A while ago I read a fascinating article about phatic communication, or ‘small talk’. Phatic communication is speech which serves a purpose other than that implied by the words used. An example would be the question, “how are you?”
What this question is actually asking is, “how are you physically/mentally?” Yet how many of us actually answer this? And why don’t we?
It’s not because we’re being rude or ignoring the question. In fact, often askers are surprised when someone lists their current physical health in response! It’s because we understand that in our social context the question is often merely a greeting, a social nicety which has to be used before the ‘proper’ conversation can begin.
An example of phatic communication (small talk!)
Often when I run I call out a (breathless) ‘hi!’ or ‘good evening/morning!’ as I pass someone by. About 3 times out of ten, someone will reply. Out of that 30%, at least half reply with ‘good thanks’ or ‘I’m well thanks’ – despite the fact that I never asked if they were!
This is because they are so used to ‘how are you’ being part of ‘hello’ and other social niceties (or nonenties!) that they assume I’ve asked and thus reply automatically.
Continue reading “Why small talk is so important in chronic illness (& why I neglect it!)”
In every day life, most of us depend on our health – for the future, for happiness, for security. When your health or the health of a loved one is ripped away because of chronic illness, it’s easy to be left despondent.
After that awful, sinking feeling of having the foundation of your life pulled out from underneath your feet, our natural response it often to quickly rebuild.
We hunt desperately for a new foundation, a new hope. But what will it be? Sometimes it’s easy to break our hope into little bits and place it in different baskets.
3 places not to place your hope in during chronic illness
ONE: Medical Intervention
Continue reading “3 places not to place your hope in during chronic illness (and one place you need to!)”
I sometimes find that ‘encouragement’ feels like lying, especially when it comes to chronic illness.
I want to cheer up my sick family member or struggling friend, but when I search through my “encouragement vocabulary” the gems I unearth are phrases such as:
‘It will get better.’
‘God will heal you.’
‘Good will come of this, just you wait.’
These comments sound nice and hopeful. They are genuinely designed to lift someone’s mood – but often I find they don’t ring true.
How can I tell my loved one ‘it’s alright’ – when it’s clearly, obviously, not?
How can I promise them ‘it will get better’ or ‘God will heal you’ or ‘good will come’ – when this might not be the case?
Continue reading “7 ways to use words to encourage someone with a chronic illness (without lying)”
“There are more things in heaven and earth… than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” – Hamlet
We live in a big world. It’s 40 thousand kilometres wide, with 7.5 billion people. There are 2 thousand types of jellyfish and 3 thousand varieties of pears.
How often do you stop to ponder the universe?
If you are a Watcher or a Caregiver, sometimes the world does not feel that big. Our hours and thoughts are occupied with one person. Our daily routines may not take us particularly ‘far afield’. Life, which in reality is BIG, can feel (and be!) very small.
Oh no, you may protest. I don’t live in a bubble! I watch TV. I listen to the radio. I get the news on my phone.
That’s good… but it’s not the same as genuinely experiencing the world first-hand, is it? Media such as TVs, newspapers etc. can give us a sense of the “busyness” of the world, or the “angst” of the world – but do they really help us understand the “bigness” of the universe?
I don’t have time, you may counter. “Experiencing the world” (whatever that means) is a luxury I can’t afford. That’s for other more fortunate people.
Continue reading “Why you should widen your perspective (and how)”
Home is where your heart is. Your home is your castle. Home away from home. Home sweet home…. the sayings go on.
We assume home is a safe haven, a place of refuge and rest. Yet when chronic illness is involved, even our understanding of ‘home’ gets complicated.
“Is home a place of rest for you, if your Mum is ill all the time and you never know how she’ll be?”
A long time ago, somebody asked me this question. I was indignant. As a teenager, my thoughts ran like this: Are you suggesting that I come from an unhappy home? Firstly, it’s none of your business, and secondly I have a good family and a good home –
The truth is, I did (and do) come from a “happy home”. Yet the question made such an impact on me that I remember it all these years later, because it was something I’d never thought of before:
How does chronic illness in the family affect the definition of ‘home’?
Or, to be more personal: how does your family member’s struggle with chronic illness affect your home life?
Continue reading “How chronic illness changes your perspective of home (and what to do about it)”
A while ago someone I know was diagnosed with a chronic illness. After the initial diagnosis, she had to make an appointment to see yet another doctor. Before this appointment, I was chatting with her daughter and realised something rather abruptly: there is an art to accompanying someone to the doctor.
I’ve been to many doctors’ appointments in my life, both for myself and others. I’m neither proud nor ashamed of this, but I AM used to them.
And perhaps, not everyone is.
As a Watcher, a doctor’s appointment raises several questions: If it’s not for us, should we go? Is it important that we be there? What is our role? Are there reasons we shouldn’t attend?
Every situation is different and so is every person. I don’t think there are right or wrong answers, but I also think we can be a valuable asset at a doctor’s or specialist’s appointment. Here’s why:
Continue reading “Why you should attend your loved one’s doctor’s appointment (and how to be prepared)”
Get Well Soon cards are great for broken legs and pneumonia – but do you do when someone won’t ‘Get Well’ (soon or otherwise)?
If you’ve ever browsed a two-dollar shop (as we call them in Australia), you’ll know there are many types of cards you can purchase.
Happy Birthday; Congratulations on your baby/engagement/anniversary; My Sympathy; and Get Well Soon cards. This last category can be somewhat disconcerting in the context of a chronic illness.
Of course, the easy solution is to buy your card without those words printed on the front.
But the problem goes deeper than that – what do you write in a card for someone who’s not going to get better? Should you send a card at all? How often? What’s the point?
Continue reading “How to write a Get Well Soon card (to someone with a chronic illness)”
My dear sibling, I write because there’s something I need to put square between us. You see, we share so much – genetics, parents, upbringing. Out of all the people in the world, I am most like you. However much we may differ in temperament and character, our blood binds us together.
To my sick sibling,
Illness will always be something between us,
Yet there’s one thing we do not share. You are sick and I am not. You struggle with your health and it will always be something you think about, whereas my life is not like that. You have doctors’ appointments and medication and a whole world into which I can never enter fully.
I wonder, sometimes, how this makes you feel. Do you ever feel guilty when you get attention, or when people tell you how brave you are? Do you ever feel jealous of me? Do you ever look at me and wish we could swap lives, swap bodies, swap trials?
Do you ever want to strangle me, because I can be carefree and you must be responsible? Or do you ever hate yourself because you look at me and feel weak and needy in comparison?
Continue reading “An open letter to your sick sibling”
I’ve spent quite a bit of time in hospitals, both visiting Loved Ones and working. It’s made me realise that visiting someone in hospital is not quite the same as taking someone out for coffee or popping over to see someone at their house.
In fact, for many of us, visiting someone in hospital might be a novel, somewhat unsettling experience. Perhaps we have bad memories of other hospital visits, or perhaps we’ve never been to one before.
For others of us, a hospital visit might seem easy and we don’t understand why we can’t just pop in at any time with whoever we like.
While neither perspective is ‘wrong’ (and I have held both at different times) they can both miss the point.
Visiting someone in hospital is not about us, how easy or difficult it is, or how it makes us feel.
Visiting someone is about loving them.
Continue reading “How to make hospital visits less awkward”
When you’re an extrovert a chronic illness binding you to your home is an obvious torture. Yet what about those introverts among us? Is it easier for them?
Obviously there’s nothing ‘easy’ about having a chronic illness, but the question still stands: does a chronic illness impact an introvert in the same way as an extrovert?
And if so, what does this mean for us as we try and support our sick introvert friends?
I think the first thing we have to realise is this:
Sickness and introvert-ism are two very different things
Introverts recharge by ‘alone time’. If chronic illness means they spend large periods of time alone, well, surely that equals a lot of ‘recharging’, right?
Unfortunately it’s not that simple. Introverts do not get energy solely from being away from other people. Thus it is possible to be physically away from others but not re-charge.
You see, it is not restful to be alone but unable to think clearly. It is not relaxing to be alone but to have a pounding headache. It is not rejuvenating being alone when illness prevents you from dreaming and pondering and wondering!
Continue reading “How to love a chronically ill INTROVERT”