I was eighteen. One of my fellow students jokingly grabbed me tightly and he felt me instantly cringe. He was quite startled and asked me why. At that moment I first realized that being touched was a problem for me, because of my rheumatoid arthritis. The odd knock, however friendly intented, can completely have adverse effects, can hurt me a lot. Unconsciously I was wary of every movement in my vicinity, every touch by anyone. I associated all physical contact, even my body as a whole, with pain.
Over time I learned that it can also be very pleasant to be touched. Apart from painful medical treatments by a fysiotherapist or a doctor there is another kind of touch. Making out with my husband or holding and cuddling my children. Just having a good relaxing massage now and then. I sometimes go to a sauna with my girlfriends which makes my body feel good inside. But I keep my guard up, avoid full swimming pools or places where children are playing bal or are running around. One collision with a bal or a child, one unintentional clumsy push can cause me great pain. I’d rather not risk it.
Unfortunately, at the moment my two sons are in the habit of frolicking around and wrestling with each other for about ten minutes every day. I cannot stand it, it is totally foreign to me. I’m afraid they will accidentally move in my direction and warn them not to hurt each other. My youngest son reproachfully explained: “Mon, this is how boys show they like each other.” I’m very glad they like each other so much. They feel the need to affirm their relationship like that every day and I’m trying to get used to it. They push and pull and yell and laugh together. I keep my distance, try to keep my mouth shut and listen to the sounds of brotherly love. I just can’t take the odd knock to my vulnerable body. But they enjoy that kind of thing. It’s their way of expressing love for one another and that, in its turn, makes me very happy. To each his own.
(written November 2014, translated May 2019)