Lessons In Resentment

Accepting help is a hard skill to master. In my life, that skill has been made less attainable by a certain type of person. They always volunteer to help me- I do not ask. But then they get in over their heads and instead of talking to me about it, they start to resent me. That resentment grows and grows to the point where they become abusive, suddenly kick me out of their lives, or turn me into a villain in their heads.

Recently, I was offered a place to live rent-free by two friends until I could receive disability or be able to work again. They offered. I did not ask in any way, shape, or form. I asked over and over again if it was still okay and over and over again was told that it was. I worried about being a burden and communicated this. I worried they wouldn’t talk to me if there was a problem.

However, over time they became less kind. Eventually, when I asked to be treated with kindness, everything blew up. I was called names, told I was using them, told they were actually trying to make me cry, and promised I would be kicked out if I kept acting how I was acting (asking to be treated with kindness). I was thoroughly confused until I heard, months after I moved out- from other people, that they were upset about money.

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All they needed to do is say something. But when things go unsaid? Resentment poisons relationships. It grows and grows until everyone has been hurt. Communication and honesty are the antidotes, but it is so hard to find people who realize this. All I had ever done was try to communicate when things were bothering me- if they had done the same it wouldn’t have ended in such an ugly way.

Instead of treating me like a human being and talking to me they got in over their heads and then hurt me. In the end, their “help” hurt me more. I would have rather struggled to pay rent than to be treated that way. I would have rather never had them in my life at all.

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I don’t share this story because it is a fun thing to reminisce. I share it because there is a clear lesson here I hope others can learn from.

Caretakers & Helpers

For those who volunteer to help someone- if you get in over your head SAY SO. Know your limits of what you can give. You aren’t being brave or saintly for pushing past these. All that exceeding those limits does is lead to resentment, and like I’ve said, resentment hurts everyone involved. If you take care of yourself you can better help others better as well.

People With Chronic Illness

For those being helped, hesitate taking help from people you don’t trust to communicate with you even if it is a difficult conversation. Even if you are receiving help, you deserve to be treated kindly. Don’t fall into the trap in thinking that you owe it to people who are helping you to be purposefully hurt, abused, degraded, humiliated, or mistreated in any form.

You are not a burden or responsibility to be put up with, but a human who should be treated as such. Anyone who loses sight of this doesn’t deserve to be in your life.

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The Problem With Telling Patients They Will Grow Out Of POTS

Telling a young person with a chronic illness that they will grow out of it sounds like fantastic news. With POTS, it is a trap that is easy to fall in. It feels lovely to give someone hope and good news who is obviously suffering, but when it is false hope it can cause some serious issues. It may sound strange, but when we are waiting for something horrific to end we stop actively living our lives. Everything becomes about what will happen after this terrible phase in their life. “I’ll finally start dating once I grow out of it.” “When I grow out of it I can have a social life again.” “When I grow out of it I can finally travel.”

As many as 1 in every 100 teens has POTS. Sometimes these teens grow out of POTS in ways adults seldom do. I was diagnosed with POTS when I was 18. Because I was right on the borderline it was assumed that I would grow out of POTS. I had at least 5 different doctors inform me I would grow out of POTS.

As a result, I stopped living and just survived, always waiting. When people are just living out the time in their life waiting for when things change very little joy enters their life. Waiting leads to not seeking out the things you love and not connecting to the ones you love. All the joy and happiness in your life is always in the distant future. Depression seeps in and for awhile you can withstand on hope for a healthy future alone. But when year after year it doesn’t come it gets harder to believe that things will change and suddenly all that you were living for slips away.

And the hope did slip away.
As I got older doctor’s stories changed. Instead of the confident outlook they had at 18, 19, and 20 things started to change when I turned 21. At 21 they told me, “You’ll probably still grow out of it.” I was heartbroken when it wasn’t true. At 22 they told me, “You could still grow out of it.” I was dismayed. And at 23, “It is unlikely you will grow out of it.” By 23 I was destroyed. At 24 and 25, there is no talk of growing out of POTS.

False hope hurts.
I started to feel lied to- stupid for looking forward to things. Not growing out of my condition led to a dissipation of trust, especially of the doctors who gave me false hope. Sometimes doctors in general. Why should I ever listen to them? I was convinced that because they lied to so many times and would do it again.

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False hope keeps us from coping with our illness.
When my illness felt temporary it was easy to just be in denial. I would pretend to be healthy, then push myself too far and be bed-ridden for weeks. I would try to go out with my friends, keep up with them, and then not be able to walk for the next two weeks. I convinced myself I was still a normal healthy teenager then came crashing down. But nothing was wrong. In doing so with my illness, I hurt myself in this stage of denial. Because it was all temporary I didn’t even bother dealing with my condition. As a result, I missed out truly living. If I had learned to manage and cope with my illness I wouldn’t have missed out on so much of life. I would have spent that time adapting instead of waiting. I could have spent that time learning to be happy despite my condition.

In the year before my 24th birthday, I came to terms with the fact that I am not one of the people who will grow out of POTS. Since I have had the best years in terms of coping. In no way has any of this been anywhere near easy. Letting go of that false hope, disappointment, anger, and frustration really helped me actually deal with what was happening and move on to live my life. I learned to cope; I adapted to survive.

I truly understand the instinct to tell people they will grow out of the condition. Even at the Dysautonomia International Conference, I found myself saying that I hope others would grow out of POTS. I know that false hope has made things harder for me so why would I impose that on other people? We want something to hold on to and to give others to hold on to. We don’t want to admit that the reality is that this is something we will have to deal with indefinitely. However, learning to adapt to POTS and live life despite it made for a far more satisfying life than waiting for it to pass.

My advice to anyone, likely to grow out of POTS or not, is to adapt and learn how to live your life and find happiness despite your condition- whether temporary or forever. Waiting for it to get better and putting your life on hold will only hurt you more. It is okay to have hope but don’t let your hope leave you frozen in place.

You Don’t Owe It To Anyone To Try Every Treatment

Two weeks ago I went in for an injection in my back. The doctor, instead of being focused on my pain and comfort, decided to use me seeing him as a platform to push alternative medicine on me. By the end of my time with him I was sobbing because I was so frustrated from not being heard. Since then I’ve come to the realization that I don’t owe it to anyone to try a treatment especially one that has not been backed up by science. I will no longer accept health care “professionals” who are judgmental about me not trying hard enough to cure myself.

In the beginning, 8 long years ago, when I first got really sick I tried everything. Every possibility of improvement I jumped on. Every time I got my hopes up and had them crushed again and again. As if that disappointment wasn’t enough, when these things didn’t make me feel all the way better it was always my fault. I must have not been following the diet close enough. I wasn’t practicing hard enough. No one considered the possibility that the treatment, one that hadn’t been verified as successful, just didn’t work.

When alternative medicine gets pushed on patients it is the patients that get hurt. Dealing with having your hopes crushed over and over is hard enough. Dealing both with that and with feelings of inadequacy when you are trying your best is even worse. In real medicine, if someone takes their meds and they don’t work they don’t get blamed for not trying hard enough. When one blood thinner doesn’t work me don’t blame the patient for not trying hard enough to thin their blood; instead the dosage is adjusted or a different medication is used. Real medical professions realize that medications and treatments work differently for different people.

You can bet I will be writing more on the subject, but here are some ridiculous highlights that came from my surgeon:

“Just try an anti inflammatory diet. I did and I feel like I’m 21 again!”

Talking to someone who has been in a ridiculous amount of pain since they were 18 about how you felt 21 is insensitive. Youth does not always mean health.

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“You’ll lose 21 pounds in 21 days.”

What are you an infomercial?!

 

“Inflammation is the cause of all your problems; you just need to cut it out.”

Actually, my genes cause all my problems. No diet will change that. Also, inflammation is not always a bad thing. It helps us heal, it lets us know when there is a problem. Saying an anti-inflammatory diet will fix everything is oversimplifying things. Didn’t you go to medical school?! Or we using “doctor” in a looser sense?

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“Do you eat gluten? You haven’t cut it out. That is your problem.”

I have cut it out. I tried that. Do you think you’re the first person to tell you that? Cutting out gluten is not the solution to everything.

 

“People drive from Kansas just to get this list, but I’m going to give it to you for free.”

Great a list of potentially dangerous supplements and unwarranted “medical” advice. My favorite.

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“Actually there is an entire edition of a journal dedicated to this.”

Yes, there are articles in academic journals about anti-inflammatory diets. They are written by chiropractors and nurses who monetarily profit from people trying anti-inflammatory diets. There is almost no information on any actual science behind it from credible sources. Just because the article is in an academic journal doesn’t mean it is reliable.

 

“You need to get off opiates.”

He said this one to me as I was sobbing in pain in front of him. He is not the doctor that manages them, it was not his business. He also said this after telling me that the nerve in my back was pinched and asking if I had surgery scheduled. When someone dislocates their shoulder they are given opiates. EDSers deal with that pain daily all of their body, but then are judged for needing pain relief. I haven’t slept a good nights sleep in four months due to pain, but yes I’ll stop opiates right away.

 

“You need to try biofeedback.”

I have. I even use some techniques for relaxation, but it didn’t cure me.

 

“You just didn’t see a good one.”

I saw one who is an expert to my condition.

 

“You have to practice more.”

I was practicing even more than they recommended. I tried at it. I really did, but when alternative medicine fails it is always the fault of the patient- not the alternative medicine.

 

“I treat people with EDS all the time.”

He had no understanding of EDS, prescribed me muscle relaxers (contraindicated to EDS), and obviously had no grasp of the condition. I really hope he was lying here and that no one with my condition has had to deal with his ignorance.

 

“Just try what the doctor is recommending.”

This one came from the judgmental nurse on staff. She said this after the doctor was done spewing his pseudoscience and after I had already said that I had done the research and there wasn’t science to back it up AND that I couldn’t eat most of what is in their proposed diet. Chronically ill people don’t deserve to be shamed for not trying things that are not backed by science.
Life with a chronic illness is hard enough. We don’t deserve to be harassed by people for not trying a treatment. I’m not saying that all alternative medicine is evil. For example, massage has helped me wonderfully. What I am saying is that people with chronic illnesses do not deserve to be harassed or judged for not trying hard enough for not trying every treatment under the sun. 

It Is Okay to Feel Like Giving Up: A Letter to Those Who Support A Chronically Ill Loved One

Dear Supporters of a Person Who Is Chronically Ill,

Today I want to give up. It happens every once in a while. Chronic pain is a fight you never get breaks from. It is all day every day, and lately for me it has been all night every night. Pain and lack of sleep have left me feeling incredibly discouraged. Sometimes I feel as if being in pain for this long warps my thoughts. All I want is a break from the pain. It is easy to want to give up when you can’t even get a break from pain while sleeping.

Additionally, I don’t feel like I can talk to anyone who usually supports me. I don’t feel like I am allowed to do anything than fight this every second of every day. I don’t feel like I am allowed to feel anything other than hope and inspiration. I don’t feel like I am allowed to be this discouraged.

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When you feel like giving up feeling isolated is one of the worst things you can add to the mix. I know I won’t give up. I know that I will push through because I always do. It would be really nice to not feel so alone in this feeling right now.

In the past, as I’ve talked to people around me about these feelings I have noticed a pattern. They listen long enough to get scared, shame me for feeling this way, and change the subject. I understand that is an uncomfortable subject. I really do, but when you respond in this manner the next time I feel this way I won’t feel like they can talk to you. That is where I sit today.

So I am here to tell you what I desperately wish someone would have told me a long time ago: there is nothing wrong with feeling like you want to give up. The important thing is that you don’t give up.

Do not shame us for feeling this way.

So many of us have to fight so hard every day- against pain, loss of friends, loss of social life, and loss of our healthy self. It is okay to feel tired from this battle. When you shame your loved ones for feeling this way you guarantee that they will not talk to you the next time they feel this way. That is the very worst time to feel alone.

You can remain supportive and positive without shaming them for feeling this way. If you do this then your loved one is more likely to seek out you to talk to rather than some terrible alternatives.

Don’t see this feeling as weakness.

Wishing you could give up isn’t a moment of weakness; it is expected when you are fighting an uphill battle against your own body.

Listen.

A lot of the time we aren’t looking for a solution. We just want support- someone to talk to. You don’t have to know the perfect thing to say. Sometimes you don’t have to say anything at all. Sometimes a hug or shoulder to cry one is the best thing you can do.

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Let us feel the full extent of our feelings.

Crying, screaming into a pillow, and cursing out your illness are all things we need to do sometimes. Let us feel all our feelings without judgement.

Get frustrated at the illness, not your loved one.

Dealing with chronic illness can be frustrating to the patient and those around us. You don’t have to be a saint and never get frustrated. Instead, direct the anger at the illness and not the patient. When they come to you frustrated you will be able to support them better and relate more to their struggle. When you tackle the problem together and see it as an obstacle to work through instead of a problem with your loved one you are much better at supporting others.

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Because you and your loved one are fighting the same battle (in obviously very different ways), you are often the one best equipped to understand and support. You probably have similar frustrations with your loved one’s illness. Use this to relate and empathize, but do not make their struggles about you.

Seek help when necessary.

It is not your responsibility or your fault your loved one feels this way. You aren’t expected to support us alone. Sometimes you will need help and that is okay.

If these feelings in your loved one are ongoing they might need therapy. Don’t demand they go. Suggest it and tell them how worried you are about them, how much you care about them, and that you want to continue to support them but you can’t do it on your own.