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Chronic Snarkopolist: Well Meaning Advice

Post Published: 24 March 2011
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Category: chronic autoimmune conditions column, Chronic Snarkopolist, Column
This post currently has 17 responses. Leave a comment

Hello my loves!  I’ve already discussed the conundrum of having “experts” disagree.  Now I’m mulling over what to do with how to deal with being on the receiving end of well meaning advice from friends and even strangers.

Now that my medication has shifted I’m dropping weight instead of gaining (for a change).  It has become noticeable.  I’m making NO efforts at weight loss.  Everyone who sees me has decided I need to hear both their weight loss strategies and be nagged about exercising more.  Not one of them has stopped to ask me how my HEALTH is doing or how I FEEL.  No one has stopped to ask if I need a ride to the doctor or to get my scans or tests or if I feel like getting up at all.  Why WEIGHT or exercise is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing to them is beyond me at this point.  I realize we have established svelte bodies as a cultural standard of success.  But for me I have a closet full of a myriad of sizes based on if I am on prednisone that month.  Weight alone can no longer BE my cultural standard of success.

As for exercise – I was kicked out of physical therapy for making NO PROGRESS.  I was trying.  But they said my body wasn’t ready for too much exertion yet – to stick to easier things. How dare I listen to AN EXPERT in physiology and movement! And Of course I should listen to all the well meaning advice givers telling me what THEY THINK my body needs at this point and who have no idea the state of my health (no do they actually care- other than to seemingly dip into my business when my weight fluctuates, but not when I might otherwise want or need help in life).

This is just my rant for the day.  I have more of course. I’ve been told not to take multiple doses of antibiotics.  I’ve been told to drink certain concoctions.  I’m sure if I think back I can hear faint whispers on how sleeping upside down and letting leaches suck my blood would work better too.  Just the other day, one friend jokingly said to me, “I think you forgot to go to the doctor to diagnose you as well.  Maybe then you’d start feeling better.”  Yah- that placebo diagnoses slipped my mind! It has never occurred to me to simply WANT MYSELF BETTER or HOPE myself to good health.  How about the rest of you?  He then reminded me to walk 30 minutes a day.  No lie!

Let me be clear how IMPORTANT good health and maintaining optimal weight is to me! IT IS REALLY FUCKING IMPORTANT.  I’m not telling people to sit down and hoover entire rows of candy bars for supper.  MY POINT is that well meaning advice givers generally assume exertive exercise is AVAILABLE to everyone (even those of us who love it and seek it out). They also don’t generally ASK us how we’re doing or what we’ve been doing to maintain our health or what we’ve been going through.  No. Well meaning advice givers generally jump straight to the advice giving.

I give plenty of advice based on MY EXPERIENCE when people come to me with a problem.  IF someone asks, I say, “this is what has worked for ME in the past.  I hope you find some relief with it.” Or – “If you check out the resources, you might come to the same conclusions.”  I can be a total know it all.  It comes with the territory of liking to HELP people.  I also know that people do NOT like to be dictated to and they don’t like to be talked down to. ESPECIALLY- my pet peeve – No one likes to seem like their problems are solved easily when it has been an entire lifetime of complex situations.  And especially the person solving their problem hasn’t been listening.

Most of us keep our pain fairly close to our chest. Hearing well meaning advice is a slap in the face unless it is sought out OR unless the advice giver asks “Would you like to hear?”  When someone close to me asks me if I’d LIKE to hear, I’m generally game and grateful. I’ve learned MANY helpful things through “the grapevine.”  Advice and help is both in the presentation and in how we LISTEN to each other and know what is needed.

What do you think? What are your peeves and desires when giving and receiving advice? Any better or worse ways to dish? Tell me! I must know!

I’ll be back same time next week! Kiss kiss!

-Melissa

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17 Responses to “Chronic Snarkopolist: Well Meaning Advice”

  1. justpip says:

    It’s a hard one with friends! Like you said, it’s generally well meant. But most just aren’t informed or experts about the thryoid/weight/excercise/diet/nutrition/hormones etc.

    Sometimes I might take something useful from their advice but mostly I just thank them, politely take it on board and forget about it. I try not to let it upset me too much. At the end of the day, they mean well and are only trying to help…

    And yes, health – not weight – should be the focus. In the words of one of my personal heroes, Dr Schwarzbein, ‘You have to be healthy before your body can lose weight.”

    • Melissa Travis says:

      Hello justpip!

      Yes- I will have to use your strategy more. It’s not meant to be “offensive”- they just don’t know any better. And usually- unless they SEE me losing up or down, they don’t usually comment.

      And double YES YES! Health is important!
      xoxo
      Thanks for writing in! I’d love to hear more from you!
      xo
      Melissa

  2. Leslie says:

    I so feel this conversation. I have to add that I cringe whenever I need to explain hashimoto–because as soon as I say thyroid the look on their face becomes all knowing. Yet I know they now so very very little. My most memoriable comment was a time period at a well known weight loss clinic when the manager made a comment that maybe the program wont work for “someone like you”. What was that about? I did not ask as I was so surprised to hear such a professional comment. Thanks for letting me share.

    • Melissa Travis says:

      Hello Leslie!

      Oh yes! The “look” – I don’t even bother sometimes explaining I have an intersection of multiple illnesses that sometime interact. Because -grrrr. I once had a boy I liked ask, “if you stopped taking your medication would you die?” I didn’t know what to say so I said, “yes.” He stopped dating me after that. I should have said, “If you stop breathing will you?

      “someone like you” – IS a very telling statement.

      And rock on for the comments. Thanks for writing in!
      xo
      Melissa

  3. Oh goodness I hear ya on this one. Before I even knew my body was being attacked on the inside I could not get over 98 pounds! I found it very interesting that everyone had no problem saying, “Oh honey, you are just too small you really do need to put on weight” or “do you think being that small is attractive?” but at that time it was taboo to walk up to someone and say “wow you might want to lose some of that weight”. From that point on I would tell everyone, “you know that really hurts my feelings just as it would hurt your feelings if someone told you, you were over weight”.
    Of course I no longer have that problem!! : )
    Lisa

    • Melissa Travis says:

      Oh yes Lisa!
      My sis-in-law has endo problems that make her very thin. She’s always dealing with ENVIOUS women who WISH they were as tiny as her. I’m always thinking – REALLY? Are we REALLY so pathetic as to make catty comments about someone’s thinness due to disease?

      And I’m sorry you have dealt with it too. *stabs stupidity in the eye*

      GIANT HUGS!
      xo
      Melissa

  4. Sam says:

    My midwife’s new assistant asked me if I was exercising regularly. Hahahaha! I have trouble walking most days and the only thing that helps my pain and mobility is lying down. It’s what is recommended for my current pregnancy-induced condition. I’ll stick to exercising my fingers through typing thank you very much.

    • Melissa Travis says:

      Thanks for writing in Sam!

      Oh my yes – I can totally see how getting “the usual” advice during pregnancy would be annoying and frustrating when you are dealing with YOUR CONDITION. Especially when you want your child to be healthy.

      I’m glad your fingers are getting a workout! I love your perspectives and look forward to hearing from you more!!
      xo
      Melissa

  5. Ah yes, the “well-meaning advice giver! I had my first inundation of advice when I had my first child. Relatives and friends drove me crazy. Just because they already had children, it was automatic grounds for dumping on the neophyte. My intelligence, instincts and knowing my own child did not seem to matter.
    I cannot begin to list the remedies people have come up with for my chronic migraines. The latest came courtesy of my Avon lady (who really should stick to perfumes, lotions and jewelry). She was using some herbal supplement that she swore alleviated her fibro symptoms like no other. Maybe it would help my migraines? Only at $139 a month! Oh. My. God. I gently told her no, then had to stress it more persuasively: NO!
    If only I could get money back from other ventures that were the direct result of friends’ advice. The friends always acted insulted if I didn’t want to take up with their suggestions. Some even applied or actually stated if it were they who had the problem migraines, they would go to the ends of the earth to try everything out there.
    I am done with the remedial cures which arrive in encapsulated advice form from the well or not so well meaning friends. Enough already!
    Thanks Dr. Snit!

    • Melissa Travis says:

      Wow Andrea –
      so so so well said!! Word up!!

      I totally ask my friends (my expert friends – not necessarily the one’s with degrees mind you – the one’s with the diseases too) how THEY are doing on their meds etc. But YES- their bodies aren’t mine. Their experiences are just that – theirs. But I OFTEN ask. Meanwhile — I LOVE this sentence!!

      “I am done with the remedial cures which arrive in encapsulated advice form from the well or not so well meaning friends. ” Listening to pushers DOES get expensive. And I’m proud of you for standing your ground.

      xo
      Melissa

  6. Diana says:

    Dealing with well meaning, unsolicited advice seems to be one of the most universal aspects of living with a chronic invisible illness. I’m better at dealing with it than I was when I first went chronic, but it still gets under my skin sometimes.

    And you’re so right about the way people respond when you lose weight due to a side effect of a medication. Yes, it’s a good thing for me because I carry extra weight, but I’m not dieting, you well-meaning morons!

  7. @chemo_babe says:

    you feel like hell. you don’t have to look like it.

    i made up that slogan because i realized very early on in my treatment that how i looked became equivalent for people with how i was doing. one of the strangest thing about being ill is that you experience the disjunctures in your appearance and your actual physical state but people actually find their very concept. (which is why the whole bydls thing is so awesome.) because, as you know, our culture exalts weight above all other indicators of wellness, i am not surprised to know that the fluctuations in your weight which are the consequences of your treatments are a real lightning rod for all the well-meaning advice givers out there.

    so, sweetie… how DO you feel?

    • Melissa Travis says:

      Wow. Lani Pants! Looking and doing are ALL caught up in the health and healing process aren’t they.

      And yes- weight is exalted – and I AM a fan of keeping weight low and exercise. I AM. REALLY. And I do love the bydls ideas – the notion of invisible illness being invisible therefore people take for granted that we are HEALTHY and SHOULD be “normal” – whatever that is.

      Meanwhile – I adore you – to the sky and across- to the moon and back again.
      xoxo
      Melissa

  8. joissingingagain says:

    When I was REALLY ill I lost loads of weight and looked great! People were always commenting on how well I looked. Inside I was a bundle of nerves, ticks, and sweaty psychotic palpitations. But I had some natty little summer outfits. But of course now I am post-operative and getting well I am also getting fat and the hormones mean I’m moody and have acne. So I look like shite and am unpredictable as hell and no one knows what to say. But I know. I’m getting better, inside is healing and I’m getting stronger and more grounded every day. Watch out world, it ain’t over til the fat lady sings…. and my voice is coming back a bit more every day.

  9. Denise says:

    When I had a goiter and could barely speak I was asked if I had something that I wanted to say but felt that I couldn’t, no one could even see past my hoarse voice even though I could barely get out of bed for 3 months and put on more than 20 pounds in a month. I was given all sorts of ‘advice’ like that! And yes I see that look regularly too! The other type of look though is the one my partner gives me when yet something else is wrong or I have a time when it looks like I may be really ill again. Now that’s worse than that look!

  10. Diana says:

    To those “well meaning” advisors…walk a mile in my shoes!

  11. Graves Situation says:

    The perception that thin always equals healthy is just absurd. When my (late) sister’s pancreatic cancer was really getting out of hand, she got very thin. Her color was awful, her energy nonexistent, but hey, was she ever thin! When my jaw joints were so dysfunctional I couldn’t chew water, I got all sorts of compliments on my weight loss, even though the bones in the back of my neck stuck out like a famine victim’s. Same with Graves’- walking down the street with the far side of my clothes half a block behind- it’s lovely. Do strangers quit complimenting the anorexic on her figure before or after the heart attack?

    The advice and input I appreciate is from the people who ASK if I have heard of, tried, etc., something. This comes from the assumption that I actually might know something about my health and illness and am aware of the treatment options. I’m happy to hear about the experience someone’s brother or neighbor had with a treatment, as long as there aren’t any undercurrents of “this is what you should do.” Or, undercurrents of “buy this from me and you’ll be fine,” like Andrea’s Avon lady, above. I’ll take absurd advice offered with love and concern over good advice given in a self-centered effort to “fix” me any day.

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