That's what they called me as I grew up. Clumsy, fragile... those were the nice ones. When I was on crutches, or in a brace it was Gimpy, or Ilene (I-lean). That was still in good fun. The one that really stuck was Faker.
As you can probably guess, I got hurt a lot. I broke my arm once.. or was it twice? That was a "real" injury, with x-ray evidence and a cast to prove it. What was much more common were the nonspecific injuries. Muscle strains, bruised bones, sprains, tendonitis, pulled ligaments. I am very familiar with these terms. I couldn't begin to count the number of visits to the doctor's office I had as a child, how many x-rays, how many splints and ace bandages. The x-ray technician at my family doc's office used to call me her apprentice. She said that I must know as much about taking x-rays as she did. I know all the poses. And they all came back normal. No broken bones, no evidence of injury. Often only mild swelling, no bruising. All I knew was that it really hurt.
But it started to sink in that other people didn't know that it really hurt. Other people didn't believe me, I could see it in their eyes, I could hear it in their voices. And sometimes it was right there in their words. "Faker".
I took that criticism, that accusation right in. I internalized that so deep, that I still don't trust my own experience of pain. Every time that I am sick or hurt, I second-guess it. I call myself a faker inside. I accuse myself of making it worse than it really is, of being a baby. I tell myself it's not that bad, that I need to suck it up, and that I should really stop complaining. I remind myself that nobody likes a whiner, and that my friends must surely be sick of hearing about my numerous physical ailments.
What I know now that I didn't know then is that I have a weird condition. I'm too stretchy. It's called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome: Hypermobility Type. Symptoms include unstable joints and easy bruising. Medical history to include many nonspecific injuries with "normal" x-rays. Prognosis: chronic pain, possible degenerative joint disease, more injuries that no one else can see. Treatment: ummm... yeah... not really. Be careful. Build strong muscles around joints. Avoid activities that destabilize or stretch.. like yoga and swimming. Pray.
So I should go easier on myself. Of course I don't, and I'm currently laid up with hip pain that started out as mild and manageable. So I ignored it. Then it got worse, so I stopped working out, and ignored it some more. Now I'm barely functional, every step hurts, and I depend on my arsenal of narcotics (legally prescribed), muscle relaxers (also prescribed), a heating pad, various pillows in just the right position, and a heap of self pity.
I go for an MRI on Wednesday. I promise I'm not faking.