It happens easily and too often. You try to explain that you can’t do something (that you could do until now) and the blank stares, questions or snide comments leave you feeling isolated, frustrated or even guilty. You know they’re wondering, “But you look the same – -what’s changed?”
Or maybe you’ve already said you’re not as ‘able’ to get something done or even to show up but some people still expect you will. Don’t you look the same? So reluctantly (or maybe angrily?) you remind them what you’ve already told them.
And, then, if you’re lucky enough, the symptoms are no longer an issue and you’re back to whatever baseline you live in and can return to what you could do. But now you’re stumped. How do you explain, “I’m back in the game?” But you look the same. It’s complicated — enough to make you want to ignore you feel better and keep going as you were.
Let’s face it. Nothing about this life makes sense to you. No surprise that others don’t get it, either. As one client complained, “Things are great. I feel like myself again – even if that’s not the big guy I was before I got sick, it’s better than what I’ve been lately. But how do I tell my boss that he can trust me to get things done again when I’ve been MIA for a month? Or tell my wife that I can take the kids to their soccer matches this weekend when I’ve been sleeping whenever I haven’t been working?”
If only there could be a simple explanation for why you can do something today that wasn’t possible yesterday. Oddly enough, the most confusing moments are often when you say, “Hey, I can do this now!” If you can offer a clear medical reason , it’s easier for others to understand. But with chronic stuff, that’s rarely the case.
So what can you do other than pretend you’re still living with those debilitating symptoms? A great place to start is within you. When you find a way to accept that you live with these changes, you’ll be more likely to reduce the drama with others and that helps you to be more effective.
But that kind of acceptance can be difficult. And it, too, can wax and wane as life throws you the curve balls. But when you focus on the concrete – what you say to others — you can feel a sense of pride that this is a place where you can take charge.
So that’s why I’m sharing 4 things to consider (for more detail on this, see my booklet, Are You Talking? , part of the Career Thrive Booklet Series) when you want others to know you’re ready and able to get ‘back in the game’:
- Acknowledge you’ve been disappointed that you’ve been unable to meet your commitments — and, if relevant, express gratitude for their help by picking up the slack.
- Focus on what you can do now – – rather than an exhaustive explanation of the nature of the disease.
- Make it clear that because the symptoms change unpredictably it’s impossible to know if and when it might change again — but if it does, you’ll keep them in the loop as best you can.
- Keep the drama to yourself and stick with the good news — even if you don’t feel it.
No, this isn’t easy and it’s often frustrating, demoralizing and reduces even the most positive to tears. But I’ve found that the better you get at communicating clear information that keeps others informed when and where they need to know, the better you’ll feel about the things you can’t change – difficult, unpredictable and invisible health. Check out my free article, 11 Things I Want You to Know About Working While Living with Chronic Illness, where I offer ideas for this and other issues.
What gets in your way?
What do you find helps?