Chronic Snarkopolist: Focus on Your Boundaries – It Gives You Plenty of Attitude
Hello my loves! I missed you since last week!
This is NOT the column I wanted to write this week. This should not be necessary. Sadly THIS is the one that must be written based on the numerous comments and e-mails and twitter discussions I have engaged in lately. Many of us have already been told to “think ourselves well” more times than we can count. We have been told to adjust our attitudes, ponder our life, and read entire libraries of self-help books to “cure” ourselves.
Here’s the deal cats- I want you to know this just in case you forget- we all of us feel guilty for our illnesses from time to time. Baloney like being made to feel guilty from outside sources only reinforces this. But I’m here to remind you THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT. Unless you made some sort of pact with a secret agent to infect your thyroid or destroy your immune system being sick is NOT YOUR FAULT. Ok. We all need to be reminded.
It is perfectly fine to read a book or blog and suggest them to each other if they help, inform, or inspire us. There are many patient advocate and positive healing modalities out there. What is NOT OK are the many negative methods some people use to throw more guilt and unnecessary blame onto the already ill.
This is all about positive boundaries. We need ways to say, “Thanks, that book or method has already been suggested to me.” If you REALLY love the person you don’t have to add, (“and it is a pile of steaming shit”). We need good easy phrases to quickly refute people who say, “You look fine to me – I don’t understand why you are on disability or not working or in the hospital or taking so many medications etc.” Generally, I like to acknowledge the compliment. “Thank you- I’m GLAD I look so healthy! Thank you so much for the lovely words! I cannot wait to get there 100 percent.” And leave it at that. Unless they are my physician or close family I owe them NO MORE than that. If they press more with less kind comments suggesting I am lazy or just don’t wish to be productive, I generally just have more firm boundaries and call it out. “Wow, you don’t sound like you’re being a supportive friend right now. Are you suggesting I’m a lazy bitch who doesn’t want to work after I’ve spent so much time, money, and effort to get through so many degrees and school? Do you think living like this is an attention seeking effort on my part? Friends don’t say unloving things like that to each other.”
To be fair – I’ve lost a sonic fuck ton of friends this way. Looking back I was bristly and cranky and most of the time I was more afraid than necessary. I wasn’t being open and was more ready to shoot people in the foot than allow them to be my real friend. As I got more ready to embrace my friends, my REAL FRIENDS stuck around and my fair weather friends left. So- I pushed a good number away with my own bad moods and fear, and a good number left because illness is scary. I’m sure you can relate.
So – try not to jump the gun with people you love. Try to see them as WANTING the best for you but just not knowing how to relate. See them as bamboozled and trying to help you. If you see them as having good intentions, it doesn’t feel so bad when they come at you trying to get you to feel better.
I love my sister. Last year I was visiting home and she said, “If you had a better attitude, you would probably feel better.” I wanted to stab her. In fact, I envisioned stabbing her with my salad fork. I’m pretty sure the muscles in my right arm still ache from holding back. But I LOVE her. I truly love her. And I realized she is just one of those people who volunteers regularly, sees the cup as half full, and was trying to say the right thing. In the end, she is family. I walked away from confrontation because at the time I didn’t know how to say, “My attitude might suck but I’m going through a divorce and I’m sick and I’m sad and I just feel like crap during what is usually a festive family time of year.”
It took me several months to realize she meant NO HARM. Looking back, she and I spent more time together and each time she did her best to relate to me. She tried her best and I tried my best. She was not the enemy. You have to pick your battles. I’m glad I didn’t start a family drama with her because I NEED my family now more than ever. She’s a good sister. She, like many people, simply didn’t know the right thing to say. Sometimes we have to teach people the right words.
So- yah, it is on us again. If people don’t take efforts to hear us or love us, if they continually blame us, it is perfectly fine to have more boundaries. There are many ways to have boundaries. But NOW is the best time to begin enforcing them around people who blame us, attempt to inflict unwanted or undesired “healing modalities” on us, or make us feel bad about our selves.
How about you? Have people ever blamed you for being chronically ill? Have you ever been given an unwanted self-help book or snake-oil cure-all potions for what ails you? How have you handled unkind or blaming comments? How have you changed or grown? How do you see boundaries helping? Is it OK to practice having boundaries so you are safer now? Is it fair to “assume” people want the best for us so we go in not feeling snarky and challenged? What do you think? Tell me! I must know!
I’ll be back same time next week! Kiss kiss!
Tags: being blamed for chronic illness, feeling guilty for having illness, lack of familial compassion when living with chronic illness, managing chronic conditions, managing chronic illness, not blaming yourself for illness, think ourselves well