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Carrie Armstrong Headshot

Just Get Over Here

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Remember pen friends? In my experience they were poor buggers forced to write to me from far-flung, exotic locations such as the next Catholic middle school down the road. We would laboriously converse about ground-breaking subject matters such as what our pet rabbits were called and how we liked our rucksacks - but disliked libraries (questions I luckily already knew the answers to despite my ropey French skills as I'm from the largest family known to man- and so would inevitably be writing to a cousin. Good times.)

I have lots of pen friends now. People who write to me from all over the shop. Luckily in English. And we've yet to discuss how we like to spend a Friday at the discotheque. Or sing dodgy songs to each other about sleeping monks. Thank god.

The lovely lads and lasses who have found my website are at so many different stages of recovery from chronic illness. There's a sort-of sliding scale to it. At one end is those who feel generally under the weather, get sick easily, have food intolerances and not-so-great energy levels. Then it moves through to those who cannot walk or stand, to those who cannot leave the house at all, and goes through varying stages until you reach those who are completely paralysed and being fed through a tube. Not nice. Any of it actually. But always there is hope. A way to move from the part of the scale you may find yourself at, until you are right where you want to be. I truly believe that. I've seen it so many times. I'm experienced a lot of it personally. We will all get there step-by step.

I'm so lucky I get to witness all of this progress. To meet so many wonderful, kind, brave people. Because really you are, all of you. It's a privilege to watch you start your own Life After. Every time. And because you are so good, so kind, as soon as you start to feel incremental improvement, you want to share it with others who you have met on this journey to wellness. You want them to experience some of the magic you have going on. To see this place you suspected would elude you forever. Whether it's helping a friend face to face, in online forums, or starting up a blog encouraging others to do the same as you are doing. Just to give to others and feel of service.

Don't.

Honestly don't do it. I'm so proud of each and every one of you and how badly you want to help those you have met that are still struggling in the darkness. We all know how bad and scary and lonely a place it is. That hell is a place- like an actual physical place right here on earth, That it's usually a small room you just exist in for years. Obviously we want to get everyone out of that room. That the thought of anyone having to endure it is just unbearable. I know, I get it. But honestly don't do it.

I have a blog I started writing that I never really thought anyone would actually read. I didn't start this blog when I was well. It began from a very scary, uncertain place. I was not okay. I was not in a position to help anyone. I was basically surviving. I could not even begin to see where okay was from there. I think what I was really doing was trying to find comfort and consolation, when I couldn't see any proof of it wherever else I looked. I needed someone to tell me that one day it was going to be all alright. Even if that person was just me. I kept putting one foot in front of the other and hoping it would be okay one day. Luckily I was right. When I see some of the entries people are reading from those days I have to shut the computer screen down. Because I remember too well what's in there. And it's not good. And if my lovely pen friends out there did not specifically reference the entries I hate the most so very regularly I'd have deleted them long ago, trust me.

I couldn't have helped anyone from over there. Two people in the dark can't pull each other into the light. It's just not going to happen. It's going to take time. Time to feel strong and safe and certain and normal again To put all of this well and truly behind you and get on with living life fully. If you try to help others from a place of still feeling vulnerable, then it not only slows your own recovery down, but it reinforces your still-active belief that the world is a scary place full of unwell people. And you don't need that. Not when life will be handing your ass to you on a daily basis whilst you are simply trying to master the basics. It will destroy you. Again.

So just get over here. Blog if it helps you make sense of your feelings-but leave everyone else and their own recovery out of it. You are no use to them yet, or to yourself unless you are outrageously well and ridiculously happy. It's not selfish, its vital. We are neither use nor ornament unless we really, truly, honestly have our shit together. Until we've mastered the art of consistent wellness. Consistent feelings of safety and certainty. And when you do get there? Then help any bugger you like. Work way. Fill your boots. Get together and sing Frere Jacques til the cows come home.

If we can all do that, just make recovery about us and no one else. Just until the horrible work-in-progress part is over and we are whole again. Then we will all get each other well. I know we will. Then there will be no one on any part of this god-awful sliding scale of symptoms. No illness, no fear, no tube feeding. No more living in hell. Please, just get over here first.

Please.