Have your reactions to others’ illnesses changed? The short answer … yes.
I mentioned in week 9 that I think I would have been the kind of person to offer suggestions. I suppose that depends on how well I knew the person. If someone I knew really well had been diagnosed with a chronic illness, then yes, I think that my instinct would have been to offer suggestions. I like to research, so maybe some of these would have been informed, but chances are they would have mostly been useless and mildly condescending. On the other hand, if someone I’d just met told me about their chronic illness, well, I doubt I would have known what to do or say. Chances are I’d probably have been the sort to bury my head in the sand and act like nothing was wrong.
Now that I know what it’s like to be on the other end I think I’ve definitely become more okay with asking people questions (this goes for non-illness related things too). I’ve learned that it shows a lot of respect to ask someone how THEY feel about it, or how THEY personally are going through whatever it is. No one will react in exactly the same way as someone else and you can’t make assumptions about how someone feels or behaves. The simplest and most respectful way to treat someone is often simply by asking. This leads into my favourite of the skills that I’ve developed from illness – being able to easily hold an “awkward” conversation. I’m no longer afraid of talking about things that scare me. Adversity is no longer a topic to avoid, actually, it’s thoroughly interesting to learn how different people cope with different situations. This is something which extends well out of the reach of just chronic illness and has proven useful in everyday life over and over again.
I’d like to be able to say that it’s developed my empathy and sympathy more as-well, though I’m not sure I’d be telling the truth. This kind of depends on the day I’m having, I’m still learning to control my mood swings when life feels crap or pain levels are high. If someone around me is feeling a little off, my reaction to this can differ hugely from day to day. If I’m feeling okay, I’ll have more sympathy, if I’m dragging myself through hell just to be there, chances are I won’t be so kind. I think chronic illness has affected this part of me both in good and bad ways. Once I master not taking my pain out on others, I think I might just have this sorted too.
How do you react when someone tells you something difficult or out of your control?
What’s your favourite response someone has had when you told them something about yourself?
This post is Part 10 of 52 in the series – A Year of Growth.
The series is a celebration of the first anniversary of The Truth About M.E and is designed to help me grow through my illness throughout my second year of blogging. I look forward to having you along for the journey!