Saturday, 18 February 2012

Those who 'just get on with it'...

So, this phrase has been vexing me somewhat lately. I'm not entirely sure why, but here's the thing:

'<insert name here> is so inspirational, you know. She is one of those people who just get on with it, you know, even when she has proper flu. She doesn't let it get her down.'

And there's that dreadful ad. Can't even remember what it is advertising, some overpriced and ineffective cold remedy, I believe. The one that extols the virtues of 'people who just get on with it', while showing a woman with a sniffle buying food, or some such getting-on-with-it-ness.

Now I think the problem for me in this is the implications about those who don't get on with it. Those who let it all get on top of them, those who stop, those who buckle under a little. It would be fine if this phrase was only bandied around about the usually well, but when it is applied to those who have long term conditions, it can all get a bit upsetting and in some cases intimidating.

You're doing your best to function, to fight through the pain, the never ending side effects, infection, exhaustion and whatever else, and you're having a bad day/week/month/year. You need to sit back and take it easy, to NOT 'just get on with it'. But you're bombarded by images and accolades of people doing just that, and how very inspirational they are. They don't let it get them down, they don't let it beat them. So if you do, you're pretty hopeless really aren't you.

OK, so I realise not every person is saying or thinking this. But it's more common I think than we could imagine. What I want to say is that you don't have to be inspirational today. You can stay inside, let life carry on and just cope. You can just be. And that does not mean you are in any sense worthless, useless or any other type of less. It simply means that you are hurting, you are human and you are taking time that you need to look after yourself. There may come a time when 'getting on with it' is better for you than not, and I am the first to say that a little activism can be a good and healing thing, but there is the time when it is just not. And that is OK.

The problem is, our society is throwing out ever more widely messages about what use someone is to society as a whole. Today I have read a report which says that workfare will be extended to people on ESA, and not only extended, but in fact people will be forced into unpaid work for an indefinite period - as opposed to normal workfare rules which put people into short term employment. What does this say about attitudes to disabled people? They are not worth very much as it is, so better make them more productive? Even if that work is unpaid? Now, many people with chronic conditions and disabilities find that working enhances their lives very much and I am in full favour of such for those able to do so and supported by their employers, but this new stipulation is somehow more sinister and has undertones of the whole 'drain on society' label applied by some. It's a scary world out there if you're ill.

What does God think, I wonder? Does God think people should just get on with it and should be productive and useful to society? Or does God just, actually, Love?

So I want to encourage you, all my friends who struggle with ill health of any description, to give yourselves a break. And to feel free to throw something at the TV when you next see the advert with that poor woman with the little sniffle who Just Gets On With It. ;)