I Hope You Feel Better
I hope you feel better.
They mean well. They always do. It’s what people say when they hear someone they know is in pain or ill or uncomfortable. I’ve learned that tears and “Why would you say that to me?” while an accurate reflection of how it makes me feel is pretty much guaranteed to lead to all sorts of unpleasantness I don’t want to have to deal with.
Whoa where did that come from I was just trying to be nice. What’s wrong with her? Can’t you just take it for what it’s meant?
I really can’t. For one thing my brain doesn’t process subtext quickly enough to have conversations at full neurotypical voice conversation speed — I’m doing the best I can keeping up with the text alone. But I don’t wear a sign that says “I am not good at auditory processing.” If I did I’d be explaining that all the time too. I don’t like talking that much.
(What’s that mean? It means I hear fine. I hear everything. ((When tinnitus isn’t in the way meh.)) What I have trouble with — and sometimes it’s harder than others — is pulling the thread of one person’s voice out of everything else that’s coming in through my ears and turning sound into meaning. If there’s a television in my visual field this task gets harder. This is why I take books to restaurants; I usually can’t make out what the person I’m eating with is saying anyway.)
Well. I can take it as it’s meant when it’s someone who doesn’t know me. When the person saying it doesn’t know that I have a disease that leaves me in pain all the time and exhausted all the time and makes it hard to walk and think and work and all the Weird Shit that goes along with it I can accept “I hope you feel better” because it doesn’t actually mean anything. It’s just politeness.
When the person who’s saying it has heard me or read me (often we’ve also had the conversation amndaw wrote about in her Who Hates to Hear They Look Great? post) it hurts. Lately I’ve been not eating much and throwing up a lot and it’s not a lot of fun. I mentioned that I didn’t feel good at my LiveJournal and every comment was a form of this. I even got one in imperative voice: “feel better soon.”
I have a chronic disease that isn’t curable and I have not heard of it going into remission. This is not temporary. Sometimes the symptoms are excruciating. Sometimes the symptoms aren’t so bad. They never go away. Even if I never feel any better than I do right now my life will still be worth living and I’ll still be happy and I’ll be okay because I work really hard at living my life and being as happy as I can in it. For me it includes accepting that I will not get better. It also includes some complaining about feeling rotten because accepting that I won’t get better doesn’t turn it into rainbow-flavored unicorn shit.
Demands that I feel better discount all that.
I want to tell people to please not say that to me. But I know how it’ll go. I’ll be the mean cripple yelling at people who were just trying to be nice. So I mostly don’t say it.
Since most essays from marginalized people on the topic of Insensitive Things Privileged Folks Have Said To Us will garner at least one comment along the lines of “Well if you’re going to tell people they shouldn’t say whatever how about you tell us what we should say.” At which I’m like thanks for the derailment attempt that’s so thoughtful! I am so delighted to do this work for you you have no idea. But I do actually have something here. An expression of sympathy that doesn’t include a request or demand that I do something impossible is always nice. I’m a really big fan of “That sucks. I’m sorry you don’t feel good.”