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What I Realized When My Mother-in-Law Said, 'I Hope You Feel Better Soon'

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My mother-in-law and five other relatives just left our home after a two-day stay. For someone like me who has multiple chronic illnesses including postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, hypermobility syndrome, intracranial hypertension… and the list unfortunately goes on, I am exhausted.

Before the visit we warned our family that I most likely would be in my room resting most of the time, but we haven’t seen them in years and my desire to see them won out over rest. I even went out to a sightseeing location and managed without my wheelchair for a bit so I could take pictures.

As my mother-in-law hugged me goodbye when they were getting ready to leave she whispered in my ear, “I hope you feel better soon.” It was so full of goodness, so full of heartfelt good intentions and love that I couldn’t say anything other than, “I hope so too.” It was in those passing few seconds that I realized that even as an advocate, not every moment needs to be a teaching moment. You can let someone pass you by, and just let the love roll over you and warm you from someone’s good intentions, let that be enough.

Does she know that I’m not going to get better? Well, we’ve told her. She is a very smart woman, but even very smart people have a hard time comprehending our illnesses. So does she fully comprehend and grasp the full nature of my illnesses? I don’t know. But what I do know is that she loves me, she hates to see me suffer, she wants me to feel better and she is holding me in her arms and expressing this to me. To reprimand her and proceed to educate her on how my illnesses are chronic, and I won’t be getting better is not advocacy or educating, it’s insulting, bad manners and hurtful.

So today I’m grateful for a mother-in-law who cares about me so much, especially after losing my own mother last year. I hope every advocate out there remembers to be human first, because it’s very easy to get caught up in a cause. It’s important to take a step back to make sure you are always being a good human first, otherwise anything you say will fall on deaf ears. So my message is simply this, don’t look to make every moment as a teaching moment. Pick your moments and don’t be afraid to simply enjoy a person’s good intentions.

Photo credit: JackF/Getty Images

Originally published: August 3, 2019
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