My 93-year-old dad calls me every day around six at night. Dad has Asberger’s, and to him the world is black and white.
To Dad, everything should have an answer that fits inside a box–especially my illness.
Except that it doesn’t. After three months, doctors don’t have a diagnosis for The Thing in My Brain Stem. Even docs at Mayo Clinic are puzzled.
Dad calls every night with the same questions:
“Are you better?” (Real answer: No.)
“Have they figured out what’s wrong with you?” (Real answer: No.)
“Why not?” (Real answer: I wish I knew. Cuz it’s something weird.)
I HATE upsetting my dad. I don’t want to tell him how sick I really am. He doesn’t have the emotional wiring to understand what’s going on. And so I tell him as little as possible.
The same is true with some of many people. I divide them into two categories: Friends Who Want to Know About YOU and Friends Who See You in a Box.
Friends Who Want to Know About You
- want to know how you really feel and know that how you look can be irrelevant and misleading.
- will make time for you no matter how busy they are.
- will accommodate your needs, your pain, your limitations.
- will want to know what support looks like to you.
Friends Who See You in a Box
- ask as few questions as possible.
- make time for you at their convenience.
- feel uncomfortable talking about illness, pain, and limitations.
- define “support” according to their own limited view of need and illness.
Four Ways Chronic Illness Temps Me to Lie
1. I answer superficial questions with superficial answers. It’s easy to tell when someone is asking a question to be polite or socially correct, and it’s easy to emotionally withdraw and answer with less than the truth.
2. I can tell when people are growing frustrated hearing the same answers. It’s been three months since doctors first discovered my brain wasn’t quite right–or something like that. By now friends and family are well beyond wanting to hear the same answers for my pain and symptoms. But the truth is the truth.
3. People really don’t care that much. They say they do, but they don’t. Hey folks, call, text, post a comment, send a card, make a call, Skype, IM, or do something. Don’t say you care–your actions say it all. So after months of silence or superficialities, I step back, but I can’t bring myself to say the words out loud.
4. I smile when I don’t mean it. Because it makes other people feel feel more comfortable.
What about YOU? Has chronic illness tempted you to lie to others? Why? How do you cope?