Talking To Loved Ones About Your Chronic Pain or Illness
Here's what you need to know.
Talking to friends and family can be scary, but it doesn't need to be. You may be insecure about your future or not know what to say. The information in this article may help you.
Before The Talk
Before you talk to your friends and family, you will want to be prepared. Here are three tips to help you.
- Know your stuff. Learn, at least, the basic information about your illness so you can be prepared to answer their medical questions.
- Be prepared for them to not understand how you feel. If they don't have a chronic illness, they probably won't understand what it's like to have a chronic illness. They may never understand. That isn't their fault. If they cannot be compassionate or empathetic, that is their fault.
- People may react differently. Many people want to know how they will be affected. Will roles in the home change? Will you die? Will your illness get worse? Is there a cure? People may be in denial, get angry, not believe you, or they may be full of empathy and compassion. You never know.
How To Talk About Your Illness
I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 2004 and Degenerative Disc Disease in 2014. When I told my family and friends about my Fibromyalgia diagnosis, many didn't know what it was. I didn't know what to expect. I did my homework about Fibromyalgia but had never mentioned my health problems to my family. They live in a different state and the process of diagnosis took several months. When I told my friends and family about my Degenerative Disc Disease diagnosis, many of them also had it. Some of them wondered why I had it worse and doubted the diagnosis or severity of my illness.
Here are eight tips on how to talk to your loved ones.
- Write a letter as if you are telling your loved ones all about your illness. What is it? How does it affect your body, mind, spirit, and emotions? What can you continue to do and what can you not do anymore? What kind of support do you need? What can they do for you? You don't have to mail the letter, though you can if you want to. This letter will help you organize your thoughts. You can have it with you to read to your friends and family, or to use as a guide during the conversation.
- Be in a comfortable place for the conversation. A quiet corner in a restaurant may be a good place to tell a few people. The family living room may be a better place.
- Wear something in which you feel confident and comfortable.
- Have a supportive person with you. I know of one person who took a friend to a doctor's appointment. I take my husband to some of my doctor's appointments so he knows what's going on with my Degenerative Disc Disease. It helps him to know what I can and can't do for myself. These appointments usually mean surgery is coming up or I've just had surgery. A supportive person can help others understand what is going on with your illness and how it will affect others.
- Clearly state your feelings and needs. If someone tries to negotiate with you, a spouse or child, for instance, don't allow yourself to compromise any more than you are certain you can. It may be better to say you don't know what you will be able to do yet, but you are willing to try.
- Be calm and sure of yourself. Don't let anyone's reaction throw you off your purpose.
- Accept any reaction you get. We don't always get what we want. Your loved ones will have their own fears and concerns. As time passes and they understand more about what the future holds, negative or fearful attitudes may change.
- After you tell your loved ones about your illness, remain who you are as best you can. Having chronic pain or illness doesn't mean you have different values, personality, likes, or desires. Continue to talk about those things. Continue to go places and do the things you would normally do. I realize you may not be able to do all those things. Do what you can. Don't talk only about your illness. Your illness isn't you and it's definitely not the only part of your life.
By following these tips, you can open a dialogue with your friends and family based upon your needs and correct information about your chronic pain or illness. Please comment below with any tips you would add to my list.
Thank you for reading this post. If you find these tips useful, please consider giving me a tip to support me and my writing.
All the best to you and yours.
Julie Hodges, The Pain Guru