Alrighty then. Now that I’ve most likely chased off my five remaining readers with my intense and unfiltered pissiness, I guess there’s no reason not to keep right on going with it. So this morning I present my next installment in the ongoing saga of
The Worst Things You Can Say To Someone Dealing With A Long-Term Health Challenge
3. Expecting our recovery to be linear and predictable.
This occurs whenever we’ve experienced a handful of “good” days, and then suddenly go back to feeling bad again.
What you say:
-“Oh no-what happened?”
-“What did you do?”
What we hear:
-“What did you do wrong?”
-“Wow, how’d you fuck this one up?”
“It’s obviously your fault that you’re not feeling better anymore.”
Um, no-it’s not. Healing is messy. Healing is not pretty. Healing does not follow a nice, tidy, predictable path that you can plot on a graph. Healing has no cohesive form. Healing is primal and cuts right down to the bone. Healing brings up all the dark, nasty, unpleasant, icky places-that’s what’s being healed. Healing has its own timetable, and works on its own schedule. Healing doesn’t give a rat’s ass about when you feel you SHOULD BE WELL ALREADY, DAMMIT! Healing just goes right along doing its own thing, often in spite of you.
Having one good day means nothing, except that in that particular moment, we are feeling okay. It is no predictor of anything; there is no ongoing meaning that can be extrapolated from it. It just means that right now, we are feeling good. But there’s not one single thing, good day or not, that will prevent us from feeling utterly miserable in the very next moment. And, once again, that doesn’t mean anything either.
So whenever we’re out there, bashing around, trying this, that, and the other, feeling good, feeling bad, experiencing utter unpredictability, randomness, and chaos, remember: This is what healing looks like. Please don’t attempt to hold us to anything, because right now our lives are in constant flux, from one moment to the next. There is no constant for us right now.
4. Pushing us on
What you say:
-“I really think you’re on the upswing now.”
-“I’m praying for a complete and total recovery/miraculous healing/some other extremely specific outcome for you.”
-“We’re gonna get you back to your old self again really soon.”
What we hear:
-“You need to hurry up and get well.”
-“Where you are right now isn’t good enough.”
-“You need to be somewhere other than where you are right now.”
-“Only this Very Specific Outcome that I have completely detailed in my mind is acceptable for your ‘healing’; nothing else will do.”
-“Your healing has to look a certain way in order to be ‘good enough’.”
Oh my god, this is SO. MUCH. PRESSURE on us. Because, as I might have mentioned once, or twice, or eleventy billion times, we have absolutely no control over this healing process that is taking place inside of us.
We have no idea what anything will look like once we get to the other side of this thing. And feeling like we have to somehow make our healing live up to whatever it is that you’re expecting from us, sometimes just makes us want to stay sick, because that would be a whole lot easier.
We very much appreciate your care and support, but we really need it to come in a form that is much easier, gentler, and more open-ended. Statements like,
-“I’m holding you in the light.”
-“I’m sending you lots of love and healing energy.”
are very gentle, supportive phrases you can offer us, if you are so inspired.
This concludes today’s rant. We now return you to your regularly scheduled day.
As Yogi Berra said, “If the people don’t want to come to the ball game, you can’t stop them.” I know many people who are sending up prayers for you, and I hope that even if no one tells you about it, your spirit will feel it. Lots of love, Skogie.
Square Peg says
I’m glad you mentioned something that we *can* say.
I’m sure you’ll mention how you enjoy the suggestions of miracle cures such as magnets, crystals, Reiki, pure water and diets.
This must be so annoying: “My friend was so bad she was getting plasmapheresis twice a week. Then she stopped drinking diet soda and she’s completely better — she just finished her fourth triathalon last week!”
Yes, I know I’m guilty of mentioning diets, but I won’t any more.
May healing beams surround you.
Square-Peg Karen says
this is the best “rant” (your word..lol) i EVER read – and it so fits with my thoughts on grief stuff (we could write a book together – NOT a bad idea!)..i AM going to ask you if I can use this at Square-Peg-People (the NEW and improved one)…
the way you tell HOW you feel..when we say these dumb-ass things is so helpful – in case people are wondering why it’s bothersome…you rock, girl! to use your energy to bother explaining instead of just suggesting: “F*@k off” is a big deal – i bow to you (now hurry up and get better, it’ll make me feel good – only kidding..)
Lynne Morrell says
I like what skogie said to you…about the prayers. I am not a prayer kinda babe…I am more interested in burning stuff…candles, incense…whatever else I can light:) to send up good energy for folks. I think that is a great thing for people to do…but QUIETLY!!! Don’t talk about it…except to say “I am sending you oodles and oodles of good vibes!” You can use your own words of course!
I think that we are a culture of platitudes and lots of folks pull these out when they don’t know what else to say. I was widowed some years back and the crap people said to me was just crazy. I would think…”Do you seriously think that soothes me? Are you fuckin crazy????”
Sometimes I would even say that out loud! People would say that my outburst was “just grief talking!”
UH…NO! That was me talking!!
Great post! I am piggy backing off of it today on my blog!
Keep ranting my dear…folks need to hear this…cuz they just don’t realize what they are doing!
Rock on, Jenny! It is amazing how other people need us to be in certain ways to make themselves feel better. Please, have a shitty day, will you? And do with it what you will 🙂
i totally appreciate your cnadidness and will really take a look at how i talk to my MIL who had some health issues that are chronic and challenging. geez, i think i must be bugging her, now seeing your posts. but really, no kidding, this helps, jenny. i had several surgeries a year apart and for mos. i felt just awful. i was really afraid that i would never feel whole. i need to remember all of that………….even tho it was some 8 years ago. it’s always that way with healing. three step forward, two steps back, ten forward, 32 back…..and so on. such a poignant reminder! i’m shining the light of LOVE on YOU, sister!! xoxoxoxox
Great post topic Jenny! I can relate much these days to number three, when you happen to be looking good for a moment, or an hour or two and come across someone you haven’t seen in awhile.
You say it well! “But there’s not one single thing, good day or not, that will prevent us from feeling utterly miserable in the very next moment. And, once again, that doesn’t mean anything either “.
I’ve been getting this lately-“You look great. I’m glad you’re doing better!” I know they mean well, and want me to be doing better, but it leaves me a bit tongue tied. Usually I just say “thanks”–and tell myself well, it’s nice they think I look great. (They do not know that I was feeling awful that morning or will when my meds. wear off. Or that the reason I look “great” (I’ve lost a bunch of weight) is that I have a newly diagnoses disease which causes my stomach not to work.)
Thanks Jenny for writing about this topic that we who are challenged by chronic illness deal with so often! Kerry