Walk A Mile In My Shoes
Is it just me, or will many others share my silent frustrations? When someone calls and asks me how I'm feeling, and I say, “Today is not really a good day,” I find that I get particularly annoyed when their response is, “I know how you feel.”
You really don't know how I feel
It is in that moment that I want to scream, “No, you really don’t!” I want to ask, “How can you possibly know what I feel when you have rarely had anything stronger than a common cold?”
Another thing that irritates me is when someone hears in my voice that I’m not feeling well, and they ask, “What’s wrong now?” as if I’m constantly complaining. I hardly ever complain (except to you guys), and with some people, I never complain. With most people, my stock answer is always, "I’m OK."
3 types of people that care about my health
Saying that you’re OK to some people and not to others is perfectly acceptable. Why? Because everyone doesn’t deserve or desire to know all of the details of your condition. I’ve found that there are three types of people who inquire about my health:
- Those who are genuinely concerned
- Those who ask out of courtesy but won’t wait to hear the answer
- Those who ask only to pass on the information to others, as a latter-day town crier. In any case, it’s up to you what information you pass on and to whom.
Looking healthy with a terminal illness
Being terminally ill can look in various ways. It’s a rare occasion that someone can look at another and determine - Yep, you’re terminally ill. In my case, I look like I'm healthy most days. However, if you look a little closer, have known me quite a while, or spend a little time with me, you will know that I’m not feeling well at all.
We may judge a book by its cover; we may even judge a book by the table of contents, but once we begin to delve into the various chapters, we may get an entirely different story. We may even judge one's illness through the eyes of sympathy or even empathy; however, our views will begin to change if we ever come to endure illness after illness ourselves.
Imagine walking a mile in someones' shoes
So, before we begin to pass judgment or offer unsolicited advice on others' illnesses, let’s try imagining walking a mile in their shoes. Many will be surprised that they may not even be able to walk an inch, much less a mile if given the same illness.
Real or imagined
I’ll never forget when I was first diagnosed with lupus and fibromyalgia. I had this doctor who thought that fibromyalgia wasn’t a real disease. He thought it was a way for people to be lazy or that they just wanted pain medication.
He said that he had done extensive research and found no valid rhyme or reason for the illness. He called me into his office one day, and when I went in, he did this test to determine the hotspots on my body for fibromyalgia. He found that there were like 68 hotspots. After the test, he hugged me, and with tear-filled eyes, he apologized.
The debilitating truth of illnesses
His wife had been in the hospital and was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. It was then that he saw firsthand how debilitating this illness can be. He broke down in tears and began to talk about how so many diseases are related to others.
For instance, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) is linked to fibromyalgia. Lupus is said to be the cousin to fibromyalgia, and both insomnia and neuropathy are also linked to fibromyalgia. So, while one person may have several illnesses, a lot of the illnesses are interconnected. This is one reason someone should never say to another person, “There’s always something wrong with you. What is it now? ”
Emotional support is key
One can never totally understand how someone with multiple illnesses feels unless you actually walk a mile in their shoes. Being terminally ill is hard enough without all of the unwarranted judgment. Emotional support wins over commentary every time.
Caregivers: Do you practice self-care?