As promised, I am posting a rejected essay I wrote recently about being a flake, both socially and professionally. I was told it focused too much on my health issues, but unfortunately, I am not able to separate the two.
“I think I’m a commitment phobic.”
My friend laughed at my declaration. She was discussing her own issues with relationships when I chimed in about what I felt was a recent development. I realized how ridiculous I sounded in comparison; I have only been in serious, long-term relationships since I started high school. But I was talking about my commitment as a friend, and how I have turned into a total flake socially.
Before being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, I dealt with my other health problems quietly: I became accustomed to keeping the symptoms to myself, because I was afraid people would think I was whining. Prior to that hospital stay, I was being treated for Endometriosis, migraines, allergies, and other repeated illnesses, so I was used to the frequent doctor visits. I never shared my daily ailments with candor, for fear of being a downer with my friends.
I have become less reliable in some ways since my official diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease: I can’t promise I’ll be somewhere at a certain time, for one thing. Even on the best of days, I don’t know what to expect from my body, and those physical limitations make it difficult to be employee-of-the-month. Though my unpredictable behavior definitely strained certain friendships, I was still able to hang out from time to time, and actively participate in conversation. Ask anyone who knows me, I like to talk – a lot, and not much gets in the way of me breaking an awkward silence.
A couple of years ago, I chipped my front tooth on a candy wrapper, in what I thought was a freak accident. I went much longer than I should have to see a dentist, mainly because the dentist office is one of the last places on earth I ever want to be. Besides, I had enough health problems to deal with, I didn’t need to add to the stress. But over the next few months, I noticed the rest of my teeth were chipping easily, and my front tooth went from chipped to completely broken.
My husband found a low-cost dental clinic, alleviating my financial concern, at least. I was ashamed to show any medical professional my teeth, because I was afraid they would assume something untrue (it’s happened to me before). Within minutes, this dentist accused me of neglecting my teeth, even though I assured her it wasn’t the case. I asked her if the litany of medications prescribed to me over the years could have caused this, or the acid from my stomach ulcers – anything to get her to understand my desperation for an answer. She brushed my questions off, and told me I would have to go through a series of deep cleaning sessions.
The dental hygienist was far more sympathetic, and lowered his voice to signal he was about to ask something sensitive.
“Do you have frequent occurrences of vomiting?”
Nausea has always been a symptom I struggle with, but it has gotten a lot worse in the last year. Not to put too fine a point on it, but something as innocuous as a strong odor or a beverage could result in projectile vomit. I have no control over when it happens, making it even more difficult for me to navigate social situations. Prescription strength anti-nausea medications are expensive, and they knock me out. Over the counter remedies don’t work for me.
The hygienist explained to me that because of this, the enamel was wearing off, causing them to break. I felt a wave of relief, but it didn’t make it any easier to have a face to face with anyone. No matter what anyone tells me, I feel insecure and ugly when I open my mouth. I hate being so vain, and I am the last person to notice someone else’s teeth, but I can’t ignore the looks people give me in public.
During every deep cleaning, the hygienist assured me it wasn’t my fault, and gave me suggestions for future care. I haven’t had my front tooth replaced yet, because I still have a few appointments before the dentist will take care of it. In the meantime, I am not being a very good friend, especially to those who are local. I’ve shied away from professional networking situations because I don’t want this to be the first impression I make on someone. I’m sure I’ll feel better about myself when the dental work is complete, and I’ll go back to being an outgoing person; but I’ll probably always be a flake to some degree.