Whatever You Do, SHOW UP!
I was recently invited to a bridal shower. I was also recently diagnosed with thyroid eye disease (TED). For me, these two events directly contradicted one another. For all of my 57 years, I have enjoyed being social, often being the glue that brought people together. But over the past year or two, I have gradually found solace in staying home. Oftentimes, now I sit out sporting events, parties with friends, or hanging out after work. I blame it on all sorts of things, mostly being tired or too busy.
Sharing my truth
The real truth is I am afraid. I am afraid of the longer gaze I see looking back at me in conversations with others. I am even more afraid of their eyes glancing and quickly darting away. They do not know what's different about me. They don't know if they should ask, or just stick to the topic and try not to stare at my bulging, red and inflamed eye. Being an empathetic person, I tend to feel sorry for them, but still being afraid, cannot always speak to the issue myself.
In those socially awkward moments, I waffle between telling the person about my diagnosis, and just leaving them to wonder. I have tried both. I don't know what gives me courage to speak about it to friends and family and what makes me hold back. Maybe it comes down to how well I know them. It might have more to do with my mood at that particular time. I don't want to burden them with the details of the disease, should they ask questions. I sometimes think it will interfere with the real reason for the gathering. And some days it is just too raw for me.
So, sometimes, I make an excuse and stay home. I do not recommend this. Let me reiterate, I do not recommend this. At times it may seem like the absolute "way out" of the situation. It isn't. In my experience, I am finding it is an avoidance of one difficult situation in exchange for an entirely new one. I "excused" my way out of that bridal shower I mentioned earlier. Whew. I wasn't going to have to endure the awkwardness. I didn't have to ask my very sweet and accommodating husband to drive me, help me find a gift, or give up his Saturday afternoon. By the way, he would have been happy to do all of these things had I asked. But that's a whole different article for another day. What happened after was not what I expected or intended by opting out of that bridal shower.
I was so so sad. I felt like I had let down the bride and her sister who planned the shower and invited me, and I love them both. Additionally, I felt I had let myself down. Maybe I would have enjoyed it. Later, I saw pictures. It looked like they had a riot. In retrospect, I could have played with the little toddlers and helped the young mothers enjoy each other a bit. Maybe I would have enjoyed it. I could have caught up with someone I hadn't seen or talked with in a long while. Maybe I would have enjoyed it. I could have just told those closest to me about this disease before going. This would have allowed me a "buffer" or two. And maybe I would have enjoyed it.
Show up with thyroid eye disease
But, maybe by NOT going to the bridal shower, I have learned. From here on, go to the bridal shower, sporting event, birthday party... fill in the blank here. Find your courage, find your people, and give a head's up to those who will be your wingman. Make whatever accommodations you need to get you there. Put together a little "survival bag," filled with things that help you, your eye patch, your eye drops, sunglasses, etc... GO to the function. Whatever you do, show up, and maybe, just maybe, you will enjoy it.
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