Does living with chronic illness leave you feeling like no one understands? Feeling alone and misunderstood is especially painful when it’s your spouse or any member of your family who just doesn’t seem to “get” it.
Do you find yourself muttering, “Why do I have to explain the same things over and over again?”
Or, “Why should I have to repeat why I need it hotter (or colder) in the room than others, why I need help carrying the groceries into the house when I did it yesterday or why I really do need that expensive ergonomic chair for my desk so I can work for longer than 15 minutes without pain?”
If you’re shaking your head yes, then I suggest that you stop, take a look inside and notice. As you make these requests of others, is there some part that is angry? Is it angry that you need this special attention? Maybe you worry that the other person doesn’t feel like helping — or doesn’t believe that you’re trying hard enough?
I was discussing this isolation and frustration with a client today. She puts a lot of emotional energy into fighting the fact that she lives with a debilitating disease that doesn’t get better. She’s so busy waiting for this to be over that it’s hard for her to get on with living her life.
In this call, she was deeply frustrated that her husband thinks she’s not trying hard enough to get better. He believes she’s giving in when she rests rather than fighting harder. Nothing she says changes his idea. She thinks if he accepted her illness, she’d be better able to accept it herself.
I suggested that she shift her focus. She’s unable to change his beliefs but she’s seen that he is willing to help. Maybe she can accept that form of support, even if he doesn’t understand or agree with everything she does.
This is a key distinction. Asking for what you need can be very hard whether it’s with those you love, friends or co-workers. Especially if you feel angry or sad that you need that help because of chronic illness.
You can’t expect that others will really understand what living with chronic illness is like for you. But you can expect, in a relationship of mutual respect, to get the support you need.
When you ask for help, are you getting what you need?