Once upon a time, I wrote a post about How To Talk To Sick People (Stop Saying "I Hope You Feel Better!") And that was before the stroke and the auto-immune diagnosis. Here's a follow-up. I welcome suggestions.
*Again, this is for someone with an ongoing illness and not a basic cold, etc. *
1. Don't ask "Are You Feeling Better?" or "How Are You Feeling Today?" all. the. time.
No. No. I don't feel better. It's the same as yesterday or last week. It's a chronic illness. It's been going on for seven months now. If something changes, I will let you know. But it's really super depressing for me to keep having to tell you - "No. It's the same."
Just say: "How are you doing today?" or "What's up?" Not everyone wants to talk about their illness all the time.
If someone tells you they can't take the sun, don't suggest sitting at an outdoor table in the heat. If someone says they get tired after walking a couple blocks, don't suggest a walk in the park because it's such a pretty day.
This happens all the time. Yesterday I had just said how frustrating it was to be so limited with walking. My sister-in-law followed with, "well, why don't we go to the zoo today?" SERIOUSLY?
I can't tell you how upsetting it is to constantly, constantly have to say "I'm sorry, I can't do that." It makes me feel so sad. I don't want to ruin your good time.
3. Don't say "Just Push Through It."
Are you f'in kidding me? Do you have any idea how much I'd rather be out there kayaking? Or dancing? I'd love to be able to walk through the zoo.
4. Be compassionate.
I'm sorry, I'm going to cancel on you sometimes. Or say that I don't have the energy to do X or Y. Believe me, I'd rather go. Please don't be upset.
5. This is not the time for a weight lecture.
For f's sake. My doctors don't think this is weight related, but please, feel free to tell me how losing weight will make this better. If you want to make me cry, this is pretty much the exact thing to say. Because I'm not miserable and hating myself enough right now.
6. Let me be there for you sometimes.
Please, tell me what's going on with you. Tell me about your problems. Can I help you with a computer issue? Editing your paper? I'm happy to!
I feel terrible being a burden and that my life is full of doctors and tests and a lot of unknown. I want to be your friend too.
7. Be helpful.
Part of all the listening and being compassionate is offering to help with things I can't do. Are you going to the store? Ask if I need anything, because I'm often too tired to go. Do you have leftovers? Sure, bring them by. Can you come with me to the doctor if I'm going to be knocked out? That would be really appreciated.
Quite frankly, this entire thing sucks.