About 2 1/2 years ago I wrote a series of posts all about What Not To Say to someone who is living with chronic pain and illness.
**Edited To Add**
Here are the links to the previous parts of this series.
Recently I was reminded of something else to add to the list, so I thought I’d write about it here before I forgot.
7. What you say:
Hey-let’s brainstorm some solutions for you. I’m sure there’s some tiny step you can take to start recovering.
Trying to ask us any kind of “coaching” questions to “help us move/shift the situation”.
What we hear:
You’ve settled/given up/resigned yourself to your condition
You’re not trying hard enough to get better
You’re doing a shitty, half-assed job of working on your recovery
We are so sick. We are in so much pain. Please go away and leave us alone.
We have most likely just come home from our 75th doctors apt. of the week, where we just sat and listened while he listed yet another 10 things for us to try, with no guarantee that any will actually work for us. So we’re looking at another round of trial and error. Which we have no energy for, because it’s taking every ounce of our internal resources just to bear our pain/illness and get through today. But yet, we want and need to try some more things, because we DESPERATELY would like to find something that relieves our pain, at least a little bit, PLEASE GOD!
No matter what you’re going to suggest, trust us-WE ALREADY KNOW ABOUT IT. WE’VE HEARD ABOUT IT ALREADY. AND AS A MATTER OF FACT, WE’RE PROBABLY TRYING IT RIGHT THIS SECOND. Trust us, WE HAVE NOT ACCIDENTALLY OVERLOOKED ANYTHING HERE; WE ARE MORE INVESTED IN FINDING SOLUTIONS AND RELIEF THAT YOU EVER COULD BE.
You don’t know anything about what we are or aren’t doing with our doctors. You don’t know the plan we’re already on. And it’s too exhausting to explain it to you. And we don’t have to. We don’t have to prove to you that we’re already trying “x” number of things, or “prove” to you that yes, we ARE doing everything we can to try and get better. YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT OUR HEALING OR RECOVERY IS “SUPPOSED” TO LOOK LIKE, OR EVEN THAT IT IS SUPPOSED TO LOOK LIKE ANYTHING.
Healing looks like a lot of different things. Nobody knows yet what it is going to look like for us.
Just because it looks like there is nothing going on to you, doesn’t mean that nothing’s going on.
We are, or are about to be, or have just come out of, the depths of hell. And we know that it won’t be the last time. So to have a healthy person, who has absolutely NO CLUE what that is like come up to us and start chirping about, “hey, let’s brainstorm together,” or, “hey, I bet there’s at least one tiny step you could take here to start getting better”, or try and “coach” us in any way is just about the most evil, insensitive, painful thing we could hear right now.
Because it’s like you are just discounting everything that we’ve endured and everything that we’ve done, and everything that we are doing RIGHT NOW, as if it’s not real and doesn’t “count”. And infers that you, who have NO idea what we go through every single day, know more about dealing with our illness than we do. And that we are “doing” healing wrong, because we should be somewhere else than where we are, just to make you feel better.
I know that it is HARD, SO HARD, to watch us suffer. I know that you desperately want to offer us something that can help.
But, you have to respect our sovereignty here. You have to let us be in our own process. You have to let us be exactly where we are without trying to move us or get us to be somewhere else.
Because your wanting to give us advice, or coaching, or suggestions-that is about you; it’s not about us. It’s about trying to relieve your painful feelings that our situation brings up in you(which is completely natural and normal; nobody wants to suffer!) But you have to find a way to soothe yourselves that doesn’t depend on our doing or not doing something. It’s not our responsibility to make you feel better. Just as it is not your responsibility to make us feel better.
And please know that we know that, fundamentally, we are all doing the very best we can right now.
I’m hoping that my little, random, “You might also like these posts” will list links to the earlier posts in this series, but if it doesn’t then just search in the archives (which are in a drop-down menu on the right-hand sidebar) and pull up “August 2008”. The series starts with the post, “I Suck, Thanks For Asking“.