Are there people in your life who don’t believe you are ill? Do they say things like, “you don’t look sick,” and “it can’t really be that bad.” These statements are in the same category as the doctor’s “it’s all in your head.” NOT HELPFUL.
Most people don’t mean to be hurtful, and I’m willing to bet they don’t know how hurtful these statements can be. They don’t realize that by saying these things they are hitting you when you’re already down, rubbing salt in your wounds, and ultimately, pushing you away. They are violating your trust by suggesting that you are not being truthful. IT IS NOT AT ALL OK!
Next time you hear one of these phrases, try responding with, “I realize this is confusing for you. It is for me, too.”
It is my feeling that when people say these things, what they are really trying to say is, “I don’t know how to help you.” So, let’s assume that is the situation and we can start with trying to change that. I believe the people you love truly do want to help you. I also believe that these people often feel defeated and frustrated and overwhelmed and sad when they see your pain and are not able to help. So, what can you do?
I want to suggest that first, try to hear through these statements. When we take them at face value, we get defensive, angry, and hurt. When we learn to hear what’s underneath, we are more able to respond and act with compassion. Then, we need to learn to ask for what we need in ways that the people around us understand. Instead of being alone with our pain, we can get better at asking for help with certain tasks. When our partner finds it hard to be with our pain, ask for a foot massage, a cup of tea, or to run a bath. People like to help, but generally don’t know how. When we tell them how they can help, they feel like part of the solution instead of part of the problem.