How to Determine If a Person Will Add 'Dead-Ends' to the Maze of Chronic Illness
As I woke up this morning, my brain once again continued its never-ending endeavor by traveling at light speed. I had so many thoughts, ideas and questions that seem to collide with each other too early in the morning. I’m trying something different with my blog page in the attempt to reach out and connect with as many individuals as I can with God’s help. I had a bit of a revelation last evening while the man I’m seeing and I were having dinner. Seems like an odd time for me to be thinking about information in regards to chronic illness, but I’m happy he and I were on the topic.
I’ve discussed in a past blog what it’s like to date while having a chronic illness. I personally have had some pretty bad outcomes when it comes to having to disclose information about some of the health issues I struggle with to the guy in question. I’ve noticed the biggest issue was, once again, their lack of desire to understand. These guys must have not had the experience or did not possess the maturity on being able to understand that chronic illness does not define you. Indeed, it sets things back and makes life more of a challenge depending on what the individual has to deal with on a daily basis, but the illness itself doesn’t make us who we are. The man I’m seeing now wanted to know what I have to deal with and how severe it may get, not because he was worried about how it might affect him and his life predominately, but because he was more concerned with understanding how these issues affect me.
Which brings me to the topic at hand. There are so many blogs out there that discuss how vital understanding is when it comes to a chronic illness. If someone doesn’t understand, it makes the maze that much more of an inconvenience for the person struggling with it because they not only have to go out of their way to deal with the symptoms of the illness, but they also have to try and deal with emotional trauma others may leave them with. We survivors are already traveling through this maze involuntarily, not knowing if or when we will find the path that leads us out, allowing us to experience a good/pain-free day. Most of the time we spend days, weeks or months repeatedly running into dead-ends, forcing us to retrace painful steps. The very last thing we need are more dead-ends added to such maze, decreasing our chances of finding the path leading out.
So, how can we utilize preventative measures in regards to the attempted construction of dead-ends in a seamlessly endless maze?
For starters, it’s best to really know who it is you wish to surround yourself with. How mature are these individuals? How receptive are they to news they may not have much knowledge about? Do they have an adaptive personality? Can they be trusted?
These are just a few select questions I try to consider when I am placed in a position where my health is brought up. I instructed that when it comes to dating, it’s best to be absolutely honest, but I also warned that if you feel as though this person will not react positively and maturely about the news of your chronic illness, it’s best to avoid the topic and/or the person altogether. The very last thing needed is another stressor added to the equation. This returns us to the importance of really getting to know a friend, a potential significant other or even family before such truths are revealed.
My biggest issue now is with family. I’ve known these people all my life, but the unfortunate reality is that with age comes change. People, in general, change over time: how they deal with stress, how they deal with unknown news, so on and so forth. In their youth, they may have been exceedingly immature and lacked the ability to properly respond to unpleasant news. Yet, in their middle to older years, they may have become very mature and able to respond sufficiently to distressing news. All of these changes in personality have to be observed over time in addition to how close you are with them. I’m not close with many of my family members, so I don’t waste time trying to describe what I have to go through on a daily basis. I’d be wasting my breath and energy with the attempt. Those who I am close with have shown me their maturity and how well they can adapt to things they may not have as much knowledge on. This is what I look for.
Secondly, ask yourself why they are asking about your illness. Are they curious for selfless reasons, or are they curious purely to be selfish?
So what do I mean by this? Let’s say you and this guy you’re interested in decide to go on a date. You don’t know him well, but you’re wanting to give it a try. Halfway through your date, you start to have a little bit of a flare-up and have to deal with it the best way you can without drawing an exceeding amount of attention. Your date notices anyway, and comes over to ask if you’re feeling well. You respond with honesty and say (let’s use the example of fibromyalgia) you are experiencing nerve pain and have to sit down for a little bit. He give you a weird look and asks what you mean by “nerve pain.”
Before answering, remember the tips I have discussed about reminding yourself to ask the above questions: how well do I know him? Yes, it’s important to be honest when dating, but you also have to keep in mind how comfortable you feel with disclosing that kind of personal information. Ask yourself: has he given off a good impression? If so, do I feel he will be mature about the news?
Let’s continue on with the date. You come to the realization that you’re not exactly comfortable yet and wish to get to know more about him first. Therefore, you politely explain that you’re not feeling well but are not entirely comfortable yet with going into detail. This will also be a test to see how he responds. Does he respect your decision? Or does he become defensive and distant? This will show his maturity level and whether he is selfish or selfless. If he respects your decision, then you’ll have more comfort knowing he is asking because he cares about you, instead of asking in the attempt to “save his own keister.”
Sometimes, we will make mistakes. We will entrust someone with information about our health when they are not mature enough to handle it or when they are not exactly trustworthy. It’s bound to happen. The important thing to remember is to learn from it and not make the same mistakes twice. It’s hard enough having to keep things we want to talk about bottled up inside of us, but it’ll be even harder having to deal with the repercussions if we are not careful.
The more time passes, the easier and less complex the maze will become. We also have to look for the signs that lead up to the exit, or to another brick wall.
This post has appeared on Strengthening the Muscle of Faith and Amanda’s blog.
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Thinkstock photo via precinbe.