Living with a chronic illness means letting a lot of the stuff you overhear around you slide.
It’s really important to let all the flippant moaning that you hear from people’s lives go. Breathe in and breathe out. Be better than you crave to be in those moments.
You have to do this so that resentment doesn’t build up for you or anyone around you.
Given what we go through, there are days where this is going to be really hard, it’s a very big ask I know, but learning to forgive the health digressions of those around you is going to make you healthier and happier, and here’s why.
There’s blood in my mouth ’cause I’ve been biting my tongue all week…
– Rilo Kiley
Complaining is all part of the human condition. It’s usually done with little comprehension of the experiences of those around us.
People have bad days, bad moods. Moments where they want to moan and do so in the hope of getting a little compassion from those around them.
The problem with doing this around someone who is chronically ill is that every day has the potential to be a bad day. Just getting into a position where you can overhear a conversation that can annoy you has taken a good proportion of your energy for the day, subjected you to a good amount of pain, and perhaps provoked any number of other symptoms of your chronic illness.
It’s really tempting to point out how you’re having an even worse time, especially when we know that those bad moments will pass for someone else. That they will shake off those feelings and start to feel well in a few hours or days.
However I urge you to dig deep and be the ever-patient super human that you always are. Save your honesty for when the other person has the capacity to embrace it, remind them of your difficulty when they are feeling better and you’re likely to get the help and empathy that you need when you most need it.
I realise this is easier said than done, but the moments where I observe patience rather than guilt has always put me in better stead with that person in the future.
Why can’t you be normal?
Another frustration I occasionally overhear is someone’s disquiet that I’ve turned down doing a particular activity or night out too many times and they’re starting to lose patience with me.
This is the moment to raise awareness of your condition, to remind the person that you’re not the one to blame. I’ve developed too thick of a skin to take offence from such slights but it’s really important that any colleague or friends have a good understanding of why you’re unable to do something, and how you’re not doing it on purpose or using it as an excuse.
My recovery time is incredibly precious to me, I explain the reasons why I cannot attend, and couldn’t attend previously, and perhaps why I can’t do things like them on a whim. With the full context of the situation I ask the person if dragging me out past my comfort levels for their comfort alone is really worth:
- Me having a miserable, painful time
- Them feeling bad for forcing me to attend
- The following days of pain and fatigue I will experience.
Constructively put, that normally does the trick but it’s also important to remember to:
- Consider their feelings and try not to offend them
- Remind them to keep asking you no matter how many times you say no because it means a lot
- Have fun together – because you will make an event in the future
The problem with seasonal illness
Compassion becomes particularly important when there are increased chances of the healthy people around you falling ill.
This is usually when I hear the most complaints from people around me, people are run-down, living without sleep, tired, and miserable.
Sound familiar? By slowly raising awareness to those around you, many will start to realise that’s exactly how you feel the vast majority of the time – and the worst part? There’s no escaping it. No gradual sense of wellness, no weight lifted off you. Just illness and exhaustion day after day, with no relief.
Most people have short memories for illness because it only greets them fleetingly. Use seasonal illness to your advantage to explain your chronic illness (without forgetting that it’s perfectly possible for you to get seasonal illness too).
Observe empathy and compassion and the questions about your illness will come.
That last one is the key question. Practice forgiveness above all else, play the long game, it pays for itself in time.