Hugs & Awareness Days

The writer in me really enjoys having two random things to combine in a post, and today gives me the satisfaction of being able to do this.

Both of the illnesses I have are pain disorders: One is Chronic Myofascial Pain Syndrome (CMPS). If I lived in the USA I could add ‘stage four’ at this point (Stage four is the point of no return, where the condition affects many areas of life including voice and vision). The other is a later addition that is quite common and an annoyance that complicates the CMPS – Fibromyalgia.

I also have a couple of other things that have their own separate awareness days – whoopy-doo!

We’re also able to hug from next Monday…..

What has that got to do with this awareness day I hear you say!?

Well, I’ll start by saying that I will be hiding away for a couple of weeks until the extroverts have got the hugging out of their system!

Why? Because over a year ago, people who knew me well would remember to ask me before hugging. I fear that has now been forgotten.

For me, hugging can be painful, and sometimes it can result in spectacular muscle spasms. (Can you see the connection now?!)

I’ve always said that the permission to hug always lies with the receiver – something to remember even without a chronic pain condition. For some, a year with few or no hugs will make this more than a little overwhelming – we need to recognise that and ask first.

Two line drawing people, one wanting to hug the other who is not wanting to be hugged

For people with a disability that is obvious – such as mine (I use a wheelchair), permission to touch often goes out of the window, with people often approaching me like you would a child:
Arm stroking is top of the list, followed by arm or shoulder patting. I’ve had my head stroked on occasion and my hand held. All without permission.

I’ve also had some people come up behind me, shimmy to the side and give me a sideways hug before I realise they are there – making me startle. This is something that is very painful. At least my wheelchair prevents full frontal hugs!

In my family we have a phrase we use frequently as a sign off on messages: ‘gentle hugs’ (Many in my birth family have Fibromyalgia), and in turn I use it with others who appreciate that sentiment.

For the record – I do like hugs, especially the gentle variety. But because I am still clinically vulnerable – I would be careful about the amount of hugs anyway. So please don’t be offended if I decline one.

As I said – May 12th is an awareness day. And now you are aware why hugging can be an issue for many with a chronic illness.

If you want to read more on hugging and children with additional needs, my colleague and partner in crime, Mark Arnold, has written a longer post on his Additional Needs Blogfather site

One response to “Hugs & Awareness Days”

  1. […] For some children and young people with a sensory sensitivity to touch, even the lightest of hugs might be painful and overwhelming, causing them to possibly be highly reactive and very upset.Social sensitivityAgain, some additional needs, differences or diversities can include a social sensitivity aspect. This can include how easily a child or young person can identify, perceive and understand social cues and contexts, but can also influence a child or young person’s sensitivity to social situations where they might struggle to understand the feelings and needs of others.Many children and young people might find a busy, crowded room difficult to cope with, for example, due to a combination of sensory sensitivity and difficulties with social interaction, but also because close proximity to other people can make it harder to manage and regulate their own feelings leading to them feeling overwhelmed. A child or young person may also be resistant to being hugged by a loved one, especially if they haven’t seen them for a while, which can be upsetting for e.g. a grandparent who has been longing to hug their grandchild for over a year.Physical disability or chronic illnessA wide range of physical disabilities or chronic health conditions can result in a child or young person being easily hurt by physical contact. Their bodies may be weakened by their disability, or they might have very sensitive nervous systems or a low pain threshold. In the case of some conditions, this can vary considerably from day to day. In such situations, even a gentle hug might be not just painful but potentially dangerous as well.The ABC of hugging!So how do family members, friends etc. who perhaps haven’t seen their young relative or friend for ages, let alone hugged them, know what to do? Here’s three ABC ‘hugging tips’ to help:AskNever just hug someone, ask them if it’s OK and would be welcomed first. If they say they would rather not, don’t be offended, it’s likely to be for a very good reason! Don’t look offended and make them feel guilty, this isn’t about you, it’s about their health and wellbeing.Be gentleIf a hug is permitted, don’t go ‘full bear-hug’ straight off. Be gentle, be appropriate, be quick. You are communicating love for someone, not trying to crush them for 60 seconds. A gentle hug for a few seconds should be fine.CheckMake sure they are OK, and if not then stop. By asking you are helping them to communicate if they are finding it difficult for any reason and to remain in control.When we hug, our bodies release feel good hormones. These hormones include oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin. Once these hormones are released into our bodies we can experience feelings of happiness, relaxation, improved mood, and lower levels of depression. But as hugging is permitted again after so long, let’s not lose sight of the difficulties that some people can experience with hugs, or of our responsibility to hug (or not) well.To hug, or not to hug, that is the question (with apologies to the bard). Let’s answer it well!Peace,MarkHeader image © unknown, text © Mark ArnoldSee also:Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder/Difficulties & Awareness Days (The Pondering Platypus) […]


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