Explaining Away an Uncomfortable Truth
So…warning. I’m kinda ranting here. 🙂
A family member of mine recently got diagnosed with Lyme.
Since then, while sharing this recent discovery with her friends/family, many have asked her, “Do you think that’s really what it is? Are you sure Lyme is really what you have?”
To which my family member’s inward response has been something to the effect of “Of course that’s what I have! I have the matching symptoms, and my doctor diagnosed me with it! Finally, I have a reasonable explanation for my symptoms!”
Lyme can actually mimic – or cause – a lot of other autoimmune diseases, so you may think you have fibromyalgia or adrenal/chronic fatigue or multiple sclerosis…and really have Lyme. It’s more likely that someone would think they have another autoimmune disease and in fact (or in addition) have Lyme (or a similar vector-borne and/or low-grade infection), than the other way around. Lyme is way more common than many realize (and can be transmitted through many means other than a tick bite, including through mosquitoes, spiders, and bodily fluids – saliva, tears, etc.).
Such incredulity can be annoying, because it makes the sufferer feel that their diagnosis is invalid – at least socially. Which, for some, makes them question their own sanity (though it shouldn’t). Maybe they really are just a hypochondriac after all….
Except that…they know they aren’t.
Note: Not making any judgments or assessments about my family member’s friends or family here, or their motives/reasoning in asking the questions they did. Most people mean well when they ask such questions.
But this brings us to an interesting phenomenon about the human brain.
We tend to like to explain away or discredit facts that make us uncomfortable.
(Looked for the official name for this phenomenon and about the closest I got was Terror Management Theory…which…doesn’t exactly fit, but bears some resemblance.)
It’s a form of denial – an attempt to ignore, redefine, or disbelieve something that is terrifying or unsettling – even if that thing doesn’t directly affect you.
Having a loved one diagnosed with a serious condition can be irritating, frightening, burdening. (And it can also make undiagnosed sufferers wish they had an explanation for their similar, hidden symptoms (but sadly, they’ve come to believe the lie that any illness that is not completely outwardly visible is mental, and can’t have a medical diagnosis or root. So they think they’re just crazy for feeling what they feel.))
You can’t win! If you don’t have a diagnosis – and your symptoms are less visible (e.g. fatigue, faintness, brain fog), people think you’re lying about your health issues. And if you have a diagnosis, they don’t believe that either (“they” not representing all of humanity, but those who believe more in the prevalence of hypochondria than the growing reality of hidden illness).
A better question to ask in such situations might be, “Do you think that there could be an additional disease or factor in the mix? Or does Lyme pretty much explain all your symptoms?”
You’re acknowledging that the Lyme is a reality, but just expressing curiosity in asking if there might be more to the puzzle.
Or just a simple expression of sympathy. “Oh wow, I’m really sorry to hear that.”
Ever taken a personality test, read the description for the result you got, and gleefully exclaimed with relief “Yes! Finally, I make sense! There’s an explanation for my weirdness!”
Well, that’s how someone often feels when they get a medical diagnosis. Even if the diagnosis is very grave, it generally feels so much better to finally have an explanation for what’s going on. You know that you’re not actually going totally crazy, as many doctors have likely suggested to you in the past.
To have someone then attempt (however unwittingly) to shatter that source of relief and security is frustrating.
You’re thrilled that you can finally explain your health problems, and be confident that there really is a legit reason you feel the way you do. Finally, you know what monster you’re fighting, and you can learn what weapons to use.
And then, the very people you’d assumed would understand instead try to explain away your proof.
They doubt that you’re really up against that monster.
If the listener or questioner actually has some nutritional/medical knowledge (amateur or professional) and they have good reason to think you might have something else or something additional, then they should bring that up.
I would want to know if there were the possibility that I actually had a much more serious disease that I needed to be addressing, which symptomatically manifests similarly to the one with which I’d been diagnosed.
But to simply suggest – without any basis – to the diagnosed, “Um…nope, I don’t think you have that,” or press them with “Are you really sure that’s what you have?” – when they have clearly shared that they suffer from the symptoms for that illness and have been diagnosed – is uncaring at best, and cold and insensitive at worst.
Why would they be referring to it as their diagnosis if they weren’t reasonably sure? Why would they say “I have [X] disease” if they weren’t convinced it was so?
Denying the existence of the problem is not helpful. If someone has Lyme or cancer, suggesting to them (without any basis) that you doubt they really have that disease won’t make it go away, much as you’d like to see them stop suffering, or to think that your friend/relative really can’t be suffering from something so serious or painful.
My family member works really hard to encourage other people, keep pressing through, and give of herself. So a lot of people don’t see just how much she’s going through and fighting to do and give all that she does. They look at the surface and think “Hm, doesn’t look like Lyme disease to me. Look how chipper she is!” Or, “She’s not lying in bed at home all the time, so she can’t have such a serious illness.”
The sufferers of autoimmune disease today are the canaries in the coal mine. They are suffering because our environment is changing rapidly – being corrupted with water toxins, mutagens, toxic vaccine adjuvants, industrial poisons, and EMFs – which are particularly problematic for those who have been poisoned with heavy metals.
These environmental changes are awakening (pulling the trigger on) genetic mutations in extra-sensitive individuals. But it’s coming to a theater near you soon. What is happening now to the most fragile and sensitive will eventually become problematic for everyone.
Everyone will have autoimmune disease. Unless the environment – including “medicine” – becomes massively cleaner, you or your children will develop autoimmune disease. Many of their symptoms may be hidden (not outwardly noticeable in some way to the observer – or visible on the skin), but very real nevertheless.
It’s just a question of how rapidly the environment will become so toxic that even the strongest can’t withstand it.
We need to realize that this “mysterious” increase in cases of “hypochondriasis” is largely a mask for a growing and already pervasive problem: hidden illness, and the hidden threats to our health.
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