I had a meeting yesterday at work regarding the way forward following an Occupational Health review I attended a few weeks ago.
My very good friend M came with me to the meeting and he participated in helping me make my points as at times my memory or speech goes out the window. The meeting with my two Directors and Store Manager went really well and after a very long arduous journey I believe we are all singing from the same song sheet.
Today I feel overwhelmed with emotion. The run up to the meeting was incredibly consuming as I had no idea what to expect and what way the outcome would go. So many scenario's were whizzing around my head. It is a massive relief to have the meeting over and done with, and I think that is why I feel so emotional.
The biggest emotion I feel now is guilt. M and I met in a local coffee shop only a few doors away from where I work so we could have a catch up and discuss all the possible ways the meeting would go. We sat outside as the weather was not too bad and besides, we both smoke. Not too long after we were sipping our coffee's my Store Manager walked past. I said hello and the response was "wow, you look really good, REALLY good. I expected you to be a bit brown, but not THAT brown". I took it as a compliment.
When meeting my two Dircetors they both asked how the holiday was and commented on how well I looked. The meeting started and I was asked how I was. I gave my answer, Nothing has changed and if anything some symptoms are worse.
At various times in the meeting I became very aware of how I looked and kept making comments about the way I look after my holiday betrays how I feel on the inside. My Directors and Store Manager never made me feel I had to justify how I look compared to how I feel, I just felt so guilty for not looking unwell.
Last night and today it has been playing on my mind. Various scenarios have played through my mind. I know, at the moment I look really well. I am tanned and after all the rest I have had I also come across as being relaxed, but inside I hurt. I am in pain and discomfort everyday. Why does the outside not convey what is happening on the inside?
I did feel really guilty, especially when leaving the meeting and chatting to all my colleagues who I have not seen for the last 3 months. Some of them looked confused and I could imagine what was going through their minds.... he looks great, so why is he off ill? To be fair to them, I would think the same way.
I am VERY fortunate to have colleagues who understand and are very supportive. I really felt their love yesterday and I was humbled by the reception they gave me. So kind and caring, it was totally overwhelming, especially as I have not seen them for such a long time. It was such a wonderful experience. I do feel fortunate and blessed to have colleagues like that.
Today, the sense of being cared for by my colleagues has not left me at all, however, it has compounded the sense of guilt for looking normal and healthy. I realise now that many people may look at me and think I am putting the illness on as I look well. Thankfully for me, my colleagues are not included in that group of people.
I am sure many of you have experienced that well known quizzical look when you first tell someone how unwell you are and you can see it in their face, "you look well so what are you going on about!"
It's a very difficult challenge to get my head around. Don't get me wrong, I am happy with the way I look, I am so pleased I do not look the way I feel. I am sure if I did look the way I feel I would have no choice but to wear a bag over my head much like Joseph Merrick (the elephant man) and I would only be allowed out after dark or on Halloween! It would just be a bit easier to look the way I feel and stop me from feeling guilty.
Don't get me wrong, this is not me thinking I look so good I am going to be the next cover front man for some major magazine, or so gorgeous I can endorse men's grooming products. This is not about vanity, it is the outside betraying the inside and the guilt associated with looking normal instead of unwell.
I often think, do other people feel the same way? Do other people feel guilty for not looking unwell? Do other people get fed up with the looks you get from people and you know they are thinking, just pull yourself together, we all get aches and pains!