This week I continue the theme of recovery in the context of illness focusing on how to respond to people when they ask questions or make comments. In this recovery series, I initially focused on the assumptions which lace the recovery process due to society’s interpretation of recovery. I then wrote about the different types of ‘recovery’ people experience depending on the illness they have/had. And how this may require redefining what we mean by well and recovering wellness in various facets of our lives within the context of illness.
Maybe you got seriously ill a few months, a year, or sometime ago. You still live with its impact, whether it is visible or invisible. And through it all, you’ve had well-meaning people (or not) ask questions, give (unsolicited) advice, and make comments.
- “What happened to you?”
- “Oh, but you’ve recovered?”
- Some variant of you looking well so your recovery must be good. (But on the inside you are feeling the opposite.)
- And when you say your recovery is taking its time or there will be no recovery, you might hear:
- “Why? Maybe you need to do XYZ, do more of ABC, stop doing DEF, be more positive…”
- “You’re not any better yet? But you look well. You must not be working hard enough at your recovery…”
- “Oh, I use insert-your-solution-of-the-month, it really works. Highly recommend it!”
- “You shouldn’t be using that disabled parking bay/loo” or “You don’t look sick/disabled.”
Responding to the question: Have you recovered yet? B Babcock 2016
You feel yourself hesitating and wondering how to respond. Do you tell the truth, do you want to, will they get it? To answer their question truthfully, your response may take time, not be a straightforward yes or no, and so may invite more questions. You may not have the energy to educate someone by explaining, the energy to tell a stranger what happened to you, the energy debating with yourself how much to share, the energy to convince someone you know well that no, a recovery is not possible (despite how well you may look at the moment). And it’s ok to feel that way.
So how do you respond in these moments, if at all? Read on to find out.
This blog has been inspired by several individuals I’ve recently spoke with regarding the impact of their illness/condition on themselves, their mothers and acceptance (or not) of the situation. This is their story, the story of a daughter to her mum. It can equally apply to a father and son, to the son and mother relationship or the daughter and father.
It’s been a year now since I suddenly got ill. So much has changed. Some days when the fatigue and pain gets too much and I can’t do anything else, I feel like my body is broken. Other days, I feel I have come so far in the past year, I am so proud of myself and feel on top of the world.
I’m aware of the impact this has had on you and everyone else in the family and I feel guilty. I took so much of everyone’s time and energies and caused so much worry. But I am so thankful that you were there for me. It must not have been easy for you.
I wonder mum, how is it for you now? From here, where I am, it doesn’t seem any easier. I am sorry for bringing this on you, I really am. If I didn’t get ill… but that is a wishful thinking.
Illness and mother and daughter relationships. B Babcock 2016
I think I feel how hard it is for you. Sometimes the way you look at me, it looks as if you don’t quite believe me when I say I don’t feel well. I know on the outside I look like the ‘old me’. I look fine, well even. But on the inside, some days I feel awful. The crushing pain and fatigue I feel is like a heavy heavy blanket that I cannot push off. On these days I can’t do much even if I look ok. But know mum, I’m not faking it. Trust me. If I could just jump up and go out with you to do something fun or to help you around the house, I would.
I see how hard it is for you when you refer to me as the ‘old me’ and the ‘new me’, that wishful look in your eye. But when you refer to me like that, it hurts. I wonder if you don’t like who and how I am now. I have changed. I’ve had to. I can no longer be the high-achiever. I simply do not have the strength physically or mentally. My achievements made you proud, but I hope you are still proud at what I am achieving, despite the achievements being so much smaller.
Mothers, daughters and illness – The wish and the guilt. B Babcock 2016
Maybe you can’t accept what has happened, I don’t know. Some days I am not sure I can accept it myself. But Mum, please understand, I didn’t want this to happen. If I had a choice, I would go back to the ‘old me’. But I don’t have that choice. What has happened has happened. I have to deal with what is in front of me. And I am doing that the best way I know how.
You could not have prevented what had happened to me and if you could have, I know you would have tried everything possible. I need your help now mum. I need you to dispose of the wish for what was. I need you to trust me when I say I am not well. Because I don’t know if I am going to get any better. The doctors don’t even know. I sincerely hope this won’t be it, but it might be. And if I will always be as I am now, will it be enough? Will I be enough for you?
You’re my mum. I need you. I need to know I am ok as I am in your eyes despite my body not working as it once did. I need to know that you still love me. Know that I love you. This love is all I ever want for us.
You are my daughter, you are enough. B Babcock 2016
What’s it like for you?
Have you ever felt like the daughter or mother in the above story? What was your situation like and what did you do? Feel free to share your story below as it can resonate with other people and help them see that they are not alone.
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I have started to research the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of long-term conditions and serious illness/injury. If you or a loved one experienced the onset of a long-term condition or serious illness/injury in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering with what acceptance means for you, I would love to speak with you. Click here to find out more.
© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2016
My last post was supposed to be the final one in my blog series on the difficulties we experience when asking for help. But after posting it, I attended a class on neediness for a course I am taking and was struck by a link between neediness and asking for help. So this post is now the final one. Links to the previous three posts are highlighted throughout.
You know deep down that since your health changed, you can’t do things like you used to. Yet you want to. So you keep going, doing most things on your own rather than asking for help. It is all for good reasons explained in previous posts: not wanting to impose on others and wanting to maintain our sense of self-worth.
Feeling ‘needy’ and being perceived as such can also stop us from asking for help. I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘I don’t need (help with) X. I’m not a needy person. It’s almost as if needing help with something means we may be perceived as needy, and that is somehow not good.
Society’s conundrum regarding help. B Babcock 2016
So I picked neediness apart, thought about the cultural assumptions around it in the context of asking for help, and came to a realisation. I want to share all this with you to demystify why asking for help can be hard, thereby enabling you to make conscious choices when it is appropriate for you to ask for help.
This is the final post in a series on the difficulties we experience when asking for help, why that is and what we can do about it. Part 1 focused on the role guilt plays and Part 2 the role self-worth plays when we don’t ask for help.
If you have been following this series on why asking for help is so hard in the context of health issues, you will have read how asking for help
- Can mistakenly be interpreted by society as a weakness and this can fuel our feelings of guilt
- Is a reminder of what we may have lost and can no longer do on our own and how being able to do things on our own contributes to our sense of achievement and self-worth.
The aim was to demystify this issue thereby enabling you to make conscious choices when it is appropriate for you to ask for help. This post touches on a few final considerations.
Sometimes the people we expect or hope to readily help us – parents, partners, children, good friends, colleagues, etc. – don’t. They may tell us to ‘get on with it’ or ‘everyone has problems’ and to ‘just sort yourself out’. Or they may float away, never to be seen again. The one person you thought you could rely on is not there for you when you need them.
It is so hard to be on the receiving end of that. It can feel really hurtful. It is as if your difficulties have no validity, as if you are not valid. It’s no wonder we don’t ask for help. Our needs are not validated and the message we get is we have to do it on our own.
So these final 3 considerations will help you maintain your valid sense of self-worth , particularly when others say no to your requests for help.
- Exploring the possible reasons why people say no
- How to move beyond no
- Consider who to ask for help
Moving beyond no. B Babcock 2016
This month’s blog theme is about the difficulties we experience when asking for help, why that is and what we can do about it. This post is part 2 and focuses on the role self-worth plays when we don’t ask for help. Part 1 focused on the role guilt plays.
When you can no longer do things for yourself due to health issues and you have to rely on others for what feels like basic living requirements, you can start to lose confidence and your self-esteem. You wonder if you will ever be able to do things yourself again. You think you probably should ask for help more but you don’t want to. You want to be able to do it yourself.
There are really good reasons for that, which I will explain here and they will help you understand why you may be feeling the way you do. I’ll also share 3 things you can do to help you find ways of rebuilding your confidence and self-worth and enable you to make conscious choices on whether or not to ask for help.
How DIY builds self-worth
DIY or Doing It Yourself gives you a sense of achievement, which makes you feel good about your abilities and yourself, and therefore contributes to your sense of confidence and self-worth. When you can no longer do things for yourself, there areÂ less immediate opportunities for that and so your confidence and sense of self-worth can start to float away.
Confidence and self-worth leaving the building. B Babcock 2016
This month’s blog theme is about the difficulties we experience when asking for help, why that is and what we can do about it. This post is part 1 and focuses on how guilt can get in the way of us asking for help.
Living with health issues can mean that things take longer to do due to physical and/or cognitive changes and the subsequent impact on your psychological/emotional health. And there may be some things you can no longer do on your own. It feels like you need help with a lot of things, you are reliant on others more, and that your independence has been snatched from you.
You want to do it yourself. So you do, like you did before the health issues arose. You soldier on. But it’s so physically and mentally tiring and there’s not much energy left over for the fun things in life.
When you are doing everything on your own. B Babcock 2016