Do you have chronic illness?
Yes? You’re a liar. I’m a liar, too.
The problem with chronic illness is that it’s just that…chronic–always with us. If you could talk to your old self, the you before your illness, your old self would be freaking out about all the symptoms you’d be describing and extremely sad about how drastically life will change from pre-disease to where you are now.
You see, it’s generally a gradual onset. A symptom starts. You are forced to deal with it. You learn to manage that symptom and/or live with it. Slowly the symptom may worsen with you barely noticing it. Or, another symptom starts. You deal with it in addition to the previous one. You learn to manage that symptom and/or live with it. It’s a vicious cycle to which you adjust. Your “normal” is no longer what it was pre-illness. You develop a “new normal.” Your pain scales get readjusted. What would have been an 8 pre-illness on a 1-10 pain scale, with 10 being the worst pain ever, becomes a 5 for example.
Therefore, when family, friends and coworkers (especially coworkers) ask how you’re doing, your response may be “Fine,” or “I’m doing okay considering.” That’s called minimizing. We all learn to minimize our situation. It’s not always like that or like this for every person, but from my own experience and those I’ve chatted with in support groups, it’s a pretty common thing–minimizing.
Why do we do it?
There are a number of reasons.
- Not everyone needs or really wants to hear exactly how you’re doing.
- It’s a long, complex story to retell and explain over and over again.
- Most symptoms aren’t visible to others. So, we can have some sort of a feeling of our “old norma.” No special treatment.
- The more we tell everyone about our symptoms, the more we think we sound like whiners or complainers.
- It’s a bit of an escape from our internal realities.