My friend posted an article about cancer patients that are bombarded with ‘easy answers’ and ‘insensitive advice’. Steven Thrasher the author shared his sister’s experience with cancer. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/26/do-not-tell-cancer-patients-cures-they-could-be-doing She fought for 15 years before the cancer beat her. He shares how people advised her to drink juice, do yoga, be cheerful and many other less than optimal solutions. I experienced similar suggestions when I had cancer. Even more ridiculous suggestions when people find out I have PTSD. Just get over it, move on, the past is in the past, let it go…..who boy. I’ve heard all sorts of things.
Thrasher pointed out there are three things about this time of “advice.” First point it’s condescending, like I am too stupid to not think of such a simple solution. Second point he says it so well I am quoting this one;
Second, it could be argued that people giving advice are just trying to “do something” and kindly offer help. But I reject this: if you want to do something to help someone in distress, as George Carlin famously riffed, unplug their clogged toilet or paint the garage. Don’t tell a sick or injured person what they should do, because it’s a sneaky and harmful way of dealing with your own fear of death. You’re saying, tsk tsk – I wouldn’t let this happen to me the way you’ve let it happen to you.
Wow just wow. Thank you for expressing so well how I felt. Don’t give me advice, help me wash the dishes….(Thanks Judy.)
Third and final point is the most compelling of all….it is a subtle or sometimes not so subtle way of blaming the person suffering with illness or PTSD because they feel uncomfortable. Cancer and PTSD survivors share a commonality of staring at their own mortality and comprehending their own fragile life. Death is real for both patients and survivors. This makes many people feel uncomfortable so what better thing to do then shift the blame to the one suffering. Some how it is their own fault for the problems they are having.
Another quote from Thrasher that really hit home for me:
Expecting someone to have a Positive Attitude™ when they are facing mortality, or telling them they’ve missed a simplistic way they could have avoided their fate, further isolates and shuns them.
Yes, when I had cancer and again with PTSD there are people that will avoid me, refuse to let me talk about my reality, or other ways of letting me know I’m not acceptable company to be around. Thrasher wrote about his sister’s challenges with cancer. He really hit it out of the ball park describing what I feel when people give me simplistic advice to get over PTSD. I would love to move on but PTSD keeps me chained to my past. I start to think it is over then a smell, a word, or a similar situation has me spinning wildly back to the edge of the abyss; not killing me but not letting me live either.