Last week I caught up with an old college friend- Amma. She reached out after reading my blog last week. I was knackered and my knees were sore but I wanted to make the effort to meet up and I’m glad I did as it was a pleasant end to the week!

I was late which is totally unlike me (Southern Rail’s fault) but as I walked into the restaurant I could see Amma’s big cheesy grin ready to greet me. It didn’t feel like 8 years had passed since we had last seen each other. She had me in stitches right from the beginning to the end. In typical Amma style she told me she was a bit worried about seeing me after reading my blog. When I asked why, she replied that she thought I would look fragile and be limping. She gestured something close to Quasimodo which made me laugh. I didn’t take offence, I’m sure most people expect to see people with a condition looking ‘ill’ and when they’re better they look ‘healthy’. On this day I suppose I looked well and so it contrasted with what she was expecting. I reminded her to never “judge a book by it’s cover.”

I have an athletic build as I like to workout and I’m told I’m a sharp dresser so I suppose my exterior can confuse people. Colleagues I’ve worked with and even doctors wrongly assume my pain has been caused by an overzealous workout. Seriously the last doctor I saw in A&E advised me to stop squatting in the gym, despite me trying to explain to him the pain was chronic and neuropathic. I know it’s easy to look at a person and quickly try to explain their behaviour or symptoms based on your own experiences. But the danger here is that we are not the same and by jumping to quick assumptions we miss the truth. First hand experience tells me it’s far more effective to ask questions if you want the whole picture.

There are days where I struggle both mentally and physically.  It’s hard to hide the physical struggle as this is what people see straight away. You can see whether I’m walking straight or limping or whether my hand might jerk.The mental struggle is far easier to hide. As soon as I leave the house it’s easy to smile and be strong. But hiding and pretending has never really helped me, it’s highly frustrating and means that those people I want to understand me can’t. I’ve learnt that it’s ok not to be ok and there is nothing wrong with asking for help. I’m definitely blessed with friends and family who are always willing to help and support me.

What does this mean for you? The people that need our help the most probably won’t ask for it. This week pick up the phone to check in on someone you haven’t heard from in a while and ask them how they are doing. Or when you stop to ask someone at work how they are doing, actually take the time and show them that you care about their answer. Ask more questions and make fewer assumptions. Let’s not forget to “never judge a book by its cover.”

Have a great week people!