Recently, I have noticed an uptick in the number of amateur and terribly created memes with unresearched and unconfirmed statistics like “1 in ____ women/men under the age of ____ have diagnosed [INSERT MEDICAL CONDITION HERE].” Underneath the meme, the Facebook “Friend” will have included some proper litany of their own, usually including another large amount of unsubstantiated medical information.
Having been through the medical ringer over the last several years, my alarm goes off when I see these, especially one that I saw last night regarding cardiac “stuff.” Cardiac stuff is no joke, and is to always be taken incredibly seriously. I have written many a post at this point discussing my own journey through the ICU, the EP lab and even through the OR, and even on the other side of the scalpel, I still am not cured. My pacemaker was not a cure all, I still have symptoms, I still am a cardiac patient, and I still deal with a daily reminder that I have a slightly different heart. I will have battery changes every 3-4 years, and lead changes every 7-8. This is a lifetime commitment that is both expensive, opens me up to infection, and to other life-threatening complications. It isn’t and wasn’t an easy decision; but it was a no-brainer for me. And continues to be a no-brainer.
But the one thing you’ll never see me do is post a remarkably uneducated meme on my Facebook wall regarding my cardiac stuff, or anyone else’s. This is the sure sign of something and someone who has used the internet for diagnosis, rather than a physician. The internet is not a place to advertise or call attention to a health condition.
This week has been a bit overwhelming for me, as I finish up my last semester of seminary; seminary has been a remarkable place for me, but it has also been the place where I was met with some of my most difficult challenges. I had to face my cardiac nemesis in seminary, and here, I will leave my struggles. Ok, this is delusional, since my stuff will come with me wherever I will go for the rest of my life. But the actual scary of what happened will stay here. I have been forever changed here, and to see my time in this locale come to a sudden end was rather astonishing this week, especially given a few conversations I had with people who have fought tooth and nail to get me to this point, and have been my greatest cheerleaders along the way.
Suffice it to say, I say all this because posting memes on a social media page, or advertising a condition for the sake of calling attention to it publicly doesn’t make it real. In fact, it calls it into question on the part of those who actually have it, and know all that it involves on an every day, every breath, every heartbeat basis. For those who have fought tooth and nail to get through something, and have had to ask for more help than their pride might permit, a meme or Facebook post simply isn’t appropriate, nor is it emotionally sufficient to sum up all the sacrifices the condition requires. In fact, it is frankly insulting. Being rare isn’t cool, it is insulting, and a daily, constant reminder that the human body and biology sucks. Being rare means treatments don’t work or don’t exist yet, and that you have to sit back and wait until medicine catches up. And being rare definitely doesn’t mean you kick back and brag that you’re rare.
Memes don’t work, and definitely don’t gain the respect of others; but what does is how you choose to live and carry yourself. What type of attitude you choose to have regarding the life you have, and the cards you were dealt. Yes, it sucks. All of it sucks. Being ___ age and having ____ condition definitely does suck, but it doesn’t mean that the whole world needs to know how simply sucky it is all the blankity time. What does matter is how you impact the world for the better. The world is too cluttered with complaints, with negativity, pissed off people and rants, and it definitely doesn’t need yet another collection of them.
So choose to take the real rare – not the internet-diagnosed, meme-using rare, and use it to help someone else. Use it to empower, use it to be more positive. Use it to brighten a corner that is dark and ugly and in need of some positivity. Spending time feeling yuck and trying to milk pity out of others for being ___ age and being ____% rare or what have you isn’t going to help empower your message. It is only muting your strength, silencing your voice, and weakening you.
Tell your story, as everyone has one. Pick your words carefully and artfully. Don’t mince words, but savor each and everyone one; stories are things that have the power to change the lives of others in ways that we might never imagine and might never see. That old adage says, “A picture says a thousand words…” And this might be true, but a story tells a thousand more in my opinion, should the storyteller be willing to open up.
On the verge of a life transition, story is critical for me; everything, experience and moment needs to be captured, in a photo, in a sense. I worry that if I don’t capture it, it will slip away forever, never to be captured again. Seminary has come and gone too quickly, and I won’t be in school, with these people, in this place again. It has been a long road, and the road has finally reached a different fork, where we are all going our different ways. We have shared our stories, gathered information for the journey, and exchanged bits and pieces of our lives, forever changing one another.
My story has hopefully impacted others forever, as those I have walked alongside has certainly impacted mine. I won’t ever forget my dear friends, and cannot wait to continue to walk with them throughout our ministries, even if from only afar for a while.
No memes, no weird pictures with statistics, all authenticity and true storytelling. Thus it began this way, and thus it ends this way. Relationships are not built upon false information, but only upon the real, the authentic, and the stuff that sometimes takes a tear, a laugh, and a “so, what’s next?”