Where’s the merit in coping well?

Continuing on the theme of unseen illnesses, I think this applies to everyone to some extent.

And it frustrates the living crap out of me.

So here it is – just because someone is actually putting effort into coping with something doesn’t mean that it’s easy.

Whether it’s a stay-at-home mom or dad who hasn’t seen another adult socially in 6 months because they take care of all the details, or someone with an illness that doesn’t look like a chemo patient or amputee, many people you know are coping. Right now. Struggling to get through the day without hiding in a bathroom stall for a cry or waking out to their car because they “forgot their jacket” just so they can breathe.

It’s hard work not letting your emotional stress bleed on to others, and it deserves credit.

A good friend of mine and I have long said that there’s no merit in being a strong woman. Not that a) we actually believe that or b) that would change one damn thing we do if it were true.

But the feeling behind the sentiment is strong.

We are strong. We push through. We don’t throw our dirty laundry and open emotional wounds on FB for all to see.

But it seems as though, when you survive with the ‘stiff upper lip’, people don’t believe you might actually have difficult things to cope with, or don’t think you need help when you definitely do.

Those who let everything around them crumble without lifting a finger to stop the fall are seen as damsels in distress (or whatever the male equivalent is) – everyone rushes in to save the day.

And those who make some attempt to cope get…. nothing.

SO – here’s a clue. When you know someone who generally copes well, and they come to you with a problem – it’s HUGE. Just because they may not jump up and scream or cry doesn’t mean they’re okay. And if they’re talking to you – it’s because THEY NEED YOUR SUPPORT. They ARE reaching out to you – by even sharing with you. They’re likely not to beg – maybe it’s pride, and maybe that’s wrong. But it’s so.

When that person you know who seems to have it all together stops you to tell you about something difficult they’re going through – without gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair – STOP. LISTEN. and help if you can.

I promise you that they’ll never forget it – and that person who doesn’t panic – who can carry the world on their shoulders without looking for all the attention – you’ll want them in your corner one day when you have your own things going on – and you couldn’t ask for anyone better.

 

Holidays and Unseen Illness

So I just found The Mighty the other day. How I missed it, I simply have no idea. But it’s brilliant.

They have a blog prompt that is a Holiday Wish List for those who are dealing with or related to someone who is dealing with a condition.

I don’t know if I’ve ever discussed that I was diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease – in the midst of the divorce (and no – it’s not gotten better) and it’s meant some major life changes. Yes – I have measurable and permanent hearing loss. Yes – I get intense episodes of dizziness that vertigo doesn’t start to cover – it’s full-on equilibrium failure. But mostly I have friends and family who simply can’t recall that I have dietary restrictions, and think that because they can’t see it, it’s all in my head.

With that in mind – here is my Holiday Wish List for people with Meniere’s and all other ‘unseen’ illnesses. And it won’t cost you a dime!!

  1. We wish that friends and family would understand when  we have to cancel at the last minute. I promise I don’t use my disease as an excuse – but unless you’d like vomiting and my head glued to your (hopefully) bathroom floor for several hours – you’ll have to trust that I know my limitations, and am only bowing out because it’s worse for you. Trust that I’d rather be there than dealing with this.
  2. We wish people would stop giving us a hard time about our conditions. I know we use humor as a coping mechanism, and understanding an unseen disease is difficult – but please try. It’s *not* funny when someone with Narcolepsy nods off. It’s *not* funny when someone with Meniere’s wobbles when standing or can’t hear you on one side of their head, or when someone with high-functioning anxiety suddenly feels as though they can’t breathe for no reason in the canned foods section of the store. Yes- we know it looks and seems ridiculous. Yes – we can take a joke. Yes – we can occasionally pick on ourselves for these aspects of our diagnosis or laugh with you. But when it’s constant – it gets old. As much as you may be tired of seeing/hearing about/dealing with the result of our condition, we’re 10,000 times more tired of experiencing it.
  3. We wish people would PLEASE take our diseases seriously. Don’t ask “How’s the ear thing?” or “Still dealing with that panic stuff?” Belittling it doesn’t make it any less real. We’ve all been guilty of this – girlfriends dealing with PMDD or difficulty conceiving, high-functioning anxiety and depression, the list goes on and on – if you haven’t experienced it, and can’t see it – it’s easier to blow it off than to realize that it has very real and daily impact on our lives. We’re usually trying our best not to let it bleed over to you – just because we’re doing a damn fine job of coping (thank you very much) doesn’t mean it’s easy.
  4. We wish for graciousness. In general, as a human, figure it out. It’s not that hard. In specific, don’t get pissy when I politely decline your food or ask what it’s marinated in – (unless you’d like me to ruin your newly redecorated powder room – see above). No – I can’t and won’t drink your cocktail. Yes , alcohol content matters, sodium content matters. So does sleep. Further – IT SUCKS. I want to drink that cocktail – oh so very much! I want to eat that gorgeous hunk of salami. But the price is simply too high. And don’t get all crappy – I’m not asking you to provide me with a special meal. I’ll eat what I can, and have faith, I almost always have a snack handy that I can munch on so we all have a lovely time!
  5. We wish for Love. If you love me, love me as I am right this moment. This might get better or easier. It might not. I have to shoulder this load, I wasn’t given a choice – no one said, “Hey Sara – would you rather have Meniere’s or break your right arm twice?” You absolutely don’t have to walk this road with me. But if you choose to, do it with kindness and love. I don’t just need a kick in the ass to get over it. I don’t need your tough love. It doesn’t work here. Just love me, care for me, cherish me, and I promise to do the same in return.