Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Gorilla In Your House

With thanks to everyone over at Ouch.

Acquiring a disability is a bit like getting home to find there's a gorilla in your house. You contact the approved and official channels to get rid of infestations of wild animals (in this case, the NHS) and they umm and aah and suck air in through their teeth before saying something roughly equivalent to "what you've got 'ere, mate, is a gorilla, and there ain't really a lot what we can do about them, see..." before sending you back home to the gorilla's waiting arms.

The gorilla in your house will cause problems in every part of your life. Your spouse may decide that (s)he can't deal with the gorilla, and leave. Your boss may get upset that you've brought the gorilla to work with you and it's disrupting your colleagues, who don't know how to deal with gorillas. You're arriving for work wearing a suit the gorilla has slept on. Some days you don't turn up at all because at the last minute, the gorilla has decided to barricade you into the bathroom or sit on you so you can't get out of bed. Your friends will get cheesed off because when you see them - which isn't often, because they don't want to come to your house for fear of the gorilla and the gorilla won't always let you out - your only topic of conversation is this darn gorilla and the devastation it is causing.

There are three major approaches to the gorilla in your house.

One is to ignore it and hope it goes away. This is unlikely to work. A 300-lb gorilla will sleep where he likes, and if that's on top of you, it will have an effect on you.

Another is to try and force the gorilla out, wrestling constantly with it, spending all your time fighting it. This is often a losing battle. Some choose to give all their money to people who will come and wave crystals at the gorilla, from a safe distance of course. This also tends to be a losing battle. However, every so often, one in a hundred gorillas will get bored and wander off. The crystal-wavers and gorilla-wrestlers will claim victory, and tell the media that it's a massive breakthrough in gorilla-control, and that the 99 other gorilla-wrestlers just aren't doing it right due to sloppy thinking or lack of committment. The 99 other gorilla-wrestlers won't have the time or energy to argue.

I have known people spend the best years of their life and tens of thousands of pounds trying to force their gorillas to go away. The tragedy is that even if it does wander off for a while, they won't get their pre-gorilla lives back. They'll be older, skint, exhausted, and constantly afraid that the gorilla may well come back.

The third way to deal with the gorilla in your house is to accept it, tame it, and make it part of your life. Figure out a way to calm your gorilla down. Teach it how to sit still until you are able to take it places with you without it making a scene. Find out how to equip your home with gorilla-friendly furnishings and appliances. Negotiate with your boss about ways to accomodate, or even make use of, your gorilla. Meet other people who live with gorillas and enjoy having something in common, and share gorilla-taming tips.

People get really upset about this and throw around accusations of "giving up" and "not even trying". They even suggest that you enjoy having a gorilla around because of the attention it gets you (while ignoring the massive pile of steaming gorilla-turds in your bedroom every morning and night, not to mention your weekly bill for bananas). The best way to deal with these people is to smile and remind yourself that one day, they too will have a gorilla in their house.

86 comments:

Anonymous said...

Cool. Salute ya..

From a gorilla hoping to return to the wild any time soon..

*big grin*

Carie said...

But can the gorilla knit?

Mary said...

No, the gorilla can't knit.

But it allows me to knit, where it wouldn't allow me to dance or play football or run a marathon.

Anonymous said...

thank goodness the gorilla doesn't get bored easily

Trish in MD said...

Thank you for this. Very well done!

fiberlicious said...

Absolutely brilliant. We're either damned if we try or damned if we don't.

Really, really good post!

lilwatchergirl said...

Enjoyed this very much, both on Ouch and here. Best analogy since the spoon theory, with the added advantage of being great fun. Nice one! Hope you and your gorilla are having a good day :)

Anonymous said...

Hmmm.. what if the BBC wanted to do a documentary about the gorillas, but the gorilla's champions couldn't contact Aunty because of obstructive people on the phone and forms that don't reach their destination? I would guess people would have to ask questions openly about that.. because the gorilla is still locked in the cage and has had its vocal cords removed so it is neatly trussed up and bound and gagged... Even its champions think it just needs to be left to sleep.

It isn't sleeping.. it has one eye open and sees everything.. it just doesn't have means to communicate it to those who matter, is all..

I'm just saying...*whistles*

Anonymous said...

- Of course, this gorilla's grunts are pitched at exactly the right frequency, because of what it knows and what it has seen, to expose those who would destroy the gorilla by bringing the light into the darkness.

That's why it has to be kept in the cage and driven slowly mad.. well, to outside eyes it seems mad. But it sees things coming before they happen because of a life avoiding predators and big game hunters. It deduces by instinct and experience, and current 'vibes' on a situation. Survival, basically. Not rocket science.

And it's a very clever beast, really. After all, it IS related to Homo Sapiens...innit?

Anonymous said...

The gorilla salutes you again, by the way, for providing it with one last link to its friends now the other windows of opportunity have closed down..

It will probably not see its fellow gorillas till the start of the next working week now, given the time of day.. but it has its music, and its hope, and it keeps its proud dignity..

Because no matter how many wildlife refuges are shut down, someone who cares will always open another..

Evil will never triumph in this gorilla's life-span.. Who says animals don't have a soul? *wink*

evilstevie said...

Can I request that the gorilla be given a name?
Purely so I know who to blame for the sleepless nights and bruises when you're having a bad time and get 'flailey' ;-)

/yes, I'm joking about the bruises. she doesn't hit that hard when she's asleep

Anonymous said...
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Mary said...
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Mary said...

The above comments have been removed at the request of the person who posted them.

Anonymous said...

PS - no further comment on this blog.

I have my own blogspot now.. where I am in full control and can never be censored by any means again..but I am waiting for a spoon, which I will give to myself, before I set it up properly. I know how to fight alone when backed into a corner.. It's what I have lived, and survived. Quite a few times over 25 years actually. But that's my story, when I choose to tell it..

This gorilla will never be silenced.. so please delete my posts so I do not cause any more collateral damage. Guilt I do not need to add to what is already there..My work is done here.

I am going independent.. but in my own time. Take care.

Supermouse said...

Brilliant post.

Jo said...

Very well written!

Alley Splat said...

Spot on - exactly how it feels. Fantastic post, thanks.

Sarah said...

One of the best analogies I have seen in a very long time. Not only hilarilously funny, but subtly true and wise too. I have busily shared this with family and friends, whether they are ill or not! Absolutely brilliant.

It should be required reading for all acquaintances, employers and doctors of patients with chronic illnesses!!!

Anonymous said...

This faceless gorilla who has posted previously said - last comment.

Apologies for going back on word.

Spoons zero minus one and counting.

No safe place on-line any more.

Nowhere.

Thank you for reading.

The Goldfish said...

When I finally sort my sidebar out, I shall put a permanent link to this. :-)

Asdquefty said...

I really like this analogy, I'll likely use it in the future when I have explain my condition.

I was born with a gorilla, and while he helps me do well at work he refuses to allow me to have any soft of social life. He growls at everyone I meet and I don't know many people that well as a result. I have a second smaller gorilla that likes to really slow me down at math.

kethry said...

"oook ook ok!".. *slaps*.. sorry. that was the gorilla taking over. best post i've seen in a long time.. thank you so much!!!

keth
xx

Anonymous said...

This is the gorilla who was unsafe on-line (and censored to the max) at time of last posting .. now starting to feel safe again and making a contribution for Blogging Against Disablism Day... Speaking for its cousins, Homo Sapiens..

When it comes to mental health problems, please try listening to the human being before the symptoms, people. There IS a very real person below the outward manifestations of the disability .. and sometimes that person speaks truths that get 'lost in translation' due to the symptoms being seen first and foremost.

Yes, there CAN be distortions of the truth because of the disability. But we cannot always afford to disregard everything as a 'delusion'.. Sometimes *reality* is seen and expressed, but the convenient option can be to dismiss it as the 'ramblings of the mentally ill'. This is how our society can be, like it or not..

For the sake of the equality we all seek, please consider the above...
for all those who follow.

rachelcreative said...

Absolutely BRILLIANT!

:o)

Dave Hingsburger said...

Gotta love the GRRRRRRRilla. Mine is 3 years old, toilet trained but with a dirty mouth. LOVED this post. Brilliant.

Lisa said...

This is the first witty BADD post I've come across. It made me laugh.

Ahistoricality said...

Fantastic, thoughtful piece!

Mary said...

I must say, I'm very pleased everyone's enjoying it.

Those of you who are Ouch users can find the original thread here. Lots of good add-ons were made, including:
- "The official bodies to get rid of your gorilla will all disagree about the exact type of gorilla he is and try their best to re-classify him as a very small tame monkey."

- "The gorilla isn't being nasty or anything. It's just being a gorilla and doing what gorillas do."

- "Checked the fruit bowl. Could be more than one gorilla."

Valerie Marie said...

Brilliant! I love the analogy! ((hug))

saraarts said...

Oh, this is so witty! Not that I would expect anything less of you.

Thank you!

purple_kangaroo said...

Someone sent me a link to this post, and I really enjoyed it. I'm trying to learn how to work with my gorilla. Thanks.

cheryl said...

Oh, my! I read your blog and I can so identify with your situation. I was diagnosed w/ Epstein Barr Virus in 1994 after dragging around for years. I was told that I was 'very, very ill' but that nothing could be done to help me. I ended up trying Reiki which I think helped, but what I think really helped me was changing my diet, taking loads of vitamins, visualization, and the passage of time. It took me about 2 years after diagnosis to start feeling human again, and I still have times where it's impossible to haul my exhausted self out of bed, but it can get better.

Hang in there, and don't buy in to the idea that this is what the rest of your life will be like. I am here to tell you that it can get better, even though 99.9% of the people in your life will never understand what you are going through. Be good to yourself, especially when 'they' are telling you that you're just doing all this for the attention you're getting.

All the best!

Mary said...

Cheryl, while I thank you for a comment that I am certain was meant in the most kindly way, I fear you may have missed my point.

"Hang in there, and don't buy in to the idea that this is what the rest of your life will be like. I am here to tell you that it can get better..."

That's what I mean by trying to force the gorilla out.

I've accepted life with the gorilla - if the rest of my life is like this, that's okay. I have a boyfriend, friends, a loving family, a job, hobbies and interests... these are the things I spend my spoons on, and because of that, there's nothing so horribly wrong with my life that makes me desperate to "get better". The gorilla is a pain in the backside, sure, but it's not the be-all and end-all.

Sure, it would be nice to be pain-free, to be able to go for a walk, to be able to do a full-time job. But I'm not prepared to get in debt - financially or "spoons" wise - chasing 'cures' and following diets in the hope of something which might work. I prefer to spend my resources enjoying life in the now.

That way, if my condition improves, it's a bonus, which seems much better than pinning all hopes on getting better and being constantly disappointed.

Amy said...

Ah, the gorilla analogy is just as good as the Spoon Theory! Wonderful job. Next time my teacher tells me, "You're awfully young to have so many health problems. It makes me wonder what else is going on." I'll tell her that a gorilla is stealing all my spoons. That should quiet her. haha

Anonymous said...

I loved this piece. What a creative, effective way to convey what it's like. Thank you for this!

Martin said...

Good Job! :)

Tayi said...

I really love this post and the entire idea of the gorilla... especially the bit added in comments about the officials in charge of primate classification trying to redefine your gorilla as a very small, tame monkey! That's been my life for the past couple of years and I just had to laugh at that description.

Anonymous said...

Hmph. This battered old-ish gorilla who posted here yonks ago grumbling about captivity and hoping to be released soon.. has peeked out of the cage and seen that merely talking about her on t'Net is apparently a no-no.

*breaks wind and flings a banana skin at the wire mesh*

Gorilla strop. That could be interesting for a larger one of the species..

*big hairy wave from an Absent Friend and to all me fellow monkeys, innit?*

RoboMam said...

Brilliantly written, extremely witty, and even though my Gorilla decided to re-assert itself just to let me know that it had merely been asleep for a while, all in all the gorilla and I have come to a grudging truce. I don't pinch all the banana`s and it doesn't make to many piles in the house *grin* We manage to co-exist .

Anwen said...

Hi, this is Shoshadevorah from the forum. This is fantastic, and I laughed quite a lot, which is awkward as I am at work ;) I have printed a copy and highlighted the first sentence, and am pinning it to my noticeboard at work.

Incidentally, as a workaround to the forum's strictures, I'm putting my email address here, mainly for RR but also I'd love to hear from you if you fancy a chat! It is the . anwen @ gmail.com

RoboMam (aka Carole) said...

Ive just re-read "The Gorilla in Your House " . I do that from time to time . Just to re-acquaint myself with other fellow Gorilla keepers .

If any fellow Gorilla Keepers want to keep in touch then -

Mewsli@hotamil.co.uk will do the trick.

Hugs Carole (aka RoboMam )

GrumpyHellCat said...

What a wonderful way to describe a chronic, invisible condition. I will link this, along with the spoon theory, as a way of helping my beloved ones understand Fibro, and what it means to them, because I have it.

Darn Gorillas.

deadlysiren in PA said...

Someone sent your link to me.
It's great to know someone else gets it.

I have your gorilla's invisible friend:-D No one can see it, therefore I must be lying and I'm just lazy.

I hope you don't mind me sending your blog to my family and friends so maybe they will understand me/this a little more.

Mary said...

Anyone who wants to should feel free to link to this post anywhere they reckon it might help or amuse someone.

To be honest I'm surprised it got this much attention but I still feel good every time a comment comes through telling me that yet another person has got something out of it.

:)

Anonymous said...

fantastic piece. my gorilla has yet to come and live with me, but i see him stalking me every day. your piece gives courage to all of us. basically its just a matter of time.

Damon Lord said...

This is an amazing piece. Thank you for writing it!

Peter Fremlin said...

This is really lovely, Mary. It inspired me to write a brief note about the unpredictability of the gorilla, and I'll most certainly be forwarding it to my friends.

Peter

Jack said...

I saw an altered version of this on a PTSD forum and tracked back to the original. Brilliant analogy, thank you for sharing with us.

Shoveling Ferret said...

Great, great work. As others said - much like the "Spoons" stuff. Thanks!

perpetualspiral said...

iThis is absolutely fantastic! Thanks so much!

Was wondering if we could use it for our organization's next newsletter issue -> www.wamcare.org ? We have a section for just this sort of thing! Please let us know :) newsletter@wamcare.org

Lisa said...

Love this post. And don't forget the time and energy wasted on wondering just *why* the gorilla decided to come and live with you, and did you do something to make it gravitate to you when you really should have known better than to let a gorilla in. I mean, sheesh, it's a *gorilla*!! Why didn't you stop it in its tracks when it first poked its head up?? You must have really *wanted* it to take up residence, or you would have done something to prevent it coming in!!

Mary said...

Perpetualspiral - I've emailed you.

Lisa - yes, people who are convinced that illness is something you "bring on yourself" get quite irritated with me. I wasn't a health freak, but I ate a balanced diet including organic vegetables and probiotic yoghurts, didn't drink, smoked only occasionally, had a regular sleep pattern, and walked a couple of miles to and from work every day.

Reverance Pavane said...

I'm glad I don't have a gorilla. But does anyone know of how to get rid of this orangutan?

Helen said...

KUDOS!

I LOVE this. I was born with a very visible gorilla, but I acquired a slightly smaller, but sometimes agressive primate, which wanders in and out at will.

This is GENIUS, as is your Spoons analogy - may I have your permission to spread it around - as long as I quote your site?

Mary said...

Hi Helen, of course you may quote and spread but I should point out that it's only the Gorilla Analogy that's mine - the Spoon Theory is the work of Christine Miserandino from But You Don't Look Sick.

Anonymous said...

This is fantastic, thank you so much. I relate to it in terms of my mental health problems.

Anonymous said...

um, your seeing gorillas in your house? are you feeling ok? :)

Anonymous said...

This is brilliant. Don't know if you're familar with Jo Johnson's 'Shrinking the Monster' talks and booklet aimed at those with MS, but this is the kind of take on living with a chronic condition she was encouraging people to have.

Hilarious blog entry yet superb in conveying a message

Anonymous said...

Great Post, we have a collection of gorilla's in our family, some of them are easier to live with than others x

DeusExMacintosh said...

ROFLMAO!

Noiseyworld said...

I'm sure I've already read this on Ouch! but couldn't remember it, anybody got a theory for how the gorilla messes with my memory? :/

Anonymous said...

thank u for making me smile !!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm still at the desperately shaking a stick at my gorilla and dragging it to university clinging on to me every day stage. I hope we will learn to co-inhabit more successfully in the future. Might need some better medication to calm the gorilla down before that happens though!

Perfect explanation to share for ME/CFS and FM Awareness Week I think! :)

Simply brilliant.

drjohn said...

Have you tried making toast under this gorilla?

Anne R said...

What a great piece about living with ME, sums it up perfectly and with humour. loved it. My gorilla turned up Dec 2008 and has refused to leave.

Keena said...

This is absolutely brilliant. I love reading it and can so feel your pain. I have several gorilla @ my house. However, I am blessed with a wonderful, caring and supportive husband. Good health to you!!!

Valerie said...

Love this story. My gorilla went to a work meeting with me Friday. Now I'm worried about how many people will be angry about that. I hate being worried that I need to apologize for a gorilla I don't want anyway!

Boidz Blog said...

This made me amused and sad at the same time.
Nice to be able to think of my illness in a different way for a change.
I'd love for everyone i know to read this instead of my constant winging.

amanda "mango" griffin said...

i have lived with my gorilla for some time now, and despite seeing me in tears at times with how much living with it when it wont let me out of my bed upsets me, some people who claim to care about me and claiming to have met alot of people with gorillas in their life and even work as a helper to those who live with gorillas of other sorts, still treat me like my gorilla is make believe. i am learning to live with this big hairy silverback, just wish others could accept it as a part of my reality too. x

mango xx

Penelope Friday said...

It might have been years since you wrote this, but it's still as true as ever, and I'm glad to have found it.

(Especially liked your comment "The official bodies to get rid of your gorilla will all disagree about the exact type of gorilla he is and try their best to re-classify him as a very small tame monkey." Oh so true.)

Mirrie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mirrie said...

What a BRILLIANT way to describe ME.

My husband both have ME and have put together a website about our experiences with it... http://dozydayz.co.uk/

If it's okay we'd love to put a link on to this gorilla page as we want to do a section on how to describe this illness to others. It sums it up so well.

Take care.
x

Annette Stanton-Harkness said...

Wow, so true and so ingeniously written. I love it. Totally just described me!

Debs M said...

just brilliant x

Karen said...

I just got diagnosed with my "gorilla" after fighting with it for over a year - I didn't know what it was until the beginning of this month...
thank you so much hun, you have truly made me cry with laughter and I so needed that today..
You are a star.
Hugs.
Karen.xx

Hippychick53 said...

batsgirl....I have peppered the internet with your wonderful post here and always link back here. Such a humorous and great way to explain what we go through. I know its been a long time but any more gems like this up your sleeve??
Namaste and hope you are doing OK.

Roger The Dodger said...

Love it. Very clever. Great way to get people to read about chronic illness by having a laugh about it.

Would it be okay, please, if I copied and pasted it to create a document for a Facebook group I belong to for people with ME/CFS? I would credit you, plus include a link to this page. I don't want to just give the link in case the page ceases to exist and the text is lost, as unlikely as that may be.

Mary said...

As long as it's properly credited and links back to here, it is fine to reproduce this post for your personal use. However if you're asking on behalf of an organisation or publication, I'd prefer you to let me know who and why.

NBWK said...

If you think that gorilla is big with an acquired disability, you oughta see the monkeys you get when you were BORN with one. Multiply all that by a factor of 100 or more, plus you get multiple monkeys who throw their excrement at anyone who gets close. Otherwise, you sure have hit the nail on the head - no matter where you live, or how much money you have, living with the big chimps is no picnic, Diane Fosey notwithstanding.

Mary said...

NBWK, I think lifelong and acquired disability are very different scenarios each with advantages and disadvantages over the other. I don't think it's helpful to put forward divisive ideas about how one group has it soooooo much worse than the other - I've heard arguments from both camps but ultimately the problem is NOT who got dealt the worst hand, it's that we're ALL getting crap from society in general.

Rachel Knight said...

Brilliant.

Acquired a gorilla at 17 and didn't know until I was 22, and then it would come for a bit, then go again and leave me wondering when it would come back again and how long it would stay. Then in 2008 the gorilla came to stay. And it had grown an unexpected amount since I was 22 and was fussy in its food and it took me ages to get the diet right. And then it keeps changing its dietary requirements, or just demanding larger amounts.

Anyone got any ideas about how to put the gorilla on a diet?

Premierscfc said...

Brilliant!
Thanks Mary for this... I must get my friends and family to read this!

Emily Coons said...

Hello Mary,

I read the article The Gorilla in Your House you wrote that was published in New Mobility Magazine this month. It was everything I have been thinking, but have not had the words to state it so eloquently. I am an outpatient case manager for the Spinal Cord Medicine Program at Frazier Rehab and would love to give it to all of my patients and families. Will you please grant me permission to duplicate it?

I would greatly appreciate it as would my patients and their family members.

Best Wishes,
Emily Coons
emilycoons@kentuckyonehealth.org