One of Lynn’s regular responses, when someone asks how he is doing, is, “I’ve been worse.” It conveys to the person asking that he’s not feeling great but that he’s grateful he’s not feeling worse. It also allows him to avoid discussing how he really is and it shows a positive attitude, which is something that he tries to always maintain. However, it also denies the fact that he actually doesn’t feel well at all.
Several months back I challenged him on that statement. “So, if you have felt worse, does that mean you feel good now? Are you not allowed to admit that you feel horrible because you have made such progress toward feeling better?” He thought about it for a minute and admitted that he just didn’t want to confess that he didn’t feel good yet. He felt that he had been feeling bad for sooooo long that no one would want to hear that he felt bad and yes, he felt much better than he used to, so shouldn’t he feel grateful rather than complain?
I think his attitude is pretty common for those who have chronic health conditions. They get so tired of feeling lousy that they hope by ignoring how they feel; it will not be so bad–sort of like that saying, “fake it till you make it.” But does it really work to fake that you feel good when you feel like taking your next breath is too much work or if you had the choice to have your leg amputated versus dealing with the spasticity and muscle spasms every day, you would choose amputation if they could guarantee you wouldn’t have phantom pain? I don’t think you can ignore the fact that you feel that bad. You might keep it from others but you can’t keep it from yourself. If you do, then you may stop trying to get better and just give up, seeping lower and lower into depression.
Lynn and I tend to try to identify a reason for why he feels bad each time that he does… “Must be a low-pressure front coming it,” “It’s the Rebif,” or “It’s pollen.” We both know that “it’s the MS” or the “hypothyroidism” or the “heavy metal detox,” but if we can attribute it to something more transient, then it might go away sooner and that’s comforting. Like everyone else, we try to fake ourselves out into believing this is not permanent.
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