The word “grit” is a pretty versatile one. It can describe small particles of dirt or sand, courage or resolve, or the action of gritting one’s teeth.
All three of these meanings can apply in the world of chronic illness. Not sure you follow? In the words of Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars, “Don’t Believe me, just watch!”
Particles of Dirt or Sand
I think we all know the story of the Princess and the Pea. A very spoiled little girl keeps saying she can feel a pea under her mattress. No matter how many mattresses the pile on she still feels it.
While that is a fairytale, the feeling of something hurting your skin can be very real for those suffering from fibromyalgia. I find that a bit of sheet bunched up underneath me at night or too heavy/tight clothes can really cause pain during a flare. A tag on my neck can feel like a piece of sandpaper (which contains “grit”).
I know that sand or grit helps an oyster make a pearl but to those with chronic illness, nothing good comes out of any type of friction against the skin.
Courage or Resolve
“True Grit” is a John Wayne movie. It is also a term used in the military for heroism beyond expectation. I think that can apply to chronic illness as well. We are not necessarily put in life-threatening situations (though some are); however, the pain, fatigue, physical and emotional stress, and general malaise we feel takes a great degree of courage and resolve to get through even the quietest of days.
Many chronic sufferers still work and/or have families to look after and so they need stamina and bravery to get through the day-to-day activities and that doesn’t leave a lot of room for other things. But we soldier on the best we can.
Gritting One’s Teeth
You might be wondering about this one but I think in some ways it is the best definition of grit when talking about chronic illness. Why? Because of how many times we have to hear any of the following:
- “You are looking good today – you must be better.”
- “You said last week that you would come and now you have a migraine and can’t make it. Why didn’t you just say you didn’t want to come in the first place.”
- “I forget things all the time, don’t worry about it.”
- “You need more exercise.”
- “I wish I had time to take naps”
- “Have you tried…”
- And so on, and so on…
I could go on, but I think you get the idea. To liven things up I have attached Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars with “Uptown Funk” because I probably already put it in your head with the reference above. Sorry about that! 😉