When It Hurts to Hug

Changing gears from booky things, I wanted to discuss why I’ve recently had to make a decision about receiving physical affection from friends, family, as well as folks I meet at cons. I have fibromyalgia, and its symptoms are getting worse for me each year. To put it simply, hugging people who aren’t my husband causes me way too much neuropathic pain.

There have been so many times when I’ve felt nerves shoot through my neck, shoulders, and spine from what I assume are regular-type hugs. I’m just too sensitive. And I can feel pain for hours, or sometimes even days later, if I’m hugged the wrong way. (Wrong for my body, that is.)

My husband is a Professional Cait Handler™, and even he knows to listen when I say I can’t be hugged on a certain day. I usually just say, “Put your hands on my bum. My bum rarely hurts.”

But, erm, telling my friends or colleagues to place their mits on my backside is not a particularly appropriate thing to request. (And no, I don’t want you to, either. My butt is dedicated to one pair of hands only. Two, if I ever need a proctologist.)

Aqua square background. Red circle with line through it in the "Do not" symbol. The word Hugs is in the middle of the circle.
It would be lovely to receive hugs, but it’s far too ouchy.

So, if you’d like a hug from me, please don’t feel bad if I say no. If we’re good friends, I might ask to hold your hand gently in my two hands. That could be how I hug from now on. Even better, maybe we can do a Jedi Hug, where we pretend to hug from a distance! It’s the thought that counts, right?

I loved hugging, but I love not being in severe nerve pain that much more.

Sometimes withdrawing or not giving consent is because to give consent would hurt too much. And respecting one’s pain is really important. Especially as a woman, since we are often taught to endure physical pain for all sorts of reasons.

Thanks for understanding!

Cait Gordon, in a black and white digital sketch
Cait Gordon

Cait Gordon is a disability advocate and the author of Life in the ’Cosm and The Stealth Lovers (September 2019). When she’s not writing, Cait’s editing manuscripts and running The Spoonie Authors Network, a blog whose contributors manage disabilities and/or chronic conditions. She’s also teamed up with co-editor Talia C. Johnson on the Nothing Without Us anthology (September 2019.)

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