Chronic Snarkopolist: Never Compare; Never Minimize
Hello my loves. Yet another week has gone by when I have missed you deeply!
The other day a good friend who shares his poems with me was feeling unwell. After telling me he had a cold and accepting my well wishes he said, “I feel so trivial complaining to you.” I said to him, “Never compare and never minimize. We are friends, we share our lives and we give each other comfort. We share our joys and our sorrows. That is what we do. Always.” He accepted it from me.
This is a difficult lesson to learn but it is a good one. We don’t compare and we don’t minimize. When someone is going through a rough time, we comfort them. When someone is having a happy time, we celebrate with them. And I have learned along the way, I can have a good day mixed in with a bunch of bad days.
My joyous days are not an indicator that you need to remind me not to get too excited either. When I am celebrating or happy, do not remind me that a dark cloud will come along. That happens all too often from others as well. I had one friend who had lost her job but made sure to go for a weekly cup of coffee with friends as a treat and to remind herself that she was human and deserving of love. She dressed up, put on nice clothes, and made an effort to window shop and have a NORMAL DAY each week. Despite her efforts to have a joyous day, her friends begrudged her that minimal weekly purchase (and none thought to purchase her coffee either mind you). They often told her how selfish and lacking in foresight she was. No one considered her point of view that one can lie around unemployed, sending out cv’s, eating ice cream, wallowing in her pajamas only so long, before they MUST remember their humanity through volunteering and YES a cup of coffee. After six months of her disparaging friends I think she starting having coffee with strangers who were more pleasant and encouraging.
This same philosophy holds true for our healthy days. Do not remind me of my sicker days or that the walls can come crashing down at any time. Just be supportive and happy for me. An anvil can fall from the sky on anyone. We all need to be happy when we feel better. And when we’re sick we all need keep hoping that one day our systems will rev back up and we will be back on track again with people who are HAPPY to be with us.
Another BIG LESSON I have learned: My bad days DO NOT REFLECT ON YOU. If I say, “I am sad.” It doesn’t mean YOU ARE MAKING ME SAD. If I say, “I am hurting or physically in pain.” It doesn’t mean, “This is your fault.” In fact, I might just feel you are one of my closest friends at the moment and feel safest around you. I might be vulnerable enough to tell you something big. If you wait, you might start hearing even more powerful things from me. Sharing our stories helps us heal. We are being safe to heal with each other. And, it is fair to expect reciprocity. If I tell you things, it is fair to assume you can reciprocate unless I am paying you, which means you are my therapist and you should be giving me insight.
Many times caretakers become stressed or overwhelmed when they cannot remove our pain, emotional or physical from us. It brings us a cycle of guilt and discomfort that we let on. I have always felt it important to be HONEST where I am, and yet I often save my most honest moments for my closest friends and support systems so as not to weigh down the people who share space with me or have to deal with me emotionally. This is not ideal.
I have a dear friend who was experiencing some major tension in her relationship. She drew in her breath from pain as she went to shift her body weight on the sofa and her partner openly mocked her. “Ohh, does it hurt that bad to move your wrist?” She was so shocked to be mocked and openly disdained for unexpressed pain. Her feelings were crushed because she hadn’t even said, “I’m hurting.” She was trying to be stoic and NOT express physical pain out loud and still she was mocked and made her partner angry. I find this often. The people around us degrade from helpful and loving into anger and aggression as we, the chronically ill, do NOT get better. They get frustrated with us. If they cannot fire us or leave us, they pick at us, mock us, belittle us, and criticize us endlessly. Physicians do it, family members do it, friends do it. The more a person suffers, the more people seem to stand around and harm the person who suffers almost in silence. This is where the boundaries come in and the willingness to remember that WE are not causing it and WE are not deserving of THEIR bad behavior.
I am deeply compassionate about caretakers and partners who live with us and deal with us. I am always willing to accept apologies and communications. I am also a fan of being honest with and about myself. I have spent plenty of time on my own life to know that minimizing my suffering or comparing my suffering will NEVER help others. I am a fan of forgiving and reconciliation and communication. This is how life works. I am also a fan of being true to myself.
We are always walking that line where people forget sometimes who we are, and where we ourselves forget who we are. Don’t forget who you are. Remember not to compare or minimize other people’s pain. Remember not to compare or minimize your own. And never let someone do it to you! And always remember, if the need to communicate comes up, the best route is the express your needs directly. And know that your pain does not reflect on anyone else even if they forget and blame you.
What do you think? Has this ever happened to you? Has anyone ever pushed their emotional response to your pain on you? Have they ever minimized you or your problems rather than said, “I am also having a bad day, can I tell you about it too?” How did you handle it? Have you ever found yourself comparing illnesses? What do you think about the advice not to compare or minimize? Is it good or bad, bullshit or bravo? Tell me! I must know
I’ll be back same time next week! Kiss kiss!
Tags: comparing illness, coping with chronic conditions, friends coping with your illness, how your illness affects others, learning how to support someone with chronic illness, learning how to talk about your illness, not comparing illnesses