If it walks like a zebra and talks like a zebra…
When I was diagnosed with Hypermobility Syndrome, I found myself part of a global community.
We call ourselves Zebras. It’s a term you come across constantly and it is one that provokes an image of unity. But why the zebra, you ask?
“If you hear hoof beats, think of horses not zebras.”
This is advice often given to medical students to teach them to look for the most logical and common explanation for a patient’s symptoms (the horse); not to look for something rare and exotic (the zebra). There are, of course, instances where the diagnosis is a little tricky and that leads to us – the medical zebras.
Once I joined my new, stripey family, I started to research what was involved in Hypermobility Syndrome. Yes, yes. I know! Dr Internet is the most reliable but I was desperate to understand what my future could hold.
I can still remember the fear I felt when I read that my joints would be prone to dislocate and I wondered how I would cope with it when it happened. I also read about potential problems with my heart, as well as all the other symptoms my body was actually having to deal with. I was in Facebook groups with fellow zebras, reading their stories and what they were having to deal with.
The truth is, four years after my diagnosis, I don’t always feel worthy of the zebra label. I wasn’t as bad as those guys and girls in the group. I felt like an imposter.
These days, the term “Imposter Syndrome” is frequently tossed about but tends to relate to achievements and accomplishments, particularly in our professional lives. We believe that we are playing make-believe. We are frauds!
I have never had a dislocation and my heart is fine. I don’t need crutches, a walking stick or a wheelchair. I don’t wear splints on my fingers (although I do wear supports occasionally).
How can I have any right to talk about the challenges in my life when others around me have it so much worse?
But I do have a right. I am a zebra. I struggle everyday with my illness and the challenges it brings. I don’t have it as bad as others but I don’t have it great either. The symptoms and difficulties I face are real. There is no make-believe here.
It makes me wonder how many of us feel like imposters. Fraudsters hiding amongst the chatrooms. Feel free to comment here if you’ve ever felt this way.
Imposter Syndrome doesn’t have a place in the zebraverse. We are all in this together. Wherever we land on the scale. We are all part of the same herd.