eye is watering. They say "I'm just coming out of a flare. My face is numb, which is making my eye water because it feels funny to it. I'm weak, and have to use my cane right now to walk. I'm just so tired".
The third person says "I have fibromyalgia. My body feels like I've been beat with a baseball bat. It hurts to turn my head, or raise my arms. My legs ache and my back, hips, and legs hurt so bad that I can barely take a step today. I woke up feeling just as exhausted as when I went to bed last night. But of course, I couldn't even fall asleep until close to 5am due to the pain and insomnia that fibro causes. I don't have an appetite, and when I try to eat, I feel nauseous".
Lastly, there stands a person who suffers from severe depression. They say "I feel worthless. I don't feel like I have anything to live for. I just want to sleep. I don't even have an appetite any more. I want to lay down and sleep and never wake up. I hurt in my heart. I want to be happy. I want to go do things and have fun, but I just can't. I don't want to live like this any more".
After looking at these four people, and hearing what they have to say, the large audience is asked to vote as to which one of these people is the sickest and to write why they believe the way they do. What do you think the outcome of this vote would be? Which person is the sickest? Which person do people generally feel the most sorry for?
Of course I haven't conducted this experiment. This is just all personal opinion and perspective from what I've seen and heard in the world of illness. my personal conclusions though, are of course the person who has cancer is the one that's going to get the most votes. Next, the person who has MS will get the 2nd most votes. Even though the person who suffers from severe depression may receive comments on the forms such as "It's all in your head." ..."You could be happy if you'd just let yourself be" ...etc, they'd come in as the 3rd sickest in my opinion, and last place would be the person who has fibromyalgia. The fibro person may garner comments such as "Quit being a hypochondriac" ...."It's all in your head" ...."Your illness isn't that bad" ...."If you were really that sick, you'd be able to tell it just by looking at you" ...."Fibromyalgia isn't even real. It's just something someone made up to shut up all of the hypochondriac's out there" ...etc. I could go on, and on with possible & probable comments that those cards would receive.
My question is, what makes the person who has cancer or MS more crediable as to how they're feeling than the person who has fibromyalgia or depression? All four of these illnesses are terrible. All of them are their own form of a living hell. They're a form of personal torture and take away from a good quality of life. But why do people sympathize with the one who has cancer and the one who has MS, but doesn't believe the one who has fibromyalgia and the one who has depression?
Tangible results are why. Blood tests, xrays, MRI's, CT scans, PET scans, scars from surgery. All show definitive results that something is wrong inside of the person. Visual accountability. They can see with their own eyes, the balding head. The dark circles. The scars. For some reason, in the area concerning a person's health, people are hung up on the tangibles. If they can't see it, they don't believe it. In the minds of most people, if it can't be proven, beyond a doubt, then it doesn't exist. It isn't true.
Why people can believe in certain things that they can't "see", such as God and the bible, but can't believe in another person when they say how they feel, is beyond me. It really saddens me and hurts my heart. Everyone's pain is valid. Everyone's pain counts. Everyone who is suffering, no matter from what, deserves to be heard and to be believed.
This is one reason why research for fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions is so very important. New research has been pointing us in the right direction as to "proving" fibromyalgia is real, but there's still so much that we need to learn. To make our illness credible ....to make our voices credible, we need to learn so much more. When people do not believe us, it makes it so hard to garner the support and funds for further research. Without that research, we will never be credible. We're going to have to find the "why" of fibromyalgia, to be believed.
I spent a few days last week with a person who has MS, and a healthy person, both at the same time. The healthy person went on and on about how terrible MS is. How I'm sooooo lucky that I "just" have fibro and not MS or cancer, or something else that's horrible. Well, you know what? Having fibro is pretty horrible too in it's own aspect. It's not much fun to feel like you have a sunburn all the time on your skin. It's not much fun to feel like you have the flu every single day of your life. It's not fun to be in a flare where you honest to God feel like someone took a baseball bat and beat the living crap out of you the night before. I don't like saying "ow" every time I go to stand up, or move my head. I hate being so exhausted that I sit and expend energy I don't have to spare, crying, yet if I lay down to sleep I just lay there. Then I toss and turn because if I lay on one side for a bit I start to hurt. So I say "ouch" as I turn over because it hurts to move my body to turn. Then I repeat the process a few minutes later. Over and over for endless hours at a time. When I wake, I feel just as tired as when I went to bed, because my brain doesn't go into, or stay in, a deep restorative sleep pattern.
When I vocalized that fibro isn't a picnic either, I was met with "Maybe not, but it isn't as bad as what poor S goes through all of the time. She's been to four different doctors who have all proven that she has MS". Hmmm. Really? I've been to several different doctors too, who all say I have fibromyalgia. It may be in different ways, but how can you say that what she has affects her worse than what I have? How can you discount how my body feels? What makes her more credible than me?
I felt like a failure, because I just couldn't get her to understand about fibromyalgia. She just wasn't open to being educated about it. I had to keep reminding myself, that she doesn't know much about fibro. She doesn't know what the latest research has shown. She doesn't hear about fibro in the news, or read about it in the papers. We in the fibro community haven't made a big enough deal about it, for a long enough period, to demand the media attention that fibro deserves. You see/read stories all the time, front page news, about someone with cancer. Or some new research or therapy on the cancer forefront. You hear/read about MS. Honestly, how often do we hear/see/read about fibromyalgia? Not very often.
As a person who suffers from almost every co-condition of fibro, I feel personally responsible for getting our voices heard. I feel personally responsible for trying to educate those who doesn't have a clue what fibro really entails. I also feel responsible for letting every single person out there with fibro know that I'm here for them. That they aren't alone, and that I believe in them and their symptoms. I feel like it's up to me, to do my part in trying to educate the media and try to get them to run with the story. If that doesn't happen, then we in the fibro community will never have the credibilty that we deserve. Without that credibility, than we'll never garner the support financially for further research to find our why, our how, and our CURE. If a cure can't be found, then we at least deserve a treatment plan that works universally for all of us and gives us back some normalcy. We deserve that every bit as much as someone with cancer, or MS, or depression, or Lupus, or any other miserable, lousy disease out there. We must start demanding the respect and credibility that we rightly deserve.