Posted by fxckfeelings on July 20, 2015Share This Post
While a large percentage of the population enjoys live-Tweeting every thought, Instagramming every cloud, and updating their Facebook status with every fart, there are still some people who prefer to keep their lives fairly private and don’t care what you think about “Scandal.” For whatever reason, some people need to be understood by everyone they know, while others would rather be known only by those they specially trust. In any case, don’t let a frustrated need, whether to be understood or ignored, get you to doubt yourself. Judge your behavior by what you know, rather than by how isolated or crowded you feel, and you’ll find the perfect privacy level.
I knew that intravenous antibiotics might not help my Lyme disease, but I appreciated the fact that my internist was willing to try an experimental treatment. Now that it’s clearly not helping, however, she continues to act as if I’m basically pretty well and that I should continue my physical therapy for the muscle pain and be glad it isn’t worse. All that tells me is that she really doesn’t understand how debilitated I feel and how much the disease has affected my life; her lack of understanding makes me feel worse than when I came to her for treatment. My goal is to find someone who hears what I’m saying and can comprehend what I’m going through.
We all want understanding from doctors when illness makes us feel helpless, forces us to reduce our expectations or change our lifestyles. If they don’t understand the depth of our pain—especially when illness has pushed us so far down—then it seems unlikely that they’ll be able to find the treatment that will pull us up.
It’s a lot like wanting a comforting parent when you’re hurting and your life is a mess; without that comfort, everything feels much worse and it’s harder to figure out what to do. You want understanding and nurturing, which is hard to find from somebody who wears a lab coat for a living.
Unfortunately, emotional understanding and medical understanding are not the same thing; doctors are often better at solving intellectual problems than providing emotional comfort due to the way their brains work. So, as much as your doctor seems unable to feel your pain, that doesn’t mean she’s completely unable to understand it.
Even if finding a Lyme expert who also understands what it’s like to live with the chronic form of the illness isn’t very likely, you don’t need a doctor to understand how you feel in order to get what you need from her. By this time, you have probably used the internet to find out all your treatment options, so hit your doctor with all the simple questions you need answered in order to figure out the possible benefit and risk of each.
Instead of asking your doctor why something didn’t work or why there isn’t a better treatment, ask her whether her list of options agrees with yours and, if not, why not. Ask her what option she would try next if she was the one with the illness. Instead of pressing her for what treatment options aren’t safe, ask her whether a treatment has any serious risks that wouldn’t be easily reversible.
After you have your answers, review the same questions with another consultant a.k.a., a second opinion. If there’s any disagreement, ask your consultant what makes her feel this way when another doctor would make a different recommendation.
As for comfort, find a good support group or a therapist who is familiar with your condition. Be careful, however, not to dwell on your feelings of helplessness, because they can make you helpless if you believe in them. Follow your usual procedure for figuring out medical problems, and you will never be helpless.
By the end of this process, you will know all you need to know to make a good, competent decision. Your doctor may never truly understand your pain, but if you have a strong understanding of your options and risks, you’ll have a better chance of finding the right treatment together.
“I can’t stand the way Lyme has sapped my vitality and changed my life, but I know everything I need to know about. There is no good treatment that I will not try, while I make whatever adjustments my symptoms force me to make in order to continue on with my life.”
My mother died several years ago and I’m glad my father remarried someone who loves him and looks after him. I’m also glad that I’m an independent adult in my 20s, because this woman seems really controlling and humorless and constantly gets on my nerves. I find myself irritated because she’s always trying too hard to get to know me or make me laugh, and then seems to get passive-aggressive when we can’t connect. She’s just not someone I take to, so I don’t like it when she quizzes me or tries to show that she understands what I mean. She’s probably pushing so hard because she cares about my dad, but I wish she would just keep her distance. My goal is to get her to give up on trying to bond with me and just be comfortably distant together.
You’re fortunate in your ability to respect and support your stepmother’s role as your father’s partner without needing to get close to her. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have that ability, and her efforts to get close to you get under your skin as much as her inability to bond with you gets under hers. The more you rebuff her efforts, the harder she’s driven to mend what feels broken to her, but isn’t to you or perhaps anyone else.
As you’ve said, her attempts to solve the problem by trying harder to know you just creep you out. You don’t intend to cause her pain, but it’s not your responsibility to make her feel comfortable by pretending to have a warm, close relationship that isn’t real.
You’re right not to talk about the absence of good chemistry between you; you don’t mean it as criticism, but saying anything negative may make her feel it’s her job to create good chemistry, and so she’ll respond as if you’ve told her she’s failed.
Instead, prepare a positive statement about the pleasure you take in her having a good relationship with your father and how happy you are that she’s joined the family. If she finds your stand-off-ish style disturbing, you’re sure she’ll learn, in time, that that’s just your style, it’s not personal, and that your feelings are positive, if not obvious to her.
If she or your father tell you that they wish the relationship was warmer, share your positive statement. Then try to be as friendly and polite as you would if you were a hotel concierge dealing with guests. Yes, it’s hard not to relax at your family home, but that’s the cost of being an adult: managing your behavior carefully with family, because your real home is one you define more narrowly and exclusively.
You may not be able to make your stepmother more comfortable by forging a deeper understanding between the two of you, but you can protect both of you from an unpleasant forced relationship by coming to understand and respect your differences.
“I wish I felt more warmly towards my stepmother, and her efforts to be close are annoying, but I’m delighted that she’s good for my father so I will maintain a polite exterior while I try to build a family of my own.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname