Saturday, August 26, 2017

You're Fine. Come on. Let's Talk about Something Else!

I'm watching an episode of Packed to the Rafters now, and it's filling my head with confusion and doubt.

In the episode, Ted (Michael Caton) has been having symptoms of dementia. He's gone to a doctor for testing, and things don't look so good for him. For the last few episodes. he has kept his condition secret from his family. At the end of the last episode, he told his daughter Julie (Rebecca Gibney). In the episode I'm watching now, we get to see her reaction. She's in total denial. She refuses to believe anything is wrong with her father. She's very reluctant to discuss it.

It makes me wonder about my own life.

I have major issues with the way people in my life deal with my health concerns. This has been going on for the last ten years or so, and it keeps getting worse.

I feel most members of my family are usually dismissive when I talk about my health concerns. I feel they don't believe me. I feel they're not interested in my worries. I feel they see me as a hypochondriac.I feel they don't want the conversation to turn to my problems, because it takes time away from them talking about their problems.

Now seeing Julie and her father, it's making me question things.

Could it be that my family is dismissive because they love me so damn much, and they can't stand the thought of something bad happening to me?


I have a lot of doubts, though.  

I think it would be easier to believe in the super-love thing if my family didn't talk so much about their own health problems and the health problems of others. There are people who are scared of health issues in general and want to change the subject whenever that comes up. If I was among those type of folks, I'd still be annoyed by their dismissiveness but probably more understanding.

But if people talk a lot about their own health, and then say things to make you feel you're turning molehills into mountains when you talk about your health....

Well then...

It's hard for me to believe that's a loved-scared thing rather than a self-centered thing...OR a we-take-you-for-granted-thing. Yeah. If this was happening to someone else, we'd totally be freaking out!  But since it's happening to you...ah, no big deal.  I'm sure you'll be fine.

I mean really. What would Ted think if Julie had previously freaked out about herself having dementia, but then when Ted had symptoms, she was dismissive? That would be quite a different story.

I could sort of relate to Ted keeping his issue a secret for awhile. I did that too. He did it, because he didn't want people to worry. That was part of the reason I did it. From what I've experienced in the past, I didn't think it was likely that I'd see much worrying from my family.  But it did bother me to imagine them worrying too much—being overly sad or anxious.

The main reason, though, that it took me awhile to tell my parents, husband, and sister is I worried they'd be dismissive, and I worried I'd end up feeling stupid. I also worried that if they were dismissive, I'd be even less likely to go to a doctor if needed. I hate going to doctors in the first place, because of THEIR dismissiveness and the high financial cost. But it's even harder for me to want to go when I get it in my mind that I'm the only one who truly thinks I have a problem, and everyone else thinks I'm being ridiculous.

I did tell people in my family at a time.

One of my sisters did seem to worry, not too much, but in a reasonable manner. Then later, it seemed like she decided it was not a big deal after all. And in the following weeks, it felt to me like she had forgotten about the subject all together. I told my husband and he seemed barely interested at all. Actually, I might have told him first and not my sister?


I avoided telling my parents because I THINK I wanted to postpone it and keep up the fantasy in my head that they'd care a lot. I imagined them saying, Oh my God. Why did you take so long to tell us? You should have told us sooner! 

When I did tell them, they acted like it was no big deal at all and pretty much dropped the subject. They didn't ask any questions. They didn't seem to want to know more than the tiny amount I had told them. When the subject was brought up again the next day, by my sisters, my mom kept changing the subject to her own health.

Really. How do you know when someone's bad behavior is caused by love and concern rather than self-centeredness, disinterest, and callousness?

If I was a nicer person, I'd probably just give people the benefit of the doubt. But my gut instinct and past experiences tell me to do otherwise.

I guess the farthest I can go at this point is have some small amount of faith that people can change—that people can reduce their self-centeredness, disinterest, and callousness to the point that they do one day show a reasonable and loving amount of concern.  If they do this out of real love and not as a way to humor me or stop me from complaining, (and without any gaslighting!), that would be incredibly wonderful.

The sad thing is, though, hope and second chances don't often go as well as we'd wish them to. Plus, there's the inconvenient fact that life has made me very skeptical, so even if their concern did become real, I might not easily believe them. Then again, convincing-faked concern is better than a lot of what I've received in the past.  So I'd try to be at least a little bit appreciative.  

Edited to Add:

1. Now that I think more about it, my husband did act concerned for about 45 seconds. Then he seemed to forget the whole thing.  I was wrong in saying he seemed barely interested. Though he acted much less interested than I think I would have acted if I had heard the same information.

2. I should add that my other sister actually acted concerned to a level that I appreciate. Well...she acted the way I'd want people to act in this situation. She asked questions, showed interest, and brought it up on later occasions...which indicated to me that the information hadn't go in one ear and out the other.  Note: I'm being extra symbolic with the ear thing, because I actually told them through email.  So it would really be in through one eye and out the other eye.  Ouch. That sounds painful.

3. Finishing that episode of Packed to the Rafters made me realize that denial about someone else's medical condition is shitty even if it does come out of love.

Julie is being very unsupportive. She refuses to believe that her dad has memory problems. She treats him like he's totally overreacting, and it's all in his imagination.

I could kind of understand if Ted was much younger. Let's say he was in his thirties or forties. It's pretty rare for someone that age to have dementia. But Ted's pretty up there in age. It's not too far-fetched to imagine he has serious memory issues.

4. The moral of the story is if someone has a medical concern, we're not helping them at all by pushing the idea that they're fine, and there's nothing to worry about. At best, they MIGHT be fine...physically, but we're making their emotional strain that much worse.  In a worse case scenario, if there is something wrong and we convince them nothing is wrong; that might be medically dangerous.  This happened on a British show I watched—Outnumbered.  One of the characters tried to tell a coworker in distress that no, he (the coworker) wasn't having a heart attack. He was fine. And then...the coworker died.  Oops.