The Stroke, part 14: empathy
The stroke recovery odyssey continues, with a different focus: now I’m out of the hospital, and must remember, or relearn, how to live. In this episode, I went into a rant with someone I love, and relearned what empathy is.
I’ve fallen behind on the stuff I need to do. Way behind. The problem is this: instead of getting going on it, and catching up a bit at a time, I’m making excuses. The nurse comes. Therapy comes. Someone else comes to take me to the store. Those are all valid, of course, but I can’t let a one-hour therapy visit or trip to the store shut me down for the whole day. There’s still forms to fill out and people to call and some work to do that I can still do.
The issue is that I wanted someone – maybe everyone – to feel sorry for me. To give me a break on when stuff is due, but at the same time not to ignore me. (And I wonder: is this what it’s like to be disabled? Because at least for now, that’s what I am, and I kinda need to face it.) So anyway, here’s a friend, needs my help, and is kinda in a hurry – rushed for a result – and in turn rushes me. I went into a rant:
But you have yet to understand. What I’ve been going through has been no secret – I have written about it extensively. But you have [...done this and that...] and I’m sure it will go fine – and you have created a schedule [...] that can’t account for what I can and cannot do.
I don’t mean to be powerless, but the fact is that I can’t be what I once was, not for a little longer anyway. I have to face it myself. And I am sorry to be whiny too. I have received so much encouragement over recent months, which I don’t really deserve, but there are a few people in my life from whom I need more in the way of understanding, just because of who they are and how important they are.
Because I have stuff to do that I never imagined six months ago that I would ever have to do. I have a new life that I never asked for, at least not deliberately. I have to sit on my ass almost all day every day because I can only walk so far and cannot drive. And yet even sitting I can only type so long because my right hand is still stiff and my concentration is often broken by calls and visits from my various helpers.
Even I feel like I should be doing more than I am. Can you know what that’s like? To know the wheels are still turning, but to see that my usefulness is not what it was? To know that, as much as people may be cheering me on, nobody actually NEEDS me? To know that I can’t give what I want to give, even to the very few people who can make use of what I do?
No. I’m not sure you do.
Well, my friend didn’t deserve that. And in retrospect, it was just a rant, not really meant to be targeted. Just spoken. I wanted to vent my spleen.
Turns out empathy was mixed up with sympathy. Sympathy, people feel sorry for me. Fine, if they want, but what I want is empathy – to have people understand how I feel, what I’m going through, and to in my turn understand them. Ya feel me?
So let me say these things to those to whom I turn for empathy:
- I know you need too. To the best of my abilities I will give back.
- I’m sorry that a few months ago I wasn’t there for you. Or that I didn’t call or write. Believe me, I wanted to. And I think of you often.
- It’s hard to miss opportunities. But living is the great opportunity, and it’s the source of more.
- I have had emotional support I could never earn or deserve. You are my supporter, you know. My recovery is crowdsourced.
- There’s a shadow on my heart. But it’s fading, a little. That part’s all on you.
- No more whining, just working.
End part 14. I hope you are healthy, and I also hope this series helps make a contribution to your health. This is the most friendly thing I can do for the world.