If you, like me, are going through a substantial change, I suspect you also need support, not pity or pep rallies. I get angry when people pity me. Yes, I certainly succumb to pity parties for myself. Let’s not discuss how much chocolate I’ve eaten since my inner ear hemorrhage. It doesn’t matter that it’s sugar free, although that does have a self-limiting effect on my chocolate consumption. But I don’t want other people’s pity. I want their support.
I don’t want other people give me pep talks to help me try to feel better, either. Pep talks discount my experience. There is nothing anyone can say that can make me feel better. Unless you have oscillopsia, you cannot know how I feel. If you have BPPV, sorry, you do not know how I feel. I know how you feel, and I have empathy for you, and you can easily manipulate your head to put those crystals back into your ears. If you have Meniere’s Disease, my goodness, I hope it stabilizes and calms down soon. And if you have Parkinson’s or a brain tumor or MS or cancer, I don’t know how you feel. I hope you find some comfort.
I truly feel angry when people tell me, “Well, you won’t die of this.” They are correct. I won’t die of this. But I can’t hear the damn cars honking at me in the parking lot or when I cross the street. I can’t keep my footing on the ice I can’t see on the street because I can’t look down in the dark or in the winter because I’m too dizzy to look down. So I don’t die of this as a first order effect. I have to remain vigilant to not die of this as a second order effect! When people try to pep me up, they discount my daily experience, which angers me.
All of this goes back to my need for support, and maybe your need for support. When you make a change in your life, you need support. You hear this all the time in the weight loss and smoking cessation ads. You need it when you make a change or when your organization thrusts a change on you. And the support can’t just come from your spouse or significant other. That person is dealing with his or her own change because you are no longer the same person you were.
Here are some ways you can build your support system:
- Find other people in the same position. This is where networking is quite helpful. LinkedIn, user groups for professional change, all help. Especially if you have a health problem, find health groups, your doctors, physical therapists, blogs, and online groups, all other people who are in the same or similar positions. Keep looking for people in similar positions.
- Journal. You can write down things you may not be able to say.
- Confide in friends. Be careful when you confide in friends. If you whine enough, they won’t want to talk to you anymore. But your friends will want to support you.
- Name your problem. When you give your problem a name, it starts to lose power over you. Yesterday morning, I named my tinnitus, “Freaking Loud.” Freaking Loud woke me up twice two nights ago, and I decided that there were three of us in bed last night: Mark, Freaking Loud, and me. It sure felt as if there three of us in the bed. The medicine is calming FL now. This is where online tinnitus groups have helped me. I knew that the tinnitus would change—eventually.
- Network to build your support system. If you don’t already have a support system, build one. Maybe your purpose in life is to create a support system for others. In that case, network to create a support system for yourself and others.
- Use your religious affiliation to create a support system. Other people have said they have found great comfort in religion. If that works for you, great.
If you are a friend or colleague of a person going through change (friend of the changee?), offer support. I try to answer the how-are-you question with just enough information, but I probably offer too much information still. I don’t think I have found the right mix of just enough information that doesn’t sound flippant.
Offering support is difficult. Whatever you do, don’t offer a pep talk. Pep talks stink. I’d rather get pity.
If you don’t know what to say, you can always say, “I don’t know what to say.” That works. I might say, “I don’t either!” If you must offer something after that, chocolate is good. Make mine dark and sugar-free.
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