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!)”
“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)”
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”
Have you ever sailed into an argument or situation with all cannons blazing… only to realise later that you should have just let the matter drop?
Have you ever fought long and hard for someone else – and then wondered whether you’re actually doing the right thing?
I have to admit, I have a tendency to get caught up “in the moment”. With the adrenaline rushing through my veins, I find it only too easy to believe that my right is the only right and it needs to be defended at any cost.
Of course, this just gets more complicated when it’s not my own battle that I’m fighting.
As Watchers we are often called to fight on someone else’s behalf. But what if sometimes fighting is not the best course of action? What if sometimes the right thing is to step back and put down our arms?
How are we to know?
Continue reading “When NOT to fight someone else’s battle (even if you want to)”
If you’re like me, there are times when you are ‘rearing to go’ when a disagreement comes up.
Someone needs you to stand up for them? Done. Need to make a complaint? Done.
Need to convince the well-meaning shop assistant to check out the back for more stock? Done.
… Some days the last thing you want to do is rub against the grain. Instead you want to take the back seat, keep your head down and maintain the peace. You’d rather deal with the consequences later rather than speak up in the moment.
There’s nothing wrong with this – except in the context of chronic illness sometimes the consequences aren’t ours to absorb.
As Watchers, caregivers and loving friends, sometimes we are called to fight our Loved One’s battles, not our own. When we give up, they are the ones who suffer for it.
So what do we do?
Continue reading “Why you SHOULD fight someone else’s battle (when you’d rather not)”
“Oh look at all those other people with their lollipops and rainbows, skipping hand in hand in a luscious field of poppies. If only that was me. Instead here I am in my dark corner with my pet spider and my burden of responsibility.”
Which character would you be in a novel?
The love interest?
Some days it’s easy to feel like the victim. The character that gets smacked over the head with a tonne of Tragedy just so the hero can realise that yes, the world does need saving. I’d better find my cape…
You might not struggle with your health on the same level as your friend or family member with a chronic illness, but it can still feel like you’ve got the raw end of the deal.
After all, your life has been disrupted too! You have added responsibility, added financial strain, added demands on your time and energy. On top of all that you spend a lot of time in close quarters with someone who is unwell (and the truth is, unwell people aren’t always as much fun as ‘well’ ones – I personally turn into a monster when I have the flu).
When you feel overlooked and depleted it’s easy to imagine that your identity is not in being a Watcher, but rather a Victim (yes, with a capital V).
Continue reading “O woe is me! (Watchers, we are not Victims)”
There are seasons for all of us where we are not able to do all we want. When chronic illness enters the picture, these seasons can be long indeed. It can be especially difficult when we are unable to serve or help our local community.
For those of us who are part of a church, a neighbourhood, a sports club or a community group we know what it is to volunteer our time and energy. It is a worthwhile and often enjoyable experience.
It can be challenging and even draining, but there’s something about working as part of a team toiling towards a common goal that can be very uplifting.
If you are a Christian, it is also part of fulfilling Jesus’ command to “love your neighbour”.
Yet illness can get in the way of even our most passionate desires to serve. Being available for a Loved One struggling with their health can mean we are unable to give of our time or energy.
So what do we do?
Continue reading “What to do when you are unable to serve your local community due to sickness”
What does it look like for us to love and serve other people besides our family member with a chronic illness? Is it possible? Is it necessary?
I’ve written previously about serving with a chronic illness, and serving overseas when someone you love has a chronic illness. But what about serving in your local church or community?
Should you serve your local community if your family member is sick?
If you are part of a local church or community, there are probably numerous opportunities to serve. Often during a Sunday morning worship service alone, you could potentially:
Play a musical instrument
Do a reading or announcement
Usher people in
Open up/lock up the building
Help in baby sit
Teach in Sunday school
Clean up the kitchen/building
… and that’s all within the space of about two hours! Throughout the week there are often many other situations in which you can fulfil the Biblical commandment to serve and love one another.
Yet it’s not that easy, is it? Those of us who have a family member with a chronic illness can find all the opportunities to serve somewhat daunting. There is so much need… and yet perhaps we find ourselves ill-suited to fill it.
Continue reading “How to serve your local community when your family member is sick”