I’ll be perfectly honest here and say that I haven’t been doing that well the last two months. Almost everything I eat is making me nauseous, and it’s not like certain foods are safe and certain times of the day are safe, it’s all just very spontaneous and unpredictable. Unfortunately, my tube feeds are now also making me nauseous. It’s gotten to the point that I pretty much feel sick all day long and while medications can help to take the edge off, it never really goes away. I even switched back to night feeds for a while to try and help with the nausea in the day, except that then in addition to feeling sick all day, I also felt sick all night and I couldn’t sleep. Oh, and just to add to the fun, my tube feeds are causing some serious bloating. I’m talking my-waist-expands-a-good-three-to-four-inches-during-the-day bloating. All I can say is thank goodness I have already discovered maternity jeans!
So I’ve been rather discouraged. Everyone who sees me gives me a big smile and tells me how healthy I look. They are genuinely happy for me that I’m doing better. I want to be happy with them so I smile back while the voice in my head says “but I don’t feel well…I just want to feel better!”
In the past week I had appointments with all three of my local doctors so I was determined to get some answers. First up was my surgeon. My day to day symptoms aren’t his area of concern, but he looked at my stoma and gave me the thumbs up. Things look good, and the persistent granulation tissue that has morphed into a beautiful (not) hypertrophic scar can just hang out as it would be more trouble than it’s worth to get rid of.
Next up was my family doctor. She was sympathetic to my plight and she told me that she wished she had the magic solution for me, but unfortunately she didn’t. She did, however, order some blood work which revealed my anemia. That explains my lack of energy and is a nice, easy fix.
Last but not least was my gastroenterologist. I was ready for answers and I was insistent that I was not going to leave the appointment without a solution or a plan. After we spent several minutes chatting about random things, including fanny packs and hipsters (because obviously both are relevant to digestion), he told me that I looked a lot better. My face fell, I glared at him and I said “but I don’t feel well.” You know what he said next?
Two words and I already felt better. He then proceeded to explain new things about my disease he had learned at a conference that validated all of my symptoms. He told me that he really understood how and why I was feeling so terrible all the time. And then he told me about new research that was underway and gave me hope for the future.
Did I leave the appointment with the solution or plan that I was so adamant to get? No. Sadly he had no easy fix for me. But he validated my struggle, and that was a fix in its own way.
Well then I got to thinking about life in general. It’s human nature to try and fix things; we like to be useful and helpful. When someone comes to us with a problem we often jump into problem-solving mode and start offering solutions…”have you tried…?” and other such suggestions. And when we can’t think of a solution we turn to looking on the bright side. We start saying things like “well at least…” and “just be thankful that…” and other platitudes that aren’t necessarily helpful.
We’ve all been there, on both sides of the situation. We’ve all been the ones feeling helpless that we can’t solve a friend’s problem so instead we try to make them feel better, or at least make ourselves feel better by offering something. And we’ve all been the ones with the problem feeling a little disappointed. Instead of being heard and understood we end up nodding and agreeing that yes, I should just be thankful for so and so, or at least [insert worse case scenario] didn’t happen. I don’t know about you, but I often end up feeling a little guilty that I’m upset, discouraged, frustrated, sad, whatever, when I should just focus on the positive. The thing is though, I don’t walk away feeling happy or positive. I walk away feeling discouraged and a little isolated because all I wanted was to be heard.
So what if we just stop trying to fix each other?
Obviously there are exceptions to every situation. There are times when it’s appropriate to snap someone out of their Negative Nelly mindset or to help them brainstorm practical solutions, but I think we know when those times are.
I’m talking about the rest of the time. What if instead of trying to fix each other we just listened to each other? What if we just validated each other’s struggles?
Maybe in order to help someone else we need to allow ourselves to feel helpless.
It’s a different kind of fix.
At first it doesn’t seem productive, and we probably won’t feel very helpful. But it’s really not about us. When someone comes to us with a problem, it’s about them. When we’re the ones with the problems, we’re the ones who want to feel better, so when someone comes to us with a problem, they’re the ones who deserve to feel better. That’s what supporting people is all about – taking on a little of their burdens in order to make their load a little lighter. And it won’t be long before someone else comes along and takes on part of our burdens to lighten our load. That’s what happens in a family, in a group of friends, in a community, we just keep sharing our loads. And it all balances out in the end. Plus it’s not all bad, we get to share our joys, too.
So what if we just stop trying to fix each other?
It’s a different kind of fix, but I really think it might work.