The careful use of language is important. Perhaps more so when raising awareness of a misunderstood and stigmatised condition. I’ve spoken before about why I very rarely use the word Tired, for example.
You see there’s awareness, and then there’s accurate awareness. I’m here for the latter.
But what do I mean exactly? Okay, I’ll give you an example.
I don’t say “I can’t physically do X” and then go and do X. Because that’s a complete contradiction.
It also heavily implies that there’s an element of choice involved – it’s implying I merely had to push through to do X rather than it actually being beyond my reach as I’d said.
Instead, I might say “Doing X is going to be very hard and will exacerbate my symptoms” or “I don’t want to do X because it’s going to make me more unwell” or “I can’t do X without it making me really unwell.”
Raising accurate and as-clear-as-possible awareness of M.E is kind of my thing. I’ve been doing it quite awhile now. It started with wanting to help those around me understand the complexities of my new restrictions.
You can see how confusing it would be to those around me if I declared I can’t physically do something but then went on to do the thing I’d just claimed I couldn’t do. Sure it’s much easier to just come out with “I can’t do X” especially when energy and cognitive function is impaired. But it works out far better for me in the long run to think before I speak, because not everyone has the level of understanding about my illness that I’d like.
So I’ve become acquainted with disclaimers over the years:
“I can do X IF I don’t do Y or Z.”
“I can’t do X today.”
“I can do X on my best health days only.”
“I can only ever do X as a one off rather than a regular thing.”
“I can do X but I will experience an exacerbation of symptoms for days afterwards.”
Or if it really is out of my reach I can honestly say:
“I can’t physically do X”.
It can be tiresome but it has become essential. And while I don’t obsess over this so much, it has definitely become ingrained in me now. I care less about people misinterpreting me and the things I say, but I want to be as clear as I can.