chronic illness

When Others Reject Your Reality and Substitute Their Own

purple orchidsThe world is very keen on keeping things positive. Some people are a little weird about thinking about whatever they deem to be “negative.” They act as if thoughts are contagious, and if they can avoid others’ negative thoughts then those uncomfortable things won’t come live at their house. I understand avoiding a pessimist that can only see the worst in everything, and I can understand not wanting to be around someone who is always angry or sad. But what if something genuinely difficult is going on and you want to express your feelings? Are we supposed to lie and say that everything is peachy when it’s not? Are we supposed to suppress our feelings to make another feel comfortable? Apparently so.

butterflyA family member of mine is terminally ill, and I’ve discovered that many people avoid discussing such a thing. If I don’t say it out loud, it isn’t true, right? I don’t feel like I’m being negative; I feel like I’m being honest. One acquaintance will ask me how the situation is going but then blows air at me like a silent whistle during my entire answer. She acts like she’s afraid that any pain in my answer will float toward her to settle in her life if she does not take evasive measures. Interesting. It’s difficult to put a happy spin on things, I have to admit, so I choose not to talk to her about it. She’s young; maybe she isn’t ready for the real world when it hurts.

rocky mountains, stream

As much as I’d like spring to be in full bloom in the Rockies in April, it just isn’t so. Maybe I’d better not say that out loud – that’s too negative.

Another family member wants to deny that death is the ultimate ending because she only wants to think about happy things. Okay, I can see that she is unsure about how to handle it, but welcome or not, this is the situation we are given and the one with which we must cope. If only happy words are permitted, there will be a time when I will have little to say. Thank goodness there are still some good words for now.

I have to admit I’m a bit confused by the reactions people have. I try to be honest with myself even when it hurts, and I expect everyone else to be the same – a mistake. When I don’t have rosy news to report, I guess it’s time to change the subject. I can’t handle any more people blowing at me like I’m a curse. It leaves me feeling like I wasn’t heard and questioning the friendship.

Those of you who have been in this situation before – I’d love to hear any advice you have for my family. Thanks.

 

Edit 6/20/15

I spoke with the woman who was blowing at me when discussing the difficult issues. She said that it was a stress-relieving activity for her — nothing more. I’m so glad I asked!

turtle, pond

Peaceful waters

28 replies »

  1. Over Thanksgiving, my dog died, my grandmother was put into the ICU, and my grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimers…the next week I went for a swim at the pool and an acquaintance there said, “You seem down.”
    “Ah, family things,” I said, vaguely, not wanting to discuss it with someone I barely knew.
    “I hope it gets better soon,” she said.
    That was sweet, but both of the illnesses of my grandfather and grandmother were terminal, so I said, “Well, they’re not likely to get better soon…”
    And she snapped, “Well I hope you get better at dealing with it!” And I was thinking, JEEZ I didn’t even start this conversation! Haha, so here’s to those of us for whom get well soon cards are a painful reminder of reality.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow…I guess culture is a thing here. Here in my country we talk about death as easy as anything else because we all know we all going to day one day. Everyone I know was eager to know how was my mom when she was still alive with her cancer.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Over time, as a result of being on the receiving end of other people’s discomfort, happy happy attitude in the face of my grief and suffering, I have learnt how to respond more genuinely to others who are suffering or grieving. I guess, many people don’t know what to say. I know I never used to. People are confronted by their mortality and it is uncomfortable for them.
    You are right. There are people who it’s best not to discuss real issues with.
    I send blessings of peace and comfort to you and your loved ones. You are facing a very difficult time.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have lost so many people ( family ) in my life and I understand what you are saying. I feel people are getting lost in this ” new age hippie” positivity and rejecting their opportunity for soul work, Or soul growth. Analyzing situation for what it is, embracing pain and negativity and dealing with it, instead of running away from it, is what I chose for myself and it made me the person I am today. Unfortunately, we can’t make other people make same choices. I learned to coexist with those people by sending them love and letting them be where they are at, while at the same time keeping my integrity. Hope this makes sense. Hugs ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Karel:

    I understand your frustration with the way people respond when you try to be genuine! I get very frustrated with the people that keep telling me he is going to get better and be alright. No one wants to face the fact that he won’t! He faces it; why can’t they? Too often people don’t know themselves very well, they live a pretend persona so they have no way to confront the harsher things in reality. Their fake lives do not give the experience to be genuine. But they are pleasant! and if they can’t be pleasant, they are usually gone. There is always a few witches that are willing to crawl out of the woodwork and hang around. They don’t have the empathy or the sympathy that is kind. I have always found that hard times are the hard part of growing up because it is something we usually do alone….no matter how old we are or are going to be. Growing up is a life long business.

    You are a good counselor and I appreciated very much that you let me unload on you even when it made it harder for you to bear the same grief. Thank you.

    The inhumane condition is not limited to a few. When we took in a paralyzed friend to keep him and his wife so he could get the medical treatment he needed it was such a revealing time about people generally. His friends would not come to visit him. They would not talk to him on the phone. Their answer was always, “I don’t know how to talk to a dying person.” My response was always, the same way you talk to the living. He is still alive! It never got through. His only pleasure every day was when I came in at 5:30 AM every day to have a cup of coffee and visit with him while your dad fixed breakfast. The dog enjoyed sleeping on his bed and our cat liked to sleep in his wheel chair. That was the extent of his company. He was with us two months. Death is lonely.

    For those of us who have made these lonely walks in life, try to find each other. People who have been there are the only ones who know how to comfort you when you get there. However, if they are still suffering with their saturation point of grief, they may be too over loaded to help or comfort you. We all have a different capacity for learning to live with grief.

    Mom

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s a tough situation, Karel. When we deny our own pain, we must deny pain in others for fear our pain will be activated. Unfortunately, we cannot make others open to what is. I read a really good book a couple of years ago that spoke to this issue. It is called “Bright-Sided,” with a sub-title of: How the relentless promotion of positive thinking has undermined America. The author is Barbara Ehrenreich.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Brenda. I’m going to look up the book. I learn well through reading. I think the promotion of positive thinking has made for some pretty delusional attitudes.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I don’t really have any advice. I don’t get people a lot of the time. I don’t always understand my friends and a lot of them don’t always get me either. I hope everything works out and you’re ok. I’ve been questioning my relationships with a lot of people too. I’ve come to realize I just need to meet more like minded people. A lot of the folks I’m around are conservative compared to me. I have a lot of hippish views. Hope you have an ear to lean on. It sounds like you have a long term situation to deal with. The only thing I can think of is. Do what’s best for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. My hippie friends see death a lot like I do and quite a bit differently than my lawyer friends (oh, look at the legal issues presented!). Everyone sees my situation through their own lenses, some of which are quite different and rather confusing for me. Thank you for hearing me and understanding. I don’t get people a lot of the time either, which is why I like blogging. We can all find like-minded people here no matter how different we are from “normal.”

      Liked by 2 people

      • That’s how I got addicted to blogging too! When my kitty Jebus died and I took a kitty break – I realized I need animals around me. I prefer spending my time with them and the few times I see my friends a year are enough. We have a forever foster, Princess Leah she’s 18. She listens to all my whining.

        Notice my hippie friends are kind of like yours. My other conservative friends see things their way. Never quite realized I was a hippish. Always thought I was this way. My husband said – ‘you’re all about the energy of the universe. you never realized you have some hippie in you?’ he was the one that pointed out I need to hang out with more like minded people. Keep on blogging we’ll listen.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Since I live near a “hippie” community (Boulder, Colorado), it is a fairly normal term here. My daughter is embarrassed to tell her friends I’m a lawyer, so she tells them all I’m a hippie. So true! It’s all about the energy, and death is not so scary when you’re of this school of thought.
          All my friends are like-minded thinkers. So now we know our label, it’s a bit easier to find like-minded friends without going into a complicated recitation of our belief systems!

          Liked by 1 person

  8. My family won’t even accept the diagnosis. They say it’s the doctor’s report not mine so how does one effectively care for me. Take care, I hope it gets better. Your post rings so true.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know that your situation is a long-term struggle and I can’t imagine how you keep going. Fair weather friends have got to be gone by now! How wonderful that good friends remain, and I hope that some of them can listen to you fully, without judgment.

      Liked by 1 person

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