So many, living with chronic conditions, must learn how to cope with isolation, pain, loss of careers, surgeries, financial losses, medication they can’t afford but need. As is this being not enough, the chronically ill often feel a sense of irrelevance, due to the often-unintended consequences of friends, family and the medical field if our condition requires that we focus our energies on ourselves. Thus, we are often left with little meaningful engagement in the issues of others, out of the misguided assumption that we need to be protected. Nothing could be further from the truth as the chronically ill can develop unique insights which can prove incredibly valuable. The chronically ill do not need to be treated with kid gloves. We have been toughened by our experience. Indeed, patients suffering from chronic conditions do not need to feel irrelevant. We have much to offer and feeling left out of the mainstream of life, though often well intended, is therapeutically harmful. Yes, I mean that we are at times treated by those that care about us like we aren’t here.
That may seem like a strange statement, but have you also had the experience of learning about something dramatic happening in the life of someone you care about, and you had no idea since it wasn’t shared with you? The comment I get back when I am shocked to not have known something was going on is: “You have so much going on in your life so much worse, I didn’t want to burden you.”
Burden us? I am not one to compare my issues with others and make mine sound so much worse. That is not the person I am or ever want to be. So let me and others back into your life, stop thinking protecting us is key for the kindest thing to do is to return to including us! I know you mean well and don’t want to hurt us or make us feel worse, but that is what happens. Your consideration towards us does hurt, despite your positive intentions.
Please know, we do care and need to continue to care about others, despite any struggles we are going through. When you don’t include us, then we don’t feel like we are really existing on this earth. So, open your hearts back to us, include us in what you would have normally shared and know you are helping us to engage in life and feel normal. For, it is very important for us all to interact with compassion and thus feel human. Nothing could be more natural and human than genuinely caring for another human being. It feels good to care, to offer support and to feel alive when one still shares with us. And yes, it feels good even if we are struggling with our own issues. The human tragedy is more often not a part of the human condition. Let us not make assumptions about those suffering from chronic conditions. A good deal of meaning in life is a result of sharing our trials and tribulations. The chronically afflicted should not be denied this critical human experience. Who isn’t trying to live life and not experiencing difficult issues?
Navigating life with a chronic issue is no picnic. You learn to dig deep after mourning and then pick up the pieces and find a way to still have purpose and meaning in life. So, help us with our journey and stop worrying about bothering us due to your issues not seeming as difficult or painful. We want to be there for you – so let us show you we do care and know it helps us to live our lives knowing you still value our friendship.
May life be kind to you,
Ellen Lenox Smith
Author of: It Hurts Like Hell!: I Live With Pain– And Have a Good Life, Anyway, and My Life as a Service Dog!
The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report.