Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Honest to Goodness Truth

em·pa·thy [ émpəthee ] understanding of another's feelings: the ability to identify with and understand somebody else's feelings or difficulties

If you’ve been following this blog for quite some time and you’ve read my bio, you may know that I have a chronic autoimmune disease called Scleroderma. It’s a complicated disease, so I won’t get into the nitty gritty details except to note that it has severely damaged my lungs making it difficult for me to breathe more often than not. This is definitely NOT a good thing! In the words of my blogging counterpart:

It bites. It blows, and it Sucks!

There I said it out loud with a capital S no less!

Phew! I needed that.

But what I also need from time to time is for someone to say this to me, and a few weeks ago, my good friend M did.

“It just sucks, doesn't it?”

Yep, it sure does.

Now, you might be thinking how can saying “it sucks” be a good thing? Oh, but it is. Instead of the typical clichés, she came right out and spoke the truth, and it made me feel better. By golly, she’s got it!

I then told this story to one of my pulmonary rehab friends, and we laughed and agreed that yes, saying "it sucks," or any version of that, can sometimes be just the right thing to say.

Which brings me in a round-about way to the purpose of this post: What are good things to do for a person who is living with a chronic illness?

2. Acknowledge their bad feelings. If saying “it sucks” is not your cup a tea, how about “I understand that you are feeling angry, sad, frustrated, etc. about your health.”

3. Be a good listener. In my case, sometimes I just want someone who will listen without offering their opinion, their medical advice, what they read on the Internet, and what happened to their friend's neighbor's boyfriend's cousin, and so on. Sometimes it's OK not to say anything. Just be there with ears open, mouth shut. Hugs and prayers are welcome, too.

1. Offer and give help, and then follow through with it. The person with the disease is not the only person affected by it. In my case, I have a husband and two kids, and some days "it sucks" for them, too. Perhaps you can babysit, take the kids (or the husband) out for the day, make a meal, do some shopping, or accompany me to a doctor’s visit.

You get the idea.


Climbing down from my soapbox now.

*Thank you to all my family and friends who already do these good things. It means so much to me!

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