Having a severe or chronic illness can impact everyday conversations and encounters in unexpected and sometimes jarring ways.' From loved ones to cashiers at the supermarket, getting the right level of understanding at the right time and in the right tone is unpredictable and rare.
Lene Andersen of The Seated View uses a wheelchair due to her rheumatoid arthritis, and in Out Among the English she describes various ways in which mobility impairments can hinder social interaction.' For starters, her limited mobility can make it difficult to initiate conversations. ' 'How many conversations start with a look and a smile?" she asks rhetorically.' "If your smile happens at other people's crotch level, it can be a bit problematic to catch somebody's eye,' she points out.
It can be uncomfortable to talk specifically about one's illness in social situations, especially if your company doesn't handle it well. ' For Ann Silberman, the social situation was a phone call, and her company?' A telemarketer.' On her blog, But Doctor, I Hate Pink, Ann writes about telling a salesman hawking a gym membership that she won't be renewing due to her stage IV breast cancer diagnosis.' Let's just say he doesn't quite get her point.
But sometimes even successful communication can be a mixed blessing. ' In Recognition Is Essential for Patients, Pamela Curtis writes about having coffee with friends, including a newcomer to the group who happens to be a neuroscience student.' Since the student fully understands the severity of her pituitary problem, his reaction is one of "genuine alarm and concern."' But, while it is gratifying to be understood, Pamela says, she wants to 'get credit for how well I'm doing, not for how awful I've got it.'
More Patient Perspectives:
- Technical Difficulties: Houston, We Have a Problem'
- The Emotions Illness Brings
- Accommodations for Chronic Conditions