Tips on Talking to Family and Close Friends by Toni Bernhard

Toni Bernhard, author of How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers, wrote a very insightful piece, “When chronic illness strikes: Tips on talking to family and close friends,” about how to try and gain acceptance and support from your family and friends. Many ME/CFS sufferers, including myself, really struggle with that aspect of the illness, as if the physical challenges weren’t bad enough. Toni’s fourth suggestion particularly resonated with me—not because I have been good at accepting that I might not get from others what I need, but because I think it is an area of growth that I would do well focusing on:

“4. In the end…accept their limitations. Some family and close friends may never accept this change in your life. Try to recognize that this inability to accept you as you are now is about them, not you. Your medical condition may trigger their own fears about illness and mortality. You can’t always fix how others think of you or treat you, but you can protect yourself from allowing their lack of understanding to exacerbate your symptoms. The best way to protect yourself is to cultivate compassion for them. If you can learn to wish them well despite their inability to support you, you can free yourself from the mental suffering that arises from your desire for them to be different than they are. The physical suffering that accompanies chronic illness is difficult enough without adding mental suffering to it.”

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2 Responses to Tips on Talking to Family and Close Friends by Toni Bernhard

  1. hiddenlives says:

    It has taken me more years than it should have to arrive at that 4th step and I must say that getting there, even though the waters can be stirred up again sometimes, is very peaceful and freeing. I think these trials have fostered increased empathy within me – at least I like to think so.

    You did a service publishing this, thank you for it.


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