I love the start of a new week. It’s like a new chapter of a book. It’s in many regards a blank canvas. We might have some idea of what we’ll be doing in terms of work, appointments, planned events etc, but there are also many unknowns. Things we can’t anticipate or see. I find that exciting & I look forward to every new week with anticipation & hope that something special, no matter how small, may happen. Yes ok, I am a glass half full kind of girl but stay with me here. 😄💗
As I was musing about the things we can’t see ahead, I started thinking about many of the conversations on chronic illness support forums. One of our strongest themes is the desire of people with chronic illness, especially invisible illness, to be understood & believed. The conversations are often about how others, who we deem “healthy”, have no idea of the pain & suffering someone with chronic illness deals with on a daily basis. The invisible illness so easily leads to misconceptions & hurtful misunderstandings.
In some cases we are probably right that others don’t understand what they haven’t experienced themselves, but are they being cruel for no “apparent” reason?
Let’s for a moment flip that thought on its head.
What if the grumpy person behind the coffee counter questioning why you don’t work or the person complaining that they wish they could lie in every morning like you do etc, actually were in pain too?
What if their pain was also invisible & they felt no one cared or understood them? What if they were suffering from depression, grief over the loss of a loved one or chronic fatigue?
What if they were undiagnosed & no one believed them & they felt resentment when they saw others who were acknowledged for their pain & suffering?
What if they were suffering domestic violence & felt helpless & hopeless? What if they were being harassed at work?
Every life, every person has their own story. It’s never simple. Even when people appear to have everything & have it all together there will still be layers of untold stories.
I had an extremely disgruntled nurse during one of my hospital stays. She felt more like a prison warden & she actually scared me. She was often on night duty which made her seem scarier somehow. Anyway on Day 3 of my hospital stay I decided I needed to stop being so anxious about her being on duty. That night she came into my ward in her gruff manner. She was taking my obs & I decided to ask her how her day had been. I got a grunt type answer. I persevered & asked did she enjoy nursing? Well, that opened up her life story. She loved nursing but she had just broken up with her husband..she was grieving so much. Her story was a complicated one. I asked simple questions to keep the conversation going & she stayed sitting with me for 30mins & we chatted like old friends. She had also had broken bones like me but not as a result of a disease. She was so upset by my story she wasn’t sure how to talk to me about my disease & my non-healing bones, which is why she had been so quiet over the previous days.
From that point on she would pop into my room every afternoon before her shift started to say hello & we would chat about how I was but more importantly we’d chat about how she was. My scary prison warden had softened. She still looked a little frightening but she was a scarred, flawed person…just like me, just like you, needing someone to take the time to understand her needs.
If you are faced with animosity or misunderstanding from someone as you go about your daily life, stay calm & think about what might be going on in their lives. Ask them if they are ok?
It’s amazing how conversations between two strangers can evolve, full of genuine understanding, when we decide to turn our focus to caring for the other person.
By simply asking, “Are you ok?” when you feel someone is misunderstanding you, the real story behind the harsh comment might reveal a very real need, not dissimilar from your own.