Are You The One In Four? A Letter To A Judgemental Friend

“I suppose sooner or later in the life of everyone comes a moment of trial. We all of us have our particular devil who rides us and torments us, and we must give battle in the end.”  Daphne Du Maurier

*Long read ahead. Go grab a cuppa.

Someone, a friend (or maybe not), send me a long and well-meaning (or maybe not) message yesterday asking why I so publicly explained my current health situation in my latest blog post, including mentioning that I suffer from incontinence AND had posted less than flattering images of myself that made me look ‘sick and drained and old’. Apparently, you shouldn’t talk about ‘body failure’ so openly. They suggested that it was ‘harming my image and the potential for me to build my business.’ Finally, they added that my life was  ’embarrassing and overly drama-filled, and maybe I should keep those details to myself’. In the midst of all their advice, they neglected to ask me how I was.

I was going to write them a long message back but instead, I’m going to reply here by way of a recent experience:

Dear YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE BUT I WON’T PUBLICALLY NAME YOU!

The other morning Ben and I needed to visit an office supplies store, but when we arrived at our destination the store had moved. It was only a few blocks away, and to navigate to the new address was straightforward, but for some strange reason as we exited the carpark Ben ducked down a side street and suddenly we were travelling down a rabbit warren of narrow suburban lanes instead of using the main roads.

‘Why are we going this way?’ I asked. ‘This is a dumb way.’

‘I dunno. Felt like it I guess,’ said Ben.

Who was I to argue? I haven’t been able to drive for months. Ben could drive there any route he chose.

When we slowed to take a corner I glanced up a street that ran off the one we were on. My vision is limited right now but of my mouth tumbled the words ‘Stop the car’.

‘Why?’ asked Ben, pulling to a halt.

I pointed. ‘There’. And even though I couldn’t see more than a blur I knew it was someone in trouble. That’s one of the gifts of being psychic.

Ben reversed and we drove fifty metres down another street. There on the sloping front lawn a middle-aged woman was lying awkwardly, half across her driveway, with the bulk of her body angled down the slope and her legs bent uphill behind her. Her handbag and car keys were strewn across the ground.

Ben put the window down and asked calmly, ‘Are you okay?’

‘I’m a bit stuck,’ the lady responded as she waved one arm in a feeble attempt to right herself.

We jumped out of the car and hurried over. As I gathered her fallen things Ben helped her to a sitting position and then we both helped her to her feet. Since my fiftieth birthday in 2017 I now feel every single emotion other people are holding within them as viscerally as if those emotions were mine. This woman’s story unfolded within my own body – this was the first major fall the woman had experienced and she had been lying on the ground for some time, alone and unable to reach her phone or to get herself back up again. It was terrifying for her, and worse, it had suddenly made real the truth of her health situation and diminishing capacities. I could feel the shame and embarrassment in her, as well as the shock.

The woman told us she had Parkinson’s. She was dazed and shaking but kept insisting she was fine and asked to be helped to her car. It was only when Ben let go of her and I saw his hands were covered in blood that we managed to convince her to go back inside her home and look after herself. She’d taken off quite a bit of skin, and her scrapes and bumps looked like they would become painful bruises later. She wouldn’t let us call anyone, and she was embarrassed and upset. I totally understood. The thing she’d been dreading had happened. She’d fallen, and been left stuck and helpless. Once upon a time if that had been me I would have waved everyone off as fast as I could too!

Chronic and terminal illnesses eventually lead us down paths we may never have imagined taking. But as a species we are resilient. We adapt. Life is about making the best of what we’ve got.

Have you ever been in that place, Dear ____________? That place of wanting to hold on to something that is no longer true for you? That place of wanting to not draw attention to yourself, of not wanting to admit a situation or a problem or something else that you perceive would make you somehow diminished in the eyes of others? It’s so human. It just swells my heart with compassion and pricks tears in my eyes.

There is one thing chronic illness has taught me. We’re all fragile. Poor health, accidents, illness and misfortune can strike any of us, at any time, at any age. Statistics show that one in four adults has some form of disability, physical or mental illness or chronic pain that limits our ability to function and cope with the activities of daily life.

One in four.

One in four of us suffers from diabetes or cancer or anxiety or pain or depression or incontinence or irritable bowel or restricted movement or chronic fatigue or OCD or chronic insomnia or some weird genetic thing or bullying or abuse or an occupational injury or… the list is endless. If it’s not us it’s someone we know. Maybe you’re not the sufferer but you live with that person. Care for that person.

Right now I am that one in four. Why should I hide that? It’s not all of me but it is part of me. And I refuse to hide that because if I do it means I am endorsing a world that says we should only show ourselves if we are perfect or at least ‘unoffensive’ to others.

And what does it say about you if you think that people like me should only show the ‘better aspects’ of our lives? Are you saying that I am not worthy to be out in the world if I wear a diaper or need a cane or someone to cut up my food or drive me places?

One in four, Dear _________________. One in four.

One day, that could so easily be you. Or your partner. Or your child.

This is what I believe – we need to embrace the truth of where we are at, without shame, embarrassment or apology. The ‘Instagram Life’ is a lie, and it puts ridiculous pressure on us to be something that so few people are or are with any kind of consistency; young, rich, thin, shredded, beautiful, stylish, completely together, popular, loved by a wide and ‘normal’ circle of family and friends, well travelled, eating amazing meals at fabulous places and healthy and well-balanced inside and out – with never a hint of adversity.

As to the fact that my life is at times ‘overly drama-filled’, my darling friend Carly-Jay Metcalfe who lives with Cystic Fibrosis responded with her own hard-won insights on my Facebook page, and I’ll include her post here in full:

Can I just say that as a person with a terminal illness, I don’t think people who are unaffected by chronic or terminal conditions can understand that with each step forward, it’s usually four steps back. It’s unrelenting and just because you say you’re on the road to recovery, does not mean you’re necessarily ‘better’. I’m glad you’re being gentle on yourself, Nic. I just wish everyone’s expectations were a little more realistic.

When I think of Carly-Jay I don’t think Cystic Fibrosis. I think poet, writer, aunt to my dogs, hilarious, soulful friend. When I think of myself I don’t think illness, I think of all the dreams that reside in my heart. We are not our illnesses or our frailties. We can live and thrive despite any of that. And we never need be defined or diminished by them. Does illness impact our lives and sometimes the lives of others? Sure. It’s just how it is.

What matters is who a person is on a soul level. Bodies age, fade, fail. But our souls are an eternal brightness. So, who are you in your heart? Who are you in the way you act in the world? Who you are as you live by your values? What are your dreams? Your relationships? Your interests? Your knowledge? Where can your passion take you?

Dear ____________ , I guarantee you that our world is held up and held together by people who are limping along in life doing the best that they can, sharing their ideas and gifts and love and care even though they face their own personal adversities.

I’ve been sharing my vulnerabilities since I first started blogging, and that’s the way I shall continue.

I hope no hardship ever befalls you but statistically, things are not on your side. ‘Life is suffering’ is what the Buddha said, and from my experience that will be true for everyone at some stage. That won’t mean you have failed. It will mean that you are human. If your road gets hard I’ll hold your hand as we navigate the bumpy bits together. To think that we need to be alone in our adversity is a myth perpetrated by people like you. Let’s end that way of thinking. It serves no-one.

Much love, Nicole  xx

38 thoughts on “Are You The One In Four? A Letter To A Judgemental Friend

  1. Well said and well done. Let she with the perfect life and health get a big shock when a vulnerable point in her life comes and she becomes ‘more humane’. And then? No doubt she will expect the world to stop for her. Just keep shining Nicole.

  2. Well said. I have an in-law with multiple serious health conditions. She never spoke of them to me or my hubby until the last few years when they increased and worsened. The latest round of bad news she has been too upset to share yet. I have such admiration for her. Every day she has pain and difficulties and yet she is loving and more than doing her bit in the world. I send a hug to any of you with mental or physical health issues.

  3. Dear Nicole,
    Much love to you and I’m so glad you have addressed the constant window dressing by our popular culture. I hope your friend can digest the depth of what you have written so well.
    Xxx

  4. A beautiful and heartfelt piece of writing, Nicole. Things we all need to hear and remember. Thanks for posting it.

    I am dealing with some health issues at present that mean I am not able to do some of the things I used to be able to. I am nearly seventy-five and I sometimes find myself pushing to do those things and remain a younger, more nimble version of myself than I actually am. It’s a way of snubbing my nose at the passage of time and the physical changes it brings. Sometimes I get away with that cocky behavior and sometimes I don’t! Although, I do believe that it’s important as we age to “keep moving” and not give up and sit in our rocking chair all day. But it’s a delicate balance, doing as much as we want to and can, versus accepting the reality that our bodies aren’t young anymore. I struggle with keeping that balance every day and I don’t care who knows it!

    I send you tho’ts of love and healing and wish you joy and ease every day!

  5. Legend. Love you. And was so sorry to hear yesterday how bloody sick you’ve been. Even in your suffering you continue to inspire. You are a true warrior with a lionheart. Big, big hugs ❤

  6. 👏🏼 Nicole-Thank you! For all of us 1-in-4. Might I say your ‘friend’s’ opinion has nothing to do with you at all. It reflects her own heart (lack of), her own pain and her own ego. I have family members just like her, who value what others think over kindness, compassion and understanding.

    I say to your ‘friend’ be humble or life will humble you.

  7. Awesome. I am sorry that you deal with illness on a regular basis. I appreciate the candor with which you deal with it. And I suspect, that your friend just doesn’t like to deal with unpleasant things.

    I recently published a book, (carpooling with death), and on the path to writing it One of my friends had a breakdown and said “Why can’t you just move on, why do you have to talk about this, why don’t you just go get remarried and deal with it?”

    Because one out of four of us will be the one who is ill, and four out of four of us will be the one who dies. Nothing wrong with facing it!

  8. Thank you Nicole. When you share how things really are for you, it softens me and I feel compassion for you and in so doing feel compassion for myself. We are all human and suffer in some way or other, too much of it is hidden as our culture demands we soldier on or not speak of these things, pretending that it’s “all good”. Today’s post particularly touched me as I am one of the one in four and my mother had Parkinson’s Disease. Keep on keeping it real, generous and wise soul.

  9. Thank you for sharing this. I started being real about my health struggles back when I was first diagnosed with type 2 bipolar disorder at age 38 and have been doing so ever since. I was raised in a family that believed in hiding their problems. I’ve since had to become used to more and more physical issues while trying not to hate myself for having them, because ill health was seen as weakness when I was growing up.
    The one thing that I was disinclined to discuss even after I started being honest about my psychiatric and endocrine issues was the incontinence that I’ve suffered with since I was 40 years old. I never saw a doctor about it until this past year because of a history of trauma and because I didn’t want to be humiliated for my size while in a compromising position. I am a big person, and, given my endocrine issues, it would be almost impossible for me to be anything but and still be standing. The treatment of larger people by the medical establishment is unconscionable, and leads larger people to avoid treatment until they experience critical health problems.
    I finally found a doctor that I felt I could trust to discuss my “plumbing” issues, including my “annual period” that I’ve had even after menopause. She told me that this sort of bleeding was abnormal and referred me to an OBGYN who turned out to be wonderful and compassionate. She never once made an issue of my weight. I had a D&C done, which revealed that my uterus is chock full of fibroids and polyps. Given that I no longer have need for this particular organ, it is coming out in three weeks.
    I’ve read that fibroids can promote urinary urgency. I have urge incontinence as opposed to the more common stress incontinence. I’m crossing my fingers that the hysterectomy might help improve this problem. I’m not one of those people with “light bladder leakage.” Sometimes I can stop it before it becomes a full-on flood, but not always. Those dainty little panty liners wouldn’t do doodly squat when I lose urine. I have to wear the big overnight incontinence pads.
    It’s possible that I should have had a hysterectomy years ago. I’ve always had really miserable, heavy periods, but I attributed them to my endocrine problems. People with hypothyroidism are, apparently, prone to heavy periods. I might have done something about it sooner, but because of the trauma I’ve suffered, I really don’t like people “up in my business.” Not that anyone likes gynecological exams, but I am psychologically traumatized by them. The idea that I might be belittled for my size made it a real no-go, and, thus, I avoided having such an exam for close to 30 years.
    The medical establishment really needs to change their approach to larger people, to women, and probably to people as a whole. Many people who go into medicine lack compassion. I am a former nurse (still licensed, no longer practicing) and I can attest that nursing school was one of the most fatphobic environments that I ever had the displeasure of finding myself in. If we want a healthy population, we need to treat people of all sizes and with all issues including addiction with respect and compassion.
    As for your “friend,” I’m sorry that you discovered that she really wasn’t one. I hate those discoveries. But in the end, it’s kind of freeing to drop away the people who like to imitate millstones.

  10. Thank you Nicole – I applaud you for your courage and vulnerability. If my son had shown that he was in pain and vulnerability – he might be alive and looking forward to Christmas with his family.

  11. Dear Nicole. Unfortunately some people are embarrassed by ill health or limitations. They feel by ‘bullying’ the person to keep a stiff upper lip , they are helping…go figure! They are also quite affected by survivors guilt..there but by the grace of God go I. However as you know that is their story and business….
    Keep being you, in all amazing aspects of life, you help us to realise life is what you make of it, and to embrace life in all if it’s glory, positive or not.
    Love you, your soul work and your messages of hope and tenacity.
    Hugs and Angel blessings.
    Marney Perna

  12. Dear Sweet Nicole ~ I’m sure you know that you shouldn’t define yourself by how others see you ~ it’s simply their perception. Nevertheless, that rude, selfish letter must have hurt you and I’m so sorry that it brought a degree of negativity into your life. But, as you will know (because you’re spiritually wise), it served a purpose by firing you up to write the response that you did, which I applaud you for. I find your honesty not only wonderfully refreshing but also so inspiring, as I’m sure so many others do. If anything, your sharing of your off days in terms of your health issues bring hope in their wake, because they’re followed by days when you feel so much better. It’s all about the balance in life ~ the ups followed by downs & vice versa. Life is beautiful but it can also be challenging & why should we each hide that? I think of you as brave & faith filled and the world needs more folk like you. Carry on sharing just as you have done to date. You are loved, admired & respected for being true to yourself. Bright Blessings, Love & Light, Sue xx

  13. Here, here my friend so well said, I applaud you for sharing your struggles, as you and others know my body is falling apart, I struggle to do many everyday things and have to take it one day at a time. I am not ashamed to tell others of my struggles because my failing health isn’t anything to be ashamed of, it is what it is

  14. Nicole respectfully that reader is either very young or very cruel. If it’s the former then she will eventually as she ages encounter the gradual effect of aging on her body. If she is extremely lucky she won’t encounter cancer or any other devasting illness in her youth. I am a cancer survivor and I am so thankful for every single cancer patient who told it like it was. Thank you for sharing as intimately as you do. I have friends who are suffering from Lyme Disease and I’ve told them about you and they now follow you have helped them. Your raw honesty takes much courage. Prayers to you.

  15. Wow Nicole, great reply! If only more people would be so honest. It would open peoples eyes seeing that many people have stuff going on in their lives…….. Much love to you!! 😘🌈💜

  16. Thanks Nicole for the real images of you. As a nurse I’m exposed to such visions daily and spend much time with chronic illness patients and their families. So can truly understand the day to day struggles and unpleasantness. Such pictures show us the true you. What does offend me though is talk by your friend (and others previously) of your business building. As this makes me feel like a customer, a purchaser, rather than a like soul, or friend. I think such talk breeds negativity moreso than any image of the real you and your inner beauty and warmth. Kylie

  17. I love this REAL, Nicole.

    Perfect …. as life is. Not the perfect that people post on Insta or that they dream of. The perfect that is LIFE!

    Human experiences that we came here to have.

    Love you forever gorgeous woman and soul!

    D xoxox

  18. Oh what a sad and limited person your “friend” must be ! You dear Nicole are simply stunning . I loved your last post – so honest , so vulnerable, so real, so human, so like all of us. Above all, you are inspirational in your humanness. The way you cope and share and keep going forward is a lesson to me. Gorgeous in your every day humanness . Sometimes my life feels drama filled too, and I have to remember most peoples lives are – they just hide it. All strength to you. Please, please continue sharing your life with us. And thank you for being so special

  19. Nicole. I read your blog each time I find it in my email. Tonight, I was more than that one in four. I was stopped by a police officer just outside of the town I couldn’t find because he thought I might be drunk. I was in the midst of a low blood sugar. I have NEVER had to be taken home by a police person. Unfortunately, it probably won’t be the last time…. I hate bothering people. I learned while caring for my mom the last over two years, I need to ask for help and concede to my body when it stops working right. When I need to rush to the bathroom in the middle of a social situation because my bowels are off due to the MS and food I’ve eaten or whatever, when my glucose is too low and I’m confused, when my legs stop working because of ..I need to allow my body to be in charge. Not fun, but I’m responsible for it when it doesn’t do what I want. I hate being one in four. I know I”m not alone and when persons tell me to ‘suck it up’ or ‘deal with it’ or not tell everything, I used to fold up like a stack of cards and cry. Now, I just get mad and ignore them!
    Thank you for everything you have given in every way. I’m not the only one who needs you out in this giant world!

  20. Thank you for that letter. Thank you for being authentic. Thank you for shedding light on an illness that helps me understand friends with similar issues and when someone mentions a symptom, I can actually suggest what they might bring up with their doctor. If you didn’t do that – if none of us shared our ailments – how could we help each other. Why should the human condition be secret?
    The message from your (well-meaning or not) “friend” was about them – not you.
    They didn’t ask how you were. They’re not interested in you. Your health. Your message. Your authenticity. Your integrity. They’re interested in superficial fluff that isn’t about life and living at all. Scratch the facade and what is below? not much. Certainly no empathy. Certainly no caring for their fellow human. Certainly no curiosity in what possibilities are in this world.
    Again – you were saving someone (we are so lucky to have you and all the other helpers in this world) – and with dignity. It’s amazing how embarrassed or humiliated us humans feel when we fail (especially physically). It’s funny – but if she were in the same position – helping you out of a situation where you had fallen – at no time would she have thought you should be humiliated or embarrassed… not sure why we all seem to act this way.
    Good on Ben for taking the route he did. Apparently he’s in cahoots with you and your mission. 🙂
    Sending you love So grateful you are in this world, Nicole.
    Love you! xoxoxoxox

  21. Dearest Nicole I am so honoured by how deeply you share your challenges and your gifts. My heart is currently breaking open with my mother who has suffered health issues for most of her life and has always armoured around them and not acknowledged the sadness and the challenge. All of those decades of avoidance are now coming to the surface – almost like a massive detox. Thank you for having the courage to be vulnerable. Much love Nikki X

  22. Thank you Nicole for this lovely post. I’m going through some hurdles in my own life where my parents don’t approve of someone I deeply love who has the most beautiful aura because my parents think he is physically unattractive. And this came at a perfect time to dispel my anxieties that I’m making the right decision. I’ve been following your blog for years and I find your posts always so sweet, insightful and sensitive. We need more sensitive, no matter how many people will judge us. Lots of love from one soul to another. 🙂 Thank you.

  23. Oh Nicole, your friend is not your friend but another vulnerable human who is full of fears. Your response was a compassionate one, and he/she must travel on their own journey as we all must. These issues about being human and vulnerable are personal and honest not about business. Love Judy xx

  24. I think it is a gift that you can tell so openly about your health, without false shame or fear. It will encourage others to open up as well. As Rumi says: the wound is the place where the light enters you. Showing who we are and how we are is the place where the love enters us, I think. But most people are afraid do it. They judge in others what they are not able to do themselves.

    Nicole I could not wait till christmas and tried a piece of the fruitcake yesterday – gooood :o)

  25. Just wanna say…. I read your update yesterday, and I found it incredibly inspiring. I’m not 1 in 4, but even still – life gets bumpy for me too. And reading about the ways YOU manage to find hope and creativity and courage and insight even while your health is in a really bad way – it always gives me courage to face my own bumps, and know that it’s all a part of this wild ride. That there’s always hope to be found, and love, and learning – if we look for it.

    I love the way you show up in the world, Nicole. Thank you, always, for being the most wonderful soul whisperer around.

    Also sending all the healing and wellbeing vibes. x

  26. Thank you for all that you are and for being yourself and loving yourself. That is the reason we all come here, to love ourselves and our life, fearlessly, just as it is.

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