Why aren’t I allowed to say that chronic illness is not fair?

Perhaps you have been here:
A knock at the door.
You answer.
It’s a friend, a neighbour. She has just popped over for a chat.

She holds a covered dish:

‘Cooked a bit extra and thought you could do with a home cooked meal’.

She asks how we are, how our Loved One is.

She complains for a while about her work, and how tired she is from the high tea she went to on the weekend. She has another date with friends in a few days but unfortunately it coincides with the birthday of a family member:

‘It’s always the way isn’t it? Everything at once, so frustrating.’

She shifts on the door step:

‘Ah well, no rush to return the dish – we’ll be away for a few weeks.

Going on a cruise. Just a small one. I’m a bit worried actually, I’m terrified I’m coming down with a cold. There’s nothing worse than a sniffly nose!

Anyway, got to rush, I have a hair dressers appointment this afternoon. All the best!’

You juggle the still-warm meal and close the door, the hot smell of cheese and silver foil clouding the air.

After the door is firmly shut and the neighbour out of sight, you give the wood a short, hard kick.

It’s not fair!
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4 things to do when you run out of sympathy

As we know, chronic illness goes on and on and on.

There is no end, no use by date. This is a problem.

Because we are only human. We find it difficult to stretch out our emotions. A state of perpetual excitement, for example, is extremely difficult to maintain.

So is a state of sympathy.

Yet what happens when the tragedy has not passed (and may not pass) and our sympathetic feelings, our desire to be involved, our sadness in what is, has come to an end?

Do we simply give up?

Do we stop Watching?

First of all let us ask ourselves a probing question:

Why is lack of sympathy a problem?

Why is it a problem that we no longer feel interested in our Loved One’s suffering? Why is it an issue that we don’t wince as they wince any longer?

Is it really that wrong?

I suspect we want to instinctively answer ‘yes’. Yes, there is something wrong when we don’t care about suffering anymore.

That answer is right.

But it’s also wrong.

Everything becomes normal

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How to be prepared to talk about someone else’s illness

Answering questions about your Loved One takes a lot of getting used to.
Watching is unique in that people always have something to talk to you about.

Watching means that you, your Loved One, and their sickness, become common ground.

All of a sudden topics that under normal circumstances would require sensitivity, caution, a relationship or ‘easing into’ become a free for all.

And that’s hard to get used to. It never really becomes normal. People will always expect you to be able to answer deep, painful questions at a drop of a hat. Questions like:

How are you feeling?
Is it hard having a mum/dad/sibling/spouse/friend who is sick all the time?
How is your Loved One?
Does your Loved One get depressed?
Does your Loved One know that you find their illness hard?
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How to break the (bad) news of a diagnosis

Being told your Loved One has a chronic sickness, either physical or mental, is devastating.
Telling someone else can be even harder.

It is excruciating.

And the problem is, we all have more than one person in our lives. And so we are forced to tell the same sad story again and again.

This is not a post with a lot of answers. I’m not sure there are answers. But sometimes, empathy is enough. I pray that is the case here. For you. For me.

Breaking the news of a diagnosis is complex (we need to acknowledge this)

Every situation is different – and the truth is, we are going to have share in many situations. We all have best friends, distant friends, close family, family that live far away, colleagues, communities, church families, sport teams, school classes…. The list goes on.

Chances are, sharing with each of them will look different.

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Watching is a PRIVILEGE

There’s a reason this post is titled ‘Watching is a privilege’ rather than ‘Watching is easy’.

Am I going crazy?

Following on the heels of the previous post, ‘Watching is hard’, the title above seems incongruous. But be assured, what follows will not cancel out what was written previously.

Watching remains hard, very hard. But I’d like to propose that it is also a privilege. It is an opportunity, and a very unique one. You see, the world around us says that a good and normal life is one full of ease and comfort, luxuries and relational happiness.

That’s all very well, and ideally maybe such a life would be good and normal.

But we know it is not.
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7 Reasons Watching someone you love suffer is the WORST

Is there anything worse than seeing someone you love suffer? When my little sister was in hospital for three months, I thought many times it would be easier if it were me instead.

Me with a brain tumour.
Me shaking in pain.
Me screaming in agony.

But I wasn’t given the option to exchange lives. And you probably haven’t been either.

So in the name of honesty here are 7 reasons why watching someone you love suffer is the worst: are these reasons the same for you?

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Why you should use cliches when talking about chronic illness

Clichés fly thick and fast around the world of chronic illness.

Keep fighting. You’re so strong.

God has a plan.

It will turn out all right in the end.

He has his ups and downs.

Do these phrases make you wince? Does anger bubble up your throat when you hear them? Do they make you want to go on a hashtag rant on Twitter or write a Facebook essay speckled with ‘angry’ emoji?

I know the feeling.

Why we can’t get rid of clichés when we talk about chronic illness

Clichés are part of life. Some words simply fit better than other ones. And so we reuse them.

And reuse them, and reuse them…
… until they lose their meaning.

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Sickness and the Bible (references, disappointments and questions)

Some things in life are opposites. They can’t coexist because they cancel each other out. Fire & Water. Tiny & Huge.

Sometimes I am tempted to add ‘Sickness & Christianity’ to this list.

Some people will state it blatantly: there can’t be a god, because if there was, there wouldn’t be suffering.

Ie. If God existed, sickness would not.

Others may not state it that way, but they will believe it just the same. The topic makes them uncomfortable, and they don’t want to talk about it.

They’re afraid to look into it too deeply, because they know sickness is a reality, and they want God to be a reality too, to make them feel better about life. They want to keep their crutch.

Christians, of course, believe in Christianity. They stake their lives on it. And yet… they have to believe in sickness as well. They would be fools not to.

We, as Christian Watchers, know only too well that sickness exists – yet we claim God does too.

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Yes, you are a burden to your chronically ill friend…

Have you ever felt like a burden? To those around you? To your friends, your spouse, your community?
I have.

It’s easy to feel doubly burdensome when someone you love is ill or going through a tough time. You don’t want to add to their struggles… and yet somehow you accidentally end up doing so!

Are you a burden?
I am.

Sorry, but you are a burden

A burden is something troublesome. Something hard to get rid of. We can be burdened by duty, worry, conflict or disease.

But more often than not, our real burdens are people.

All relationships are burdensome. All attachments hurt. Friendship is ecstasy and agony.

When we love someone we worry about them. We weep when they weep, we laugh when they love. It is people – family, neighbours, friends, spouses – which hamper our futures and make our decisions doubly difficult.

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The one rule to survive a chronic illness diagnosis

How do you respond when a family member or friend is diagnosed with a chronic illness?
How can you possibly support them in their grief?

There are many practical, emotional and spiritual ways you can (and should!) love and care for them – but there’s one thing that I think is most important. It’s a mindset, not a method…

The one rule of a chronic illness diagnosis:

Do not judge.

1. Everyone’s diagnosis is different

A diagnosis might be quick – or drawn out

For some people diagnosis comes quickly, a lightning spring shower swooping out of nowhere, tearing the sky apart. One moment they are healthy and happy – and the next they’re crying in pain and fear.

For others it’s more gradual, like following a paper trail, picking up pieces of the puzzle one at a time until everything makes sense, and the sneaking suspicion is confirmed.

It’s important to remember that however a chronic illness diagnosis begins, it still must be lived through, and this can take a very long time.

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