Sunday, January 26, 2014

Energy Economy - Dealing With People While Chronically Ill

When you get right down to it, dealing with people can be one of the most physically, mentally, and emotionally draining aspects of dealing with your illness.  So, I thought it only right that we cover this under Energy Economy, because if we don’t learn to deal with people more effectively we will have serious problems.  So here are some of my top suggestions.  (Keep in mind that these suggestions are for the masses, the public, not for your close friends or your support system.)

·         Do not say “I’m sorry”, for your illness.  It is not your fault.  Apologizing for it minimizes you as a person and makes you angry at yourself and other people.  You can apologize for other things, but not that.

·         Do not try to explain yourself to people who will not understand and are not really that interested.  It is a waste of very precious energy.  And it is very frustrating.

·         Do not try to justify yourself or make excuses for your limitations.  (There will be an upcoming post on this one.) This takes a lot of forethought in the beginning but can become a way of life.  I really recommend this.

·         When people ask how you are, pass over it lightly and change the subject.  Example:  Them – “How are you?”  You – “I’m happy to be here today.  Did you notice…?”

·         Most people want to talk about themselves.  Keep switching the focus back to them.   Asking them questions about themselves or things they are interested in is a really good way to keep them talking about themselves and not you.  (Of course, this depends on the person you are speaking to– if you want to talk to them about yourself that is fine.)

·         When going into a social situation, have a few talking points in mind and jump to them when you are tired of answering questions or talking about your illness.  (Something you read in a magazine, a movie you saw, the language you are learning – whatever.  It doesn’t even have to be interesting.  It just has to be distracting.)

·         If you meet a genuinely concerned person, reveal what you like at your own discretion.  But my suggestion is to take it slow.  Sometimes they are just curious, not really concerned.

·         Do not give your heart to everything people say.  Remember that you have limited resources.  If you become upset over an unimportant (in the long run) comment or person – you will not have energy for something more important or enjoyable.  Work on erecting some kind of a barrier and do not let every unkind or injudicious remark touch your emotions.  Some things we can simply let go.

·         Do not give false expectations.  Do not offer to do things you can’t.  Do not encourage them to believe you will do something you won’t.
      Do your internal work.  Understand what upsets you and why.  Understand how your really feel about yourself and your illness.  Understand your tender points.  Understand your limits. Knowing yourself helps you to deal with other people better.   It also helps you to let go of things easier.  Look out for an upcoming series of posts about getting to know ourselves a little better.)

·         Remember, you do not have to answer their questions.  If you feel they are too personal just don't give them the information.  It is absolutely up to you.  Sometimes you can think of a way to divert attention or pass the question off lightly.  But sometimes you may just have to say, "I don't want to talk about that right now", or "I'm not prepared to answer that question".  That is OK!  Be as nice as you can but, in reality, even if you decline nicely you may feel a little rude.  But it is not rude to explain that you don't want to talk about something. 

Of course, there are times when I am too sick to deal with people at all or when I simply don’t have the energy to push breath out of my lungs and speak (like the whole last year, for example).  But when I have the energy to converse, these things make a real difference for me.  I hope one of them is useful for you.  Look out for upcoming posts.  We will examine why caring to much what people think keeps you sick.

And now it’s your turn.  Won’t you share your methods for coping with people?

Other Energy Economy Posts:

Coping with Chronic Illness Posts:
18 Ways to Ward Off Sadness 

photo credit: <a href="">Evil Erin</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>


  1. I always shift conversations away from me to those I'm talking to also. Its tiring trying to explain to those that dont really want to know but still ask. I save what I want to share with those few that really want to know and truly care. It took me many, many years to discover who to talk to and who not to talk to. I still need to learn to say NO though. I usually do and do till I drop. I've enjoyed reading your blog.

    1. Hi Martha P., thanks for taking the time to comment! I agree, it takes time to discover who to open up to and who to avoid doing that with. That is a good point. I'm glad you've been enjoying the blog!

  2. Wow. I thought I had this mastered. I usually do just what you mentioned. Been practicing those skills a long time. But after being shut in again for a month and venturing out for the first time today it was like I had forgotten everything I know and was tromped on again today. I think I will print this section of your blog as a way to set my menal limits and prepare briefly before going into a group.

    1. Hi Joanna,
      I'm really sorry you had a bad experience the other day. Thanks for sharing though. I know I have a harder time remembering how to cope with people after being mostly secluded for a while. I completely believe in keeping lists to remind me what to do in situations like this.

  3. I find input from others to be one of the most difficult things about being ill. I have become so guarded that I very often find that when I am the most troubled about my health, I feel completely alone- even though I have a wide circle of friends. When I am talking to others, I say when asked that I have "health issues" without being specific because regardless of the motives of the person I am talking to, I am oversensitive to whatever they have to say. I have been on the receiving end of dealing with someone completely private and feeling shut out when I wanted to understand, so on occasion I will open up to be kind, but that rarely works out well. When I feel better, I need less support, and I am less guarded, but I also convey confidence that all will be well-- my treatment is working and I think I also convey that I don't really want to talk about it. The lonely times are when I think my illness will kill me, and I am terrified-- and those times leave scars on relationships. Maybe I chose to be alone, but some people should be included and should be supportive of me and my choices. I appreciate the suggestions to do the inner work and to think ahead of time of what I will say and other topics to skip to.