I Was Once Petrified of Hugs 

When I first became sick, I became petrified of hugs. 

I’m five foot three and was on the petite side, and I was like ‘a fragile little bird’ (a direct quote from one of my doctors). 

Everyone wanted to take care of me and show how much by giving me these great big bear hugs. I love hugs, but they became really scary for me when the result might be pain. I was so sore and tender all over my body that moving or touching anywhere was incredibly painful and the thought of other people handling me was scary. So often you don’t know when someone is about to hug you and you get caught off guard and not able to tell them to ‘be gentle’ in time.

It’s a strange thing when an action that is meant to be comforting becomes scary and unsettling – both physically and mentally. When your body doesn’t feel as it ‘should’, because of pain, numbness, spasms or any other symptoms, normal activities and actions can take getting used to and even need retraining. It can become normal to protect yourself from anything that may disrupt your body’s equilibrium.   

These days I am fine with a gentle hug, but still very mindful that a tight squeeze can leave me feeling jolted and cramped. It can make you doubt for a moment how much you trust someone to be gentle with your body.    

After going through an experience like this, I now realise how important it is to ask people first if it is ok to hug them. Since the pandemic started, it’s become much more common to ask before approaching a person, stepping into their personal space and initiating physical contact. In a way I am glad of this measure, as it gives pause to check for consent and see if there is anything you can do (or not do) to make it comfortable for the other person. 

Becoming petrified of hugs was not something that I ever thought was possible or realised could be an issue for people with medical conditions or disabilities. I share my experience today not to call anyone out, but to shed light on something that may not cross your mind. It’s a hidden, unspoken side effect of living with medical conditions or disabilities that are specific to each person, and if we are to give support in the best way for them, we need to ask them what their preferences are and honour them. This is not just about hugs, but everything. 

[Image Description: a white hand holding a fragile plant with purple hydrangea flowers and greenery in the background.]
[Image Description: a white hand holding a fragile plant with purple hydrangea flowers and greenery in the background.]

So, if it is ok with you, may I send you a gentle virtual hug? I dearly appreciate that you are here and along with me on my journey. Hugs (with consent) really do make the world a sweet place.   

Take good care, Readers. I’ll keep the light on. 

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