Chronic Illness

Since Robots Have Taken Over…

Before computers and robots took over the world, I was a teenager. I thought I knew it all, of course. But then, in high school I was introduced to a ‘computer’. I scoffed at the box of boring hardware. We were assigned the task of getting the computer to do a simple task. My teacher said computers were the future. Really?  I thought computers were a waste of time and I tried to avoid them. (Now as I am subdued into a pain flare-up, I am glad that it lets me be with you and not feeling so alienated and alone.) The computers, a.k.a. robots, definitely did not appeal to my intellectual side, creative side, my rational side or my crazy side. None of my sides. I am a such a square, so it didn’t appeal to any of my angles, either. Get it? Sides, square, angles? That’s a lame joke no matter which angle you look at it from. (Really, Wendy?)

With my creative side, I utilized a degree in commercial art. It didn’t look to be a big money making career, but at least something where I could say I was doing what I liked. Creativity was my niche.  Then robots erased my niche a couple of years later with clip art and editing software. The future came quickly. Unprepared for a world of computer domination, there was no escape from them. I would certainly die of stupidity regardless of whether I attempted to survive in the technology web or went wild and off the grid. The robots distract us from our hatred for their power by making us giddy with addiction. Getting us under their spell. Sneaky bastards. Getting us high and distracted with pretty, colored screens and getting us to feel the power of pressing the ‘like’ buttons. Facebook posts suggesting we are genius if we can get 10/10 on their quizzy thing. YouTube with all the cat videos. I love them. Snapchatting to your own teenage daughter a filter of you wearing a flower crown. So much fun! Being able to get a message to your son anytime, anywhere. I love that. Emojis. Oh, I can barely trust someone that doesn’t use emojis. Where was I going with this?

Before everything was a robot, I would have been reaching out to you with a handwritten letter, apologizing for my sloppy writing, slobbering on the stamp and envelope and sending it on its way to you. Just for you. Because I cared that much. You would feel the love as you tore open the letter by the side of your mailbox, and I would feel the same days (weeks?) later when you wrote back to me. Until then, I would anticipate the day, letting my mind wander as I did so. But, now my mind doesn’t wander as creatively as it used to.  It flashes on and off. I forget from one moment to another. The computers must surely be sucking up my attention span, trying to make me assimilate to a robotic world. Or, maybe that’s ‘just’ part of the brain fog that comes with constant fatigue and pain. I am now a dumbed-down version of myself. So much of my energy is spent coping with pain and its limitations that my processing speed and recall is painfully compromised. I used to be quick and have a great attention to detail. My dreams of teaching middle school students was crushed. No matter how much denial I lived in, the pain was real. The fatigue was real. My dreams were not to be fulfilled.

Before our communication was mediated by the web of world-wide robots, I was ‘only’ chronically ill with what is called bipolar disorder. Living in a state of illness provides for way too much social isolation, even for an introvert. I knew that I was weird. I did not know that there were coping skills for it. The internet became an open door for self help and self affirmation.  And, that is where I discovered that everyone is ill. Truly. I am ok with that. Everyone seems to need some kind of self-help with some part of their life. I fit in! I became more comfortable in face-to-face contact with what I used to think were normal people. Bam! Then, I mysteriously started feeling sore all over and became exhausted ever so easily. Socializing in person became more difficult again. Pushing myself to keep up with social activities only fed into the spike of pain and fatigue for days to follow, keeping me from doing the things I loved with my husband and children.

The harder I tried, the worse it got, contrary to my will. Pain and fatigue upped me every time. The diagnosis? Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I started to catch on to the fact that my daily life was battling with my daily life. Grrrr! My body hated me and I needed it to stop. After years of rifling through the internet to figure out a way I could side-step fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, I decided to call off the search for a cure. The internet robot could not save me.  Some consolation to me as I dragged myself around the house, wincing and breathing carefully is that I had survived this long; normal or not.

Before social media became the norm, I didn’t think normal people would share their lives with me. Why would they? How could they? I am not able to commit to making plans, much less following through with them. My husband and kids get the best of me; which, to my standards is not as good as I had planned on. Plans with them are almost just as unsure as plans with anyone else. Will I be hanging back to recover from a flare up? Or, maybe in bed sleeping? Shuffling around the house in pain, would I be able to enjoy our time together when I felt like I just got run over by a truck? I don’t remember what normal feels like, but this is what normal has looked like for my kids since my daughter was six years old and my son was two years old.

My kids have grown up with social robots like Facebook and Twitter, as well as all of those other ones that are too hip for me. I don’t understand why there have to be so many kinds of social media, but I know that kids don’t find Facebook cool anymore. It is mostly reserved for middle-aged moms like me. Keeping in touch, so to speak, with familiar people has boosted my confidence in that I don’t have to be so isolated. Facebook has been good for ill introverts like myself. Since entering Facebook, I have shared my thoughts and views with people that I really, truly hadn’t even know that well. Feelers go out with posts that are meant to inform or inspire. If there is interest, it sparks me to put myself and my good intentions out there even more.

Facebook has become a place where I let some of my life be deposited. It’s not all pretty. Still, I am too ashamed to let on what my pain is like.  I am willing to share the less chronic issues on Facebook. In January of this year, 2017, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and have been going through treatment ever since.  Some updates of my treatments were dropped on my page, and that’s when I realized that Facebook has become a forum to scroll through, not a social forum to incite personal discussions. But, hey! I do so look forward to stalking to see what broad fields of interest my friends subscribe to. There are a lot of cat people. I don’t mean people that are cats, I mean people that find felines more than compelling. Technology has certainly found a friend in cats. There are never too many cats. I am alright with that.

Moving forward in the quest to connect …. blogging it is! Yesterday, I seriously didn’t know exactly what blogs are. Today, I still don’t get it. I thought they were all just people’s lists of what they did that day. How long have I been enticed by Pinterest links, not realizing that they were often blogs! (Am I right?) I like to think that the less I know about computers, the happier I will be. As it turns out, denying that the robots run my world is just sad. I have to admit that computers are helping to keep me sane. It feels like illness puts up walls that keep me away from being myself. I may be ill every day, but I have something to give. I need to give it. Robots help keep me from feeling like a total burden on society. Deep inside, I am the person I have always been. I need to be that person.

When I was a teenager, I thought I knew it all and would have control over my own life. It turns out that I don’t have the control I thought I’d have. It turns out that teenagers don’t know it all. But, they do know how to set up a blog. They tell me that it’s easy, that I can do it myself. They make it look so easy… They know how to control the robots. I stubbornly don’t ask the kids’ help with setting up this blog. I won’t give up. How am I going to even get this first blog entry entered? The robot laughs at me. My cat walks across the keyboard and does things that I need to have a teenager undo. It’s a chronic problem. Life, is chronic. Come join me.

Chronic life and chronic illness can get lonely. Do leave a comment! You may call me Wendy or Wendylynn or any term of endearment. I look forward to hearing from you, no saliva required!

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