Discussing personal issues or medical information can be troubling. This is especially true with family. They may be in denial or cease to understand the reality of your circumstance and thus make inappropriate comments. When you’re dealing with chronic illness, having support is everything. It can feel like a fight to have people understand where you are coming from. Their attempts at understanding can be hurtful. So here are some tips on how to talk with your family about chronic illness.
- Be Patient
Let me be clear, I am not a patient person. I’m quick to jump in and defend myself if a conversation feels like it’s going south. I can talk myself into a corner when someone is trying to be helpful because I don’t understand what they’re saying. You have to be patient. People may understand more than you think but you have to give them the time and space to say the right thing. It might not come out the right way for the first couple tries. If you’re patient they may have something very meaningful to say.
People, especially people who care deeply, speak out of emotions. It doesn’t come from a place of harm but it may feel that way. Practice letting go of idiotic comments they may make on a rough day and hold on to their love and care. If they are kind and loving they will prove themselves to be supportive. No one is perfect and most likely they don’t know what to say for your situation. I haven’t found a class of how to talk to someone with chronic illness. If you have, please let me know because I have a lot of people to sign up.
- Know Your Worth
Your feelings are valid. Do not let people walk over you because it’s easier than putting up a fight. If a conversation is going nowhere and is becoming hurtful, walk away. It’s not worth letting someone say mean things to you, so they feel better. It’s not your responsibility to handle others emotions. It’s okay to say you need a break. You don’t have to be perfect or know the right thing to say all the time. Give yourself some slack. Allow yourself to be excused in hopes that you can articulate your opinion more effectively later.
- Ask for Help
If you’re having a particularly hard time with one family member, ask for advice. Find ways to communicate with that person so they can understand where you are coming from. I am often asking my family for advice on how to deal with people. If I am hindering a conversation, I want to know so that I can communicate better in the future. It’s not shameful to say you were wrong and apologize for saying something rash. It proves how strong you are. For me, saying I’m wrong is challenging. In order to build bridges, we need to awknowledge our part in the miscommunication. If you can admit your part, others may feel more comfortable admitting theirs.
- Don’t Be Afraid
People who are truly there for you, will support you. It doesn’t mean they agree with your decisions but that they respect them. As humans, we can only make choices based off of what is best for our own situation. If someone cannot respect or see the validity in your choices, let go of their opinion. They are not living your life. If your choice is wrong, that will become clear later on but that’s not someone’s place to decide it’s wrong. If you’re walking on eggshells with someone, chances are you need space from them. Being afraid to say the wrong thing doesn’t help you or the other person. Be brave and stand up for yourself. If you don’t feel confident in a conversation or your choices, give it more time and think things through for a little while longer.
The holidays can be a difficult time to navigate relationships. Often, we are forced to see all of our family, even members we don’t get along with. If your family is anything like mine, communication can often get lost and relationships can be broken. Not every person has to be your person. It’s okay if the person you used to be close with isn’t close to you anymore. At the end of the day, you need to place people around you who build you up, challenge you, and most of all support you. It’s not your responsibility to make someone understand where you’re at. You don’t owe people explanations. Communication is messy. If someone is meant to be in your life, they will stick around, even through times of stress. Trust yourself and make the best choices for you. You don’t need permission from anyone.