I feel that speaking your truth about your illness or injury (or a loved one’s) is important. But I appreciate you may not want to talk about how you are affected. You may think this would be burdening others with your problems, or you would be seen as a moaner. But chances are there may be people you know well who would be very willing to listen.

Or maybe you just have no desire to talk about it as when you’re with others, it can be an escape from daily reality. That’s ok.

I’m not advocating speaking your truth about your illness or injury is something you have to do, nor do you do it to everyone all of the time. And if you choose to, here are two benefits.

A woman with a megaphone saying, 'This is how people like me are affected.' On the megaphone is written 'society listen'. Speaking your truth about your illness is important as a benefit is it increases awareness to others. That awareness is necessary so support can be available to meet this population's needs.

Benefit 1 – Speaking your truth about your illness normalises the experience. It makes it a more accepted part of life.

What I mean by using the words ‘normalises’ and ‘accepted’ is that illness and injury do happen and can be life-changing for those directly affected and those around them. On the whole, they are not rare events. But the life-changing aspect can be really hard for people so it is understandable that as a society we don’t like to talk about it much.

But not talking about it can have an unhelpful impact, i.e. lack of awareness means people affected don’t get the support they need. This is why I appreciated when Billy Connolly recently spoke of his illness and ageing experience.

During episode 2 of a recent two-part programme about Billy Connolly, he shared how he honestly felt about being where he is at in his life – aged 76 and living with Parkinson’s.

(According to Parkinson’s UK, ‘Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological condition’, which ‘causes problems in the brain and gets worse over time’.)

Billy Connolly said,

‘I’m near the end. I’m a damn sight nearer the end than I am the beginning. But it doesn’t frighten me, it’s an adventure and it is quite interesting to see myself slipping away…As bits slip off and leave me, talents leave and attributes leave. I don’t have the balance I used to have, I don’t have the energy I used to have. I can’t hear the way I used to hear, I can’t see as good as I used to. I can’t remember the way I used to remember.’

Billy Connolly’s honesty was courageous

It touched me. I appreciated it. It helps people to realise one person’s truth about the impact of a life-changing illness or injury, ageing and death. He shared his reality – the good, what we feel may be the not good, and everything in between.

Speaking your truth makes the experience of your illness, injury and even ageing more normal within our society. If these experiences are normalised in our society, we are in a better position to meet this population’s needs regarding employment, social care, the accessibility of the built environment, society’s attitudes and more.

Speaking your truth makes the experience of your #illness or #injury more normal within our society. If these experiences are normalised in our society, we are in a better position to meet this population’s needs. Tell a Friend

But you cannot control how other people receive what you have to say

It looks like part of Billy Connolly’s fan base was ‘depressed’ by his honest account of where he is in his life according to this BBC article. The article featured a tweet his wife posted the day after the tv show aired of Billy Connolly playing his banjo and saying, ‘Not dying, not dead, not slipping away.’ He also apologised and said he should have phrased it better.

I don’t think he needed to apologise to his fans for them feeling depressed about his comments. I loved how he gave an honest account using language that was meaningful to him.

When I looked at the replies, I didn’t get a sense of people being ‘depressed’ by what Billy Connolly said. Sad, yes. He is a much-loved cultural icon in the UK. People have received so much from his work.

The thought of him no longer being around so people can’t continue to receive what he has to offer, except via his previous material, is sad. That sentiment came through clearly in the replies to Pamela Stephenson’s tweet and even in a reply to my tweet.

Benefit 2 – You may actually inspire people by speaking your truth about your illness

Another theme in the replies to Pamela Stephenson’s tweet was how inspiring people found what Billy had to say. This was a dominant theme. It reminded me that although we can’t totally control how people receive and understand our message, people can find it inspiring when you speak your truth. They may find it helps them cope with their own difficulties in a new and helpful way.

You can end up inspiring and helping people in a positive way when you speak your truth about your #illness or #injury Tell a Friend

When we speak our truth, we can be displaying our vulnerability in a healthy way. You are showing people this is your reality and it’s ok to talk about it. You are normalising your experience. People can then think, ‘Oh, I had something similarly difficult. It’s ok.’ This is similar to what I wrote last week about how when you let yourself be your best, you give people the permission to be their best version of themselves too. When you speak your truth, you enable others to do it too.

But also, when you speak your truth, when you acknowledge the good, the downright ugly and everything in between, you acknowledge and recognise your experience. Which is a psychologically healthy thing to do. Acknowledgement raises your self-awareness. Self-awareness gives you choices to do something different. Choices means you have freedom to choose.

Picture of a man saying 'this is what my injury has been like, it's not easy but here is what I've learned.' He is acknowledging his experience both the good and the bad. Then he realises something and that increases his self-awareness. He then says he has some options. Speaking your truth about your illness is important because it's acknowledging your experience, which raises your self-awareness which in turn gives you choices.

What’s it like for you?

Is speaking your truth about your illness or injury something you find difficult or easy to do? What do you think are the benefits? When may it not be appropriate? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

If you are living with a serious health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to enhance the quality of your life, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2019

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