Why I Struggle When People Tell Me, 'I Hope You Are Feeling Better'
I love that friends, family and even neighbors often think of me, ask how I am, or say they hope I am feeling better. It lets me know that I am cared for and not forgotten, even though my disease has pretty much caused me to live the life of a recluse over recent years.
However, it also conjures another emotional response. A response that I am sure many others with chronic diseases will relate to. It conjures a feeling of guilt and even frustration.
I have been contemplating that question for a while and I have come to the conclusion it is because I feel like I am letting everyone down. People generally like to read a good story with an introduction, a middle with a climax that is often dramatic but has a conclusion with a happy ending.
It is like that in real life too. If we hear someone is sick, we like to hear soon after that they are better. If we hear someone has a terminal illness or chronic disease that will progress rather than improve, well, what do you do with that? How do you find the right emotional response to the person living with those circumstances? The natural response is to run or feel anger or fear or deep sorrow.
Flight or fight!
People with chronic diseases have no choice but to fight, as flight is a little impossible for most of us. Those around us, searching for an emotional, appropriate response to the situation have little choice but to ask, “How are you today?” or to say, “Hope you are feeling better.”
The guilt and frustration of some people with chronic diseases is rooted in the fact it is unlikely many of us are feeling any better than we did yesterday, or the day before. And, it is likely that some of us will be on a path of getting progressively worse.
No one wants to hear that and no one wants to say that. It all sounds a little too dismal! I do not like giving dismal news, so I start to feel bad that I have to. It is either tell the truth (or a dulled down version), or lie. I have always been such a strong advocate of openness and honesty so, if I did lie, I would still feel overwhelming guilt.
How do we, those with chronic diseases, and the caring friend or family member, live happily ever after with a situation that is ongoing and burdensome to everyone?
We just need to keep trying to understand each other. The one with the chronic disease needs to understand that people really cannot find the right thing to say, because what can be said? The caring friend or family member also need to understand that your response may simply be, “Thanks for asking. Still no change or things are getting a little worse.” Depending on who you are talking to, you may feel comfortable to expand with a few details.
At the end of the day, contact with others is so important for our overall well being. My tip is once that awkward, “Hope you are feeling better today,” moment is out of the way, simply ask the caring enquirer how they are and get a conversation flowing that makes everyone comfortable.
If you are looking for genuine support, care, understanding and friendship, you are welcome to join my closed Facebook support forum, “Medical Musings with Friends.” It is a safe place to connect with others living with chronic and complex diseases, who truly understand the daily challenges. A warm welcome awaits.
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