It seems that when you’re poorly for a long period of time, floating in the middle of the health spectrum somewhere between life-threateningly ill and perfectly healthy, a lot of assumptions are made as a result of your circumstances.
Let me elaborate.
“It has been ages, you must be feeling better by now.” – A thinly considered assumption and statement I’ve heard far too many times.
And the questions, oh the questions:
“How can you be sick for so long when it’s not cancer/*insert any other awful illness*?” Or, “when will you be better?” or one of my least favourite variations, “when will you be back to normal?”.
Generally people would (I hope) never ask a person battling a potentially life-threatening illness that kind of question. And would anyone pose a statement like the one above to someone who was, say, grieving the loss of a loved one instead of the loss of one’s health?
Assumptions and related statements/questions also arise from decisions and actions; they tend to be black and white, exemplified in their most basic forms as:
- *Attends event/work/appointment* = must be “back to normal”.
- *Decides to work from home/cancels social plans* = incapable of any work and disinterested in all social interaction.
Now let’s consider the decision-making process behind the person’s actions, and the subsequent actions not seen and therefore not considered:
- *Attends event/work/appointment* = striving for a sense of normalcy despite knowing there are 2 days’ rest ahead in order to recover from the expended effort.
- *Decides to work from home/cancels social plans* = balancing responsibilities and others’ needs with the need for self-care, at the sacrifice of some things.
This is the blatant disrelation I’ve found between what is usually assumed, and my reality. Reality consists of middle ground, of compromise; of balancing acts, brave faces and grey areas. Assumptions seem only to identify that I’m either broken, or fixed. Ask anyone else who has walked in these shoes and I’m certain they’ll agree with me.
I’d like to touch on the circumstantial assumptions I first mentioned in this post, and their resulting comments/questions, because it is eye opening just how many people don’t seem to know how best to interact with a person facing “loss”, in this case of course referring to loss of health.
How about asking, “how are you today?” instead of probing the “why” of chronic illness, which only leads to frustration and guilt from not having an answer. Or, “It has been ages, you’re doing so well” instead of a statement that invokes feelings of inadequacy from not being better (or “normal”) quickly enough.
In response to my actions, how about, “it’s good to see you” or “thanks for coming”, and when you don’t see me, don’t assume I can’t still meet my responsibilities or don’t want to do something, just because my body genuinely won’t let me in the usual way. Did I miss a social occasion? I’m still here, and would love to see you – please don’t forget me! (Or do, whatever). Or was it business? Let’s talk on the phone. I’d love to talk with you on the phone! We can run over things via email instead of via printed trees and probably save a whole lot of time in the process, something we can all use more of. Technology is a wonderful thing for that reason 🙂
Assumption is one of human nature’s absurdities to impact the chronically ill on a regular basis and has already arisen from the decision I made last week, in conjunction with my employer and staff, to take a step back from work, albeit only physically. The assumption is that I’m broken.
Broken? No, just rearranging.