“Bus is coming, it’s time to leave
the summer’s gone, and so are we…”
“Let’s go shut it down in New Orleans…”
“Miami” – Counting Crows
It’s hard to say goodbye to the extensive time off I’ve had these past 2 months. When I first started teaching, I worked every summer, as well as an extra job on weekends or in the evenings to catch up and pay the bills leftover from divorce. Summers and evenings during the school year were spent slinging coffee, teaching, or both. But for the past few years, and especially now that I’m dealing with Lyme, summers are truly “time off.”
Since we are heading back sooner than soon to teach the young minds of America, my brain is shifting into overdrive. I’m thinking about overhauling one of the courses I teach. Without boring you too much with the details, the overarching theme is the American Dream. It’s a great theme. BUT, I’m seriously wanting to spice it up a bit. We’ll see.
Anyway, I would like to be able to share some of my ideas and get some feedback from you periodically. So, I am creating a new category for these posts. What might these posts entail?
1. Cool stuff related to the content that may come in handy for me later on ( and Lyme is sincerely stunting my short term memory right now)…
2. Ideas for teaching visual rhetoric and argument. I need to
do way more of this with my students.
3. Just writings, songs, authors, art, whatever related to the content I teach, and things I like and love. Like Henry David Thoreau. Or Ralph Waldo Emerson. Or….
4. Lessons I find that are awesome and that I can modify – maybe – to use in my classes (with permission of creators, of course).
5. Ideas for integrating yoga poses. This one is a stretch (and yes, pun intended!) But, I’ve read some research that using yoga with students can be a positive! More info needed along with a lot of consideration for logistics, student participation, etc. This may not be something I can really do this year.
I just wanted to give you a head’s up that I will be doing these posts randomly so you aren’t like, Say What? Yes, I will continue to blog mostly about my journey with Lyme.
With this American Dream stuff though, I will need some help. So get your brains in gear, too!
Hoping your evening is going well. Here’s some Counting Crows for your segue into sleepy time. Peace -b
As a recently inducted member of the Chronic Illness Club (CIC, if you will), I joined several online support groups. And now, 3+ years later, I see many posts about this topic. Many times, as Chronic Illness People, we struggle with how to respond when someone asks us how we are doing. Why do we struggle? Because all of the time, most of the time, there is some pain or symptom(s) we are dealing with at the moment. So when we are asked this question, we feel trapped. We debate on what we should say: Should I say “I’m fine” even though I really am not? Should I say “I’m good” and hope that next time, if I say I am not so good since chronic illness symptoms wax and wane constantly, the other person will understand? For those who have never had nor been around someone with a chronic illness, it sincerely can be a difficult thing to understand completely.
If you have a chronic illness, then quite possibly I am preaching to the choir about the misunderstanding part. And many times, as members of the CIC, this is where we can severely get bogged down in these encounters with our unrealistic expectations, our over-analysis, and our misconception that there is a lack of empathy from others. Yes, there are times we will have encounters where the other person does not meet our minimal expectations,where this other person does not empathize at all. But I hope I can convince you that these negative encounters are or will be guaranteed to be few and far between after you check out my tried and true tips! So without further ado…..
3 Tips for Responding to “How Are You Doing?” :
1. “I’m OK, how are you doing?”
While this may seem like is an obvious one, let’s explore the root of why we may not want or don’t use this response more often and why we often are frustrated after we have the interaction. As CIC members, sometimes, we feel guilty merely stating “I’m OK” because in truth, we aren’t. Many times we are dealing with invisible symptoms, ones that can be very painful and/or ones that make us feel terrible inside such as headaches and nausea. Somehow, we feel that if we do not respond with the absolute truth that we are lying. On the other hand, sometimes we use this response but we really mean, “I feel like CRAP!” and when the other party doesn’t read our mind, we get frustrated, angry, and hurt. We think that the other just doesn’t care about us because he/she didn’t “get” that we merely stated the pat answer but expected a much different response. I know I have done this many times as I have tried to navigate chronic illness and communication. It’s tough. But, none of us are mind readers. If you want someone to know anything, you must tell them in concise words. That’s just how it works.
2. “I had a rough day yesterday, but I’m doing a little better today.”
With this response, perhaps it will feel a bit more authentic and truthful. We have days, hours, minutes, where we have relief, and we can enjoy ourselves. But those moments can change on a dime as we well know. One of the hardest things, I think, for others not in the CIC to understand is how quickly symptoms can change. It was a challenge for me when I first became ill to get the hang of this game! One minute I can be decent. I can hold a conversation with absolutely no problem. Yet, not 5-20 minutes later, I am suffering severe nausea, and I am experiencing word-loss. This occurrence is hard enough for those of us experiencing this to discern, let alone someone who had no idea how this works. Personally, I like this response or a modification of it because I’ve found that people can understand it and relate to it on some level. Another version of this might be “I had a great day yesterday, but today is tough.” Most people get this kind of a statement.
3. “I’m really not doing too well today, but thank you for asking.”
This may result in the other person not knowing how to reply, but in my limited experience, people get this one as well. While you are not explaining the sordid details of why you are not feeling well (you can save that for your BFF who REALLY gets it), you are telling the person, hey I’m not doing too hot. Also, you are acknowledging his or her effort and thoughtfulness to check in on you. Look, bottom line is that if every interaction with us becomes a negative or an uncomfortable one for the other party, it probably won’t happen much, if at all after awhile. This is just human nature. We move towards positive interactions and away from negative ones. Granted, sometimes this can trigger more questions, but maybe that is a good thing! It can open the door for us to have a candid conversation about our illness. This can also lead to more positive interactions, as well as more understanding and empathy.
Regardless of how we respond to the question above, in the end, it isn’t the other person’s responsibility to make us feel a certain way, nor his or her obligation to “guess” what we mean. I know, I know. Psycho babble. But it is to our advantage if we can make these interactions more positive and less stressful for ourselves. All in all, others are sincerely trying to be kind and caring. While this isn’t as easily done with us, it can work. These small and yet important connections with others can be spirit lifting. It can help of feel connected to something bigger than ourselves. It can help us feel less isolated and less misunderstood.
Do you have any tricks or tips to add to enhancing communication with others? If so, please leave a COMMENT! I would love to hear about other techniques.
On a final note, I am on summer break from teaching high school. I just had a colleague text me, “Just checking on you and your health. I hope hope you have been able to relax!” I am replying with, “Yes, indeed! Summer break is so wonderful. I can rest whenever I please. Thank you for thinking of me. How are you doing?”
This completely made my day. Wishing you a both a painless and joyful day. -Belle
One of the catch phrases in my line of work, education, is that whatever new thing that comes along, and believe me there are so many “new” things that come our way, is that this new idea, strategy, system, curriculum, etc., is the “New Normal.” It is a phrase used so often our line of work that it really carries no meaning anymore. However, I started thinking about this phrase in regards to my own health.
Although I do not like to admit it, I am fairly stubborn when it comes to my work ethic. What I mean by this is I will sacrifice pretty much everything else to “get the job done”! And, I have been happy to do this most of the time. My work is rewarding, challenging, fulfilling, and interesting. Unfortunately, with my health compromised as it is, the work has become very difficult to perform. It is mentally and physically exhausting. It was this way even when I was in tip top shape, but I was able to balance it out. Now, I force myself to get through the day, sometimes counting how many hours or minutes I have before I can head out to go home.
I HATE this. Really, I do. Already, I have made compromises in terms of work, compromises I didn’t want to make at all. But, I physically cannot keep up like I used to do. Meetings after school? No can do. Extra duties during the day? No can do. Saturday workshops? No can do. I am mostly limited to the 8-9 hour work day, five days a week and even just that can be like climbing Mount Everest. My weekday evenings are spent laying on the couch like a zombie. Sometimes, on the weekend, I can manage a night out, but that is very rare indeed. It is all somewhat surreal. Like this isn’t my life. Sometimes, I think I am having a dream, and I will wake up soon and be able to do everything I used to do at work and otherwise.
But now after 20 months in treatment, I am beginning to realize that in fact, this is my “New Normal.” This is my life right now. It is a hard, hard realism. I’m struggling with it. I would like to believe that if I just keep my nose to the grindstone and keep up my stubborn facade that I will one day wake up and be myself again.Yet, in my heart, I know this isn’t going to happen. While I know I should not look at this as defeat, I feel like it is. I’m wrestling with changing my perspective because I do know that acceptance of this fact is the more positive way to go, but damn, it is difficult!
I am sure there are many of us struggling with this acceptance process. I sure wish it was easier; I wish I could snap my fingers and Wha La! I would be ok with the New Normal.
How do you accept this disease and the hurdles it brings to us? How do you change your perspective about the physical and emotional struggles without feeling like you are giving up a part of yourself?