By: Ariel Fixler
The day I heard the phrase “Well I am sorry you expect so much from me ” I knew I had to turn this negative response into a positive. This was a response from someone when I confronted them about not being really for me, being missing in action and aloof when it came to listening to any issue I brought to their attention. They kept telling me they wanted to be a better support for me, but when confronted about less than consistent and supportive past actions (to make for a better present and future) that was there response.
If a patient confronts you about being “MIA” (missing in action) or unable to really delve deeper or listen, PLEASE don’t ever say that phrase in response. I am sorry you expect so much, too much, that much from me. Either way if you say something like that it is a massive and painful slap in the face. It negates all the good will exchanges in the past. It makes the patient feel so small and needy to even have to ask you to be there for them. Which seems like a normal human function and emotional capability. It is painstaking to ask you to come visit and come through. To respond in that manner is insensitive, cruel, thoughtless and self-involved. Yup I said it. Am I wrong?
It’s actually an honor we think that much of you that we would come to you to vent. We have a trusted bond, strong enough to withstand telling you how we really feel and calling you out on BS. It shows we value your opinion and are free with our emotions around you. It shows we value your presence in our support system. It shows we can come to you and maybe only you, when we usually want to seep into depression and isolate. It is an honor we tell you we need you, YES YOU, to be there for us because you get us and support us. Do you know how hard it is for us to admit we need someone to listen? It is so hard for us to be vulnerable and even worse to call you out on vanishing from our support system. We don’t want to be a support system hall monitor barking “HEY YOU, YES YOU, WHAT THE FUCK”…..
I remember this instance like it was yesterday crying in my hospital bed to this friend after they uttered the words “I am sorry you expect so much from me”. It made me feel that I needed to feel lucky they showed up at all. I put my heart and emotions on my sleeve. In one quick and rather thoughtless retort, my emotional sweater had been cut and stripped down to a sweater vest, devoid of warmth and utility. It was like someone punched me in the gut and worse I was crying, truly sobbing in an ugly cry type way. I was so vulnerable, raw and hurt in front of their eyes. This person was older than me and should know better, but after a few more years than me on this planet they did not. They kept coming in and out of my support system like it was a revolving door. They apologized time and time again, but still their actions didn’t really change. Everyone has had that type of friendship. One you probably should have let go of long ago and neither of you are perfect in that friendship. You make plans you never plan to keep, hoping someone pulls the trigger to cancel. You follow up and check in because it seems obligatory and perfunctory. Neither of you want to be the one to cut the chord, so instead a cycle of curtailed communication and support ensues and you both become bitter the friendship is still going on.
I wanted to be more open minded. I wanted to give their attempts to be there and be a real support the validity I thought they had deserved. Even if you have a dirt off your shoulder, free spirited, independent woman mentality, there is no reason to put distance between you and the dependent. That is not the moment to show your free spirit shine to prove you are tough, it’s a time to allow the vulnerability and support in. It is not a time make someone feel badly for expecting more, for loving more, for needing more and to hope for the fruition in the friendship.
So if a patient, family member, friend, significant other or parent confronts you or reaches out to you soaked in emotional vulnerability, depression and desperation stop, look and LISTEN. Also look within yourself and take accountability, culpability and take it as a learning experience to be a better support system for that person. Damn, take it as a chance to better yourselves by being the hand-holder, the listener, the communicator and one who can be relied upon. It is an experience where you can grow as a human being when you thought you couldn’t grow and learn anymore. It can be a turning point for you and most people don’t get those moments so soak it in. I promise you it will make you grow as a person and BE SOMEONE YOU CAN BE PROUD OF. It is a chance to rise tall and proud. It is not an instance to riddle yourself and your loved ones with a litany of excuses.
I haven’t spoken much to this person since that thought-provoking and game changing incident. I knew I wouldn’t “get much” from them in response. I was in no mood to confront them again and be met with excuses. I think I was dealing with enough pain and bullshit don’t you?
This person constantly blamed their hectic work schedule for being missing in action. I had a standing order every year on their birthday to send them a cookie cake and for the last 5 years it went on deaf ears. I only heard from them once to say simply, “thanks for the cookie”. All this time did they not realize it was a cookie cake? Did they think the Keebler Elf factory exploded in a honey I shrunk the kids type manner? I planned their birthdays, set them up, nursed them through break ups, kept secrets, helped network and created fun reunions and really put myself out there for them (like I would do with any friend I cherished).
All I got was a half ass attempt in return. Sometimes they didn’t show up at all for visits and would text or email last minute. Yup imagine that emotional gut-punch of waiting, wishing and hoping. They acknowledged these traits within themselves, calling out their own behavior as “flaky” “absent-minded” and irresponsible”. They knew how to do a drive by visit like a pro. Never checking in afterward and disappearing from supportive and communicative existence. Saying what’s your schedule and when can I see you again when they left, with no intention of coming by in the near future. They tried to visit last minute some times to fit me in. You know in between social and work events. However as you might surmise they canceled and rearranged the visit so many times I said forget it. It’s that person you always say you are going to get together with but you cancel and reschedule so many times it’s just a get together in name only and in vain. It’s as if to communicate see we tried to make a concerted effort.
They even made a point of telling me how much they had to switch around their schedule and this may be the only time they could see me. I was made to feel so small and just something to check off their obligatory list. I felt awful because whenever I wanted to venture out socially during my illness (which I used to do) they would be more than game to go out. But when I needed one on one time, it was as if I was asking for too much. Worse I remember being left places, at hotels, clubs and bars and being left to my own accord, when they promised they would help me get me home safely. So I knew one day I would use it as a teaching tool. I wasn’t sure how or when but I knew the WHY.