We Are At The Beginning Of Change…
Wednesday September 28th 2016

Archives

Chronic Snarkopolist: Being Strong is Balderdash

Post Published: 03 August 2011
Author:
Category: Chronic Autoimmune Conditions, Chronic Snarkopolist, Column
This post currently has 7 responses. Leave a comment

Hello my loves!

When we are sick or worse, when we are caretakers to someone we love, the last thing many of us want to hear is “how strong we are.” That is the biggest insult I have ever heard. Maybe later – maybe 300 years later – you can tell me I am strong. Until then, roll up your sleeves and come over and DO SOMETHING. LISTEN. Call up and be a voice on the other end of the line if you are out of state. Send cards. BE THERE THROUGH IT. Be present. DON’T GO AWAY. That is what happens all too often. Stick around.

When I was very ill, I didn’t want someone judging my household for being untidy. I wanted someone to help with the laundry or mow the lawn or push a freaking swiffer around. If you notice it needs done just come over and DO IT. Or if you have the means but not the ability, ask me if I have a cleaning person and if I do not, tell me you would like to have one ordered. THAT would be a load off my mind.

Things like cat boxes still need changed, groceries need purchased and brought in, and even little things like garbage needs taken out. People with children often cannot pick up their little ones for a while and it brings in ENORMOUS GUILT. One mother grieved during her entire treatment because she couldn’t lift her two year old and felt she was depriving him of her love. Later he told her he didn’t remember her without cancer and she felt even more heartsick that her youngest child had no memory of a mother without illness.

Families need vacations. Their dogs needs walked. Practical things need done. And people who do it are no more or less strong than the people who do not NEED to do it or do it sick or during hardship.

Just as no one NO ONE “loses a battle with cancer” – the endurance people bear during difficult times WEARS on people. It does not come from STRENGTH. It is our human endurance and it requires us to do what we do. We cope, we fuck up, we cry. We lose and gain and lose again.

There is no “right way” to do illness. Not as a caretaker and not as a patient. And there is no “right way” to be a good friend. But there are a million ways to be a shitty one. And there are a million ways to insult people.

One woman said to me, “Saying you are so strong going through all that says to me, “I am so glad I am not you. It doesn’t make me feel stronger or any better.”

Another woman said to me, “I find it worse to judge how people cope badly or fall apart under stress and call them weak than to say they are strong.” So that is another perspective. I can’t decide if I want to deal with judgeriffic bullies or paternalistic people who don’t help but pat you on the back and say, “GO TEAM!” It is harder for people to understand my anger at the “cheerleaders” who don’t give REAL SUPPORT than the assholes who criticize how well or badly I cope when they themselves haven’t gone through it themselves.

Some friends don’t know what to say. I try very hard to be generous with them. I try very hard to understand if someone hasn’t been THROUGH illness or caretaking, there is no such thing as “knowing the right words.” It is more important to know how to listen and share and heal or just “be a friend.” I work to give them understanding and compassion for even trying to reach out. After all, it is awkward to reach towards what we do not understand or fear. I tell them sometimes, “Telling me you care, or telling me you are thinking of me, is the exact right thing.”

Many people say, “How can I help or how can I be in your life.” THIS is where it REALLY matters. People don’t know. People want to be kind but don’t know how. To them I say, “I would love you to do THIS specific thing if you can.” This allows them to know I want them more actively in my life. It is far more difficult if you are new in a community. You don’t have as many friends or people you know. It is harder to connect and reach out or have that. And it sucks. Helping people and letting them help us- THAT is real strength. That is REAL human power.

We need human connection. People matter. WE MATTER.

What do you think? Do you like being told you are strong? Some people enjoy being told they are a warrior. Is being a warrior the same thing as being strong? Is it different to consider myself strong or a warrior than being told by someone else I am strong from a distance? Am I oversensitive about this? What are other strategies for dealing with people who say they will help? Can something be an insult if it is unintended? Please tell me! I must know!

I will see you same time next week! Kiss kiss!
-Melissa

Be Sociable, Share!

Follow Dear Thyroid on Twitter/@DearThyroid | See our Facebook Page | Become a Fan on Facebook | Join our Facebook Group

You Can Create a Dear Thyroid Profile and share with friends!

Reader Feedback

7 Responses to “Chronic Snarkopolist: Being Strong is Balderdash”

  1. Amy says:

    I agree on the “you’re so strong” thing. I never know what to say. I used to go on a whole explanation about how everyone just deals with the shit dropped on them in life and my shit is just more obvious and blah blah blah but now I just say thank you because I’ve chased so many people away. Or maybe I didn’t chase them away but they’re very much gone; that part is clear. I agree that it’s awesome for someone to just do something instead of just cheerlead but I’ve found that me being sick chases many people away and, as you and I have discussed so many times, then there are new people. What I’m learning in this sixth year of being sick is I don’t know much about anything. I love you. I miss you. And you’ve written another beautiful column. Love, Amy

  2. What do you think? Do you like being told you are strong? Some people enjoy being told they are a warrior. Is being a warrior the same thing as being strong? Is it different to consider myself strong or a warrior than being told by someone else I am strong from a distance? Am I oversensitive about this? What are other strategies for dealing with people who say they will help? Can something be an insult if it is unintended? Please tell me! I must know!

    I most definitely agree with everyone of us whether we be sick or not KNOWING that it is okay to have our weak moments. We ARE human and this is only natural.

    I personally feel we need to be honest with ourselves and acknowledge our feelings. If we are sad or in pain; cry it out, EXPRESS that emotion. If we are angry; hit something,yell and scream and stop your feet. I’ve even broken glass with a hammer while screaming profusely (extremely therapeutic!)

    However after I was done expressing myself I let it go and moved on. It’s so important for us not to dwell in a deep dark pit of negative emotions because their is usually little to no positive energy or upward climb from that. I always strive to view every situation from a positive perspective.

    I honestly have no idea how many people may have been offended by my talks of “staying strong” and being warriors. I know that it helps me on tough and weak moments to have a cry and then dust off my dented armor and try again. Perhaps I should begin asking.

    You’ve given me lots to ponder; thank you for always baring your innermost thoughts and sharing your heart with us Melissa. It is one of the things I love most about you. *hugs*

  3. I most definitely agree with everyone of us whether we be sick or not KNOWING that it is okay to have our weak moments. We ARE human and this is only natural.

    I personally feel we need to be honest with ourselves and acknowledge our feelings. If we are sad or in pain; cry it out, EXPRESS that emotion. If we are angry; hit something,yell and scream and stop your feet. I’ve even broken glass with a hammer while screaming profusely (extremely therapeutic!)

    However after I was done expressing myself I let it go and moved on. It’s so important for us not to dwell in a deep dark pit of negative emotions because their is usually little to no positive energy or upward climb from that. I always strive to view every situation from a positive perspective.

    I honestly have no idea how many people may have been offended by my talks of “staying strong” and being warriors. I know that it helps me on tough and weak moments to have a cry and then dust off my dented armor and try again. Perhaps I should begin asking.

    You’ve given me lots to ponder; thank you for always baring your innermost thoughts and sharing your heart with us Melissa. It is one of the things I love most about you. *hugs*

  4. Peggikaye says:

    I was just told yesterday how strong I am and it is like fingernails on a chalkboard.

    While my therapist is spending hours and probably lots of hair pulling to get me to safely feel like it’s ok to not be strong all the time, others are distancing themselves with “you’re so strong”

    no, I’m really not. I’ve used maladaptive coping skills giving everyone the illusion of strength ..why? because everyone distances from real pain … vicious cycle.

    this is going to make me think a lot this week …

  5. RhondaG says:

    Boy, I completely understand this and agree wholeheartedly. Not everyone is motivated by such football coach-type enthusiasm as the “You’re strong” model of encouragement. What’s more, I’ve never met ANYONE who is bolstered by it when they’re just plain exhausted, mentally and emotionally as well as physically.

    As someone who has been on both the giving and receiving ends of the entirely well-meaning “How can I help?” gesture, though, I think sometimes it can be more complicated, at least for the person tendering it. Like if you’re far away. Or you don’t know the suffering person very well. Or you have health issues yourself that you know may someday keep you from being able to help, even though today, you’re fine. Or all three.

    As this person, you kind of feel helpless…what you want to say is how much you care. What you want to do is anything to help alleviate her suffering and help her know she’s not alone. But what your mind is telling you is, “If only…” If only you knew what she needed so you could just do it. If only you knew her better, you’d know what she needed. If only you knew how you’d feel tomorrow or next week or next month–better yet, if only you weren’t sick at all, you could be freer to give more, do more.

    And I think part of the offeror knows how frustrating it is to have somebody wrap up and present you with one of those solemn little “If there’s anything I can do…”s. But I also think that sometimes, maybe as often as not, that shabby-looking little present comes from their high-end store of valuable love and precious intentions to follow through. And on the tag, in tiny little print, it says, “This was the best I could do. Please, please let me help in some way. I just don’t know what to offer or what I can give that you need.”

  6. Kathi says:

    Ah, Melissa, you’re singing my song. Plus, I love words like ‘balderdash.’ Over in the cause-fundraising corner, I’m always telling people to pick one of the above tasks & just do it for someone who needs it, instead of buying a damn teeshirt.

    I’d been invited to go to a pink thing for breast cancer by 2 works friends, to take place days after I finished radiation. On the day of the event, I had to call one of them & tell her I couldn’t go because my armpit had blown up, was red & painful, & I couldn’t move & wasn’t sure I could even work the next day. The 2 ‘friends’ went to the event anyway. They didn’t come over to see how I was, offer to do something like make dinner or walk the dog or take out the trash or even cover my work hours for me so I could stay home the next day. Instead, they bought me a pink lanyard.

  7. Lolly says:

    Melly Mel..I have missed reading a replying on your column you speak words of wisdom beyond your years.

    I hate when people say you are strong you will cope offer you help but never follow through..I am a proud person and if I can’t do it myself no matter how hard it is and it has been a struggle.. I find it hard to ask or except help from others as that would show a weakness and reliance on others. I know I shouldn’t feel like this it’s my stubborn independence that just gets in the way..And I have always beena giver not a receiver if that makes sense.. I know I need help at times and I should except it when offered and have done to some extent but I still find it hard.

    Lolly

Leave a Reply

Comments are moderated in an effort to control spam. If you have a previously approved Comment, this one should go right through. Thanks for your patience!