Job 19:14 – My relatives have gone away; my closest friends have forgotten me.
Many times disbelief and cruel opinions surround us when we have multiple health conditions.
They question us:
Out comes the measuring spoon; no, out comes the ladle as you’re covered with a cloak of shame and guilt. But what these naysayers are missing is that you are doing the best that you can do in the situation that you’re in. Try to find comfort in those few words, “I’m doing the best I can do.”
You are not a failure. You are not faking your pain. You are not just exaggerating. Every day you’re suffering, yet you walk through your day. Every day you fight giving up, but you don’t. And, you’re the only person who has to believe that you’re not just making excuses for yourself.
Having multiple health conditions not only affects the opinions others have of us, but we can also begin to doubt ourselves. Reverehealth.com, in their article, “6 Tips to Self-Manage Multiple Chronic Conditions,” provides ways to help us cope. One of their suggestions is to consider behavioral health counseling. People with chronic conditions are more likely to experience depression, but the opposite is also true: people with depression are more likely to develop chronic conditions. Also, keep track of your symptoms and progress. You may find using a paper journal helpful, but there are also apps that can help such as mymedicalinfoapp.com, medisafeapp.com, and sympleapp.com.
And remember, don’t let others’ disbelief that you battle multiple health conditions cause you to wear a cloak of shame. Job was a man in the Bible who had suffered multiple tragedies in his life including a chronic health condition. He felt abandoned by his relatives and closest friends because they believed it was Job’s fault. It wasn’t. God helped Job see that he would never forsake him, and in the end, his life was blessed. God knows that you’re not “faking” your health conditions. He will walk with you through the chastisement of others and will hold you together.
James 5:12 – Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear – not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.
When living with chronic pain, at what cost does my saying “yes” bring when being asked to do something?
If you constantly push your needs down inside you where no one can see them, and say, “Yes,” to whatever someone is asking you to do, how does that make you feel?
So you see what happens? When you’re not being honest and say, “Yes,” when you want to say, “No,” you risk a break down. Your body says, “Enough!”
What are some things that you can do to change not only the outcome of a conversation with someone, but help maintain good relationships?
Here’s one idea – There’s strength in the words, “Let me think about it,” and, “I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.” It doesn’t mean that you’re going to excuse yourself from helping others. It just means that taking a few minutes or hours to sort through their request is okay.
Creakyjoints.org has some other ideas in their article, “Here’s Some Much Needed Advice for Saying No to Plans When You Have a Chronic Illness (Without Feeling Totally Lame). One of their suggestions is to have an elevator speech ready. Don’t be caught off guard when well-meaning friends and family bombard you with questions or try to guilt you to attend a gather. Try a narrative like this, “I know I look fine on the outside but my joints hurt so much I can barely move. Sometimes I feel exhausted. This is a real medical condition, and I need your support.”
When faced with a situation that you know you can’t say, “Yes,” to try to be prepared ahead of time in your mind what you can say to decline when you aren’t able to fulfill someone’s request. Even the Bible verse above says to not try to convince someone why you have to say, “No.” Just let your “Yes” be yes and your “No” be no. There’s freedom in sticking to your boundaries. Then, when you are having a good day, your friends and family will appreciate your company all the more.
Romans 12:15 - Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
In the distance you see someone you know coming your way.
They’ve been suffering with a disease that causes great pain for some time. In the flash of a moment, your thoughts are running quickly into your head wondering if they saw you or not. Maybe you could just turn down the next isle, and get away without them seeing you and having to talk to her.
In some ways you want to know how she’s doing, but then, what would you say? You’ve already talked to her before and stumbled through trying to find something to say when you can tell, just by looking at her, that she’s hurting.
Put yourself in their shoes. Think about how you would feel if people started avoiding you because they’re uncomfortable around you. They know, just by looking into your eyes, that you’re at a loss not knowing how you could help them.
Don’t turn away. What you don’t know is a few kind words to someone in pain can bring hope and a healing balm to the soul. Keep walking toward them. You may be the only person they see all day that wants to at least try to be there for them.
Here are some ideas on what you can say to a person who is suffering and what not to say on medium.com in their article, “Say This, Not That When Someone is Hurting,” such as don’t say, “I know what you’re going through,” because you can’t know what they’re feeling. Also, never use the words, “It could be worse.” It may be true, but it’s also thoughtless.
When you have a friend who is in pain, it can be difficult to know how to start a conversation. You may even try to avoid your friend for fear of making things worse. Reach out to your friend anyway. Just like the Bible verse above says, we are to rejoice when our friends rejoice and mourn with them when they mourn. Just being with your friend may be the greatest gift you can give them.
Isaiah 52:12 - But you will not leave in haste or go in flight; for the LORD will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.
Let’s say you’re driving down the road and all of a sudden your car starts making an unusual sound. You pull over, open the hood and take a look at the engine. At first glance you can’t see anything wrong, but truthfully, unless someone taught you the basics about a car’s engine you probably won’t know what’s wrong. You get back into your car and decide to risk driving it down the road and to a automotive show to get it checked out. The problem is, when you get there, you turn off the engine and when a technician comes out to check on your car after it’s started there’s no noise coming out of the engine. Your shoulder’s slump. Here we go again.
He doesn’t believe what he can’t see.
You’re at your kitchen table working on your budget when suddenly; your refrigerator begins to make a load banging noise. So you pick up your phone to call a repair shop and just before the repairman arrive, the noise stops. Great, you think. Now he’ll never believe me that my frig is broken.
He doesn’t believe what he can’t see.
This line of circumstances can be applied to any number of vehicle or appliance issue where they have made a strange noise or broken down suddenly.
But did you know that this same line of thinking can apply to your health or a chronic pain condition? Here are some examples:
Your leg has been hurting for over two weeks. It hurts when you stand on it, so you decide to make an appointment with your doctor. At your appointment, the doctor begins to examine your leg. You explain that it only hurts when you walk on it. The doctor orders some x-rays, but the films show no sign of broken bones or torn tendons. He comes back in to tell you the results and you slowly shrink inside.
He doesn’t believe what he can’t see.
This type of appointment can apply to any number of things that can go wrong with your body that you can’t see with an x-ray or an MRI. A disease may be diagnosed with further testing, such as blood tests, which can come back positive for an active illness. Your doctor believes you.
He believes you because he can see it.
But what about conditions such as fibromyalgia or other chronic pain conditions. These often have no tests that can prove what is going on. So you try to explain to your doctor your symptoms, but you can see the way the doctor looks at you and you slowly shrink inside.
He doesn’t believe what he can’t see.
Let’s take a look at ways to prepare for the appointment so that your doctor will believe you. Bupa.co.uk posts the article, “How to Prepare for Your Doctor’s Appointment,” in which they give some clues to be better prepared such as talk to the doctor about one thing at a time. Many doctors are limited in the amount of time they have with a patient and may only be able to handle one problem per visit. In the article, it discusses that if you need to cover more than one problem, write them down in order of importance. Also they recommend a list of questions to ask the doctor about your health issue.
Sometimes we get frustrated when trying to convince a service repairman of our doctor that there really is a problem because they don’t believe what they can’t see. But all they really need to do is look a little deeper. Take a look at the Bible verse above. The Israelites were in danger, but God comforted them by telling them that he would go before them and would also be their rear guard. God also goes before me and you, and when someone doesn’t believe us because they don’t see a problem, God will always have our backs and give us the wisdom we need to walk through our circumstances. God helps us to know that though no one may believe us, God always will.
Psalm 22:24 – For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.
We look on the outside of a person and see them as one whole person, but there are also individual body parts at work:
Each part moves as one unit with each part doing its job. But sometimes the job of the body is given up to chronic health conditions.
Each part still acts as a whole with the pain in one part of the body, but it can cause pain to radiate into another.
When speaking to someone about your pain, they may not understand why you have so many chronic health conditions.
Sometimes there’s no convincing someone that your body is pieces of a whole acting in rhythm to the beat of pain, but it is worth trying to understand.
Relationships can become strained when one person has multiple health issues and the other person doesn’t. Learning how to have conversations with someone ill can seem daunting, but learning how to approach someone with health conditions can actually strengthen relationships. So what are some ways that we can communicate with our family and friends, and what kinds of things can we do to help them?
CNN.com addresses what not to say to someone who’s suffering and what we can do to help them instead in their article, “Talking to Someone With a Chronic Illness.” One of their suggestions is to tell them that you don’t know what to say, but you do care about them, and letting them know you’ll be going to the store and ask what you can pick up for them.
Little-by-little if others begin to treat the one who’s suffering with compassion and understanding, the one who feels like pieces of a whole will know that we care about all of their needs.
God also cares about the one with multiple health conditions. He doesn’t turn away from them or despise them for it, nor does he disbelieve what is happening. Instead he doesn’t hide his face from them but listens to their cry for help. We also can listen to their cry for help and then respond to them regardless of what we think about their many health conditions.
Jeremiah 29:1 - This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.
I remember times when my pain was at its worst. I didn’t think that I could stand one more minute of the burning and pounding pain. Then, I received a card from a friend. The card meant so much to me. There is just something tangible about holding a letter or a card in your hands.
Cards are a dying breed. Everyone uses Facebook or texts. They don’t send out written cards. Don’t get me wrong, I do like to relieve Facebook “happy birthdays”, but the sentiments can get lost in time as other messages in your feed take over. Where a card you can hold and read for years.
Whether it be someone who is sick, injured, are in pain or if someone close to you dies a card can make all the difference.
Now that you’ve decided to send out a card, what do you write in it? Your hand hovers over the blank page next to the quotes on the card. You’re not sure how to start. Here’s an article posted on ideas.hallmark.com titled, “Get Well Wishes: What to Write in a Get Well Card,” such as “hope you feel better every day,” and “looking forward to seeing you back at practice when you’re ready.” The article also includes what to write to family and friends, or to a child.
In addition, here are some ideas for what to write in a sympathy card, also from ideas.hallmark.com titled “Sympathy Messages: What to Write in a Sympathy Card,” such as “Sending healing prayers and comforting hugs; I’m sorry for your loss.” Hallmark also has suggestions for what to write in birthday cards, “Birthday Wishes: What to Write in a Birthday Card,” such as “Happy birthday to one of my favorite people in history ever.”
In Bible times messages were all written letters. They were sent by couriers from one place to the next. They could take days to months for that letter to arrive. Take a look at the kind of difference a letter made in the Bible verse above. A letter had been written by Jeremiah, the prophet, to the elders who were taken when king Nebuchadnezzar conquered Israel. The letter was important because the message of what was happening was written in it. It was received by the elders, priests and people who were exiled. It contained news about how long they would be in exile. His letter told the people to settle down and build houses. They were going to be there for seventy years before they would be freed from their captivity.
Letters and cards have been important for centuries. Let’s keep our eyes on how that card or letter would be received. I believe that anyone would be glad when they receive it. Now that you’re armed with ideas, take out that card and start writing!
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 - Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
Being lonely and having a chronic health condition can travel hand-in-hand.
It’s not that we dislike having company. We love it when someone drops by for a visit. However, even talking with your friend can become tiring. You don’t want to hurt your friend so you just continue to visit, but when the pain you experience starts to rise and worsen it can become almost impossible to continue visiting.
How do we stop the conversation in an understanding way and then end our friend’s visit? This is a tricky road to travel down. And so, many times we don’t encourage visitors to see us. This is not just sad for our friend; it brings us sadness as well.
What we have to understand is that there is a real physical and mental drain on your body when you are with someone else. Because of this:
One thing that may help is to explain the road we are traveling to our friends. Some may back away from us, but some will also want to help and comfort us even more.
What are some ways that we can continue to have friends drop by even when our chronic illness tries to steal what little strength we have? One way is to keep the visits shorter. Try having your friends come by more frequently and for shorter periods of time.
Another question is how do we become a good friend to others with our limitations?
Themighty.com posts an article titled, “How to Be a Great Friend When You Have a Chronic Illness.” The article suggests ways to keep your friends such as being willing to forgive them because everyone messes up sometimes, and educate them on what you need.
Life doesn’t have to be over because we live with a chronic health condition that steals our strength and brings physical pain. We can still develop friendships and enjoy the company of those who care about us. Just as the Bible verses above talk about, two are better than one. So don’t give up on making life-time friends. There are people out there who won’t leave our side. If we should fall down, they will be there to pick us up, and we can also be there for them.
Proverbs 31:9 - Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.
First, it must be noted that having any kind of housing is a blessing even if it’s low-income housing. So many today live on the streets and don’t have the luxury of a roof over their heads.
It’s difficult for those of us who live on Social Security Disability, due to chronic health issues to not only live in low-income housing, but sometimes our families think less of us and feel we’re not trying hard enough to climb out of our situation.
We’d like to be able to hold down a job and pay for our housing with our paychecks, but when you’re unable to do so this also can take away from what you think of yourself and certainly what your family thinks of you.
It’s like a chasm that separates two parts of a city. One side has the things they need to provide for themselves and their families, while on the other side stands someone who lost their job due to layoffs thus sending their family into poverty.
I believe it’s time to build a bridge between those who have much and those who have little. But instead of being willing to build that bridge, we see judgmental attitudes and they are unwilling to help build the bridge. It takes both sides of the city to build the bridge. One side can’t do it by themselves.
So how do we make the public, and especially our families, understand how much it hurts to be judged and feel less of a person, because we live in low-income housing?
In the article, “Just the Facts: Poverty Myths and Stereotypes,” on justharvest.org, it provides answers that refute the myths of poverty such as poor people are unmotivated and have weak work ethics.
As I spoke of in the case above, where the head of the household lost their job, it’s unacceptable to judge them. They may be out hitting the pavement every day looking for a job, but have been unable to do so.
In the end, learn from the Bible verse above the next time you find yourself judging another. We are to defend the rights of the poor and needy. And it wouldn’t hurt if we could lend a hand building a bridge that stands to unite those less fortunate in the with those who have an abundance.
Job 12:13 - To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his.
Your cell phone rings. It’s a friend you haven’t seen or spoken to for over three months. You start out with having only a few minutes on break at work when the next time you look at your phone you realize you’ve been talking for over forty-five minutes. You take a look around and sigh. Your supervisor isn’t in sight, so you say goodbye to your friend and rush through the rest of your day to catch on the work that should’ve been done a long time ago.
Distraction. That’s one of the things that cell phones cause. They distract you from your work as you check on Facebook every hour.
They distract you from your family, as you text back-and-forth a friend instead of spending face-to-face time with your family.
Or, how about the rudeness of continuing to slide through your apps while you are with someone.
In addition to talking on your cell phone, texting while driving has resulted in serious car accidents.
Cell phones have not been around for very long, but long enough that a large portion of our population spend more than just a few minutes on their phones, but instead they spend hours on their phone daily.
With all of the texting, scrolling, and talking on cell phones there are studies coming through that not only are cell phones hurting our relationships they are having a real physical effect on our health.
Abcnews.go.com has an article about the negative side effects of cell phones in their article, “7 Surprising Ways Cell Phones Affect Your Health,” such as bacteria that lives on the surface of your phone and how texting takes a toll on your thumbs.
Though, yes, there are many negative effects of prolonged cell phone use, there are also positive benefits such as staying in touch with your family when an emergency occurs and letting others know when you’re ill.
They also make it easier for family and friends to exchange photos and you can see what is going on in their life though they live many miles away.
There also is the positive of being able to research on Google on your phone instead of needing to do so on your computer. This allows you to make more informed and faster decisions. The cell phone is mobile so you can research the pricing and benefits of purchasing products before you place an order.
Itstillworks.com posts the article, “The Cell Phone: Positive Impacts on Society,” lists some of the positive impacts such as helping people with speech difficulties.
It’s important that you be aware of the negative and positive effects of cell phone usage on your health and life. Choose to use hands-free devices or wait to make that phone call after you are home. Make a point to not check your Facebook account or answer a text until after you finish a face-to-face conversation. And if you are addicted to checking your status, turn your phone off once you are home and give it a rest.
God will give you the wisdom to know when you need to cut back on your cell phone usage time. He understands that there are positive effects on your relationships by staying in touch, but he also knows when you’ve been on your phone in excess.
Matthew 10:31 - So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
When you hang up the phone or end a conversation in person, do you immediately begin an internal conversation criticizing yourself for what you just said? Do you feel like you’ve said the wrong thing? Even your line of thinking can come into count.
And on and on it goes. Each day you tear yourself apart; doubting all of your recent and past conversations with others.
When you have questions about your worth and value, it can be easy to turn your conversation clothing inside out.
Sometimes the reason you beat yourself up so much is that other people criticize you as well. You feel like you have to walk on eggshells with some people; especially your family.
Your family knows your weaknesses and if they hold something against you they may attack you through your conversations to try to make up for what they feel you did to them.
But even if you win an argument that you have with your family or friend, it doesn’t always help. You still tear apart the argument and find ways you could’ve said things differently.
So what does all of this have to do with chronic pain or an illness? When we are in physical pain it can cause us to be handicapped in our conversations with others. We don’t always think as clearly, whether just from the pain or from the medications we take. This then also adds to the weight of how little we think of ourselves and our conversations.
Here are some ideas in the article, “Negative Self-Talk: 9 Ways to Silence Your Inner Critic,” on huffingtonpost.com to help you learn to stop being so critical of yourself such as asking yourself, “What would my best friend say.”
You may find that as you learn to stop your inner critic, you won’t take apart conversations you have with someone. We all make mistakes, but healing can begin when we let go of those mistakes and start including some of the suggestions in the article above. You might also discover that you do have worth and value after all.
Karen Dalske is a freelance writer, public speaker, is active in her church and writes her blogs out of her own experiences of pain, illness and loss.