When Sympathy for Others Comes Up Short, Think of the Intentions

Reframing my mindset helps me cut the stress of living with myasthenia gravis

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by Shawna Barnes |

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“I wish I could stay home all day and take naps.”

Does anyone else want to reach through your screen and give me a knuckle sandwich when you see that statement? Does it bring up an immediate negative reaction like anger?

It used to for me, as well. Until I stopped to think about where it was coming from. In my experience, for the most part, it’s come from well-meaning friends who were doing their best to understand and sympathize.

Sympathy (n): (1) feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune (2) understanding between people (Oxford Languages dictionary)

When I took time to understand where my friends and colleagues were coming from when they would tell me they wished they could stay home all day and nap, the phrase angered me less. They were doing their best to imagine what my life was like compared with theirs.

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Their day may be full of waking up early to get rambunctious kids off to school with a spouse who may or may not be helpful and attentive. Going to a job that they don’t really like to bring in just enough money to pay the bills but which offers no true quality of life. Coming home exhausted but unable to rest because their people need them to do all sorts of things, like helping with homework, making supper, assisting with bathing, and getting ready for the next day.

Most of my friends’ days are exhausting, and I can’t imagine having to live that life anymore.

They are trying to relate their exhaustion to mine.

My day may consist of waking up, taking meds, making coffee, sitting in my recliner while I wait for the meds to kick in, eating breakfast, getting dressed, taking another break, doing some website design or writing a column, taking more meds, going for a walk around the driveway if I’m feeling strong enough, eating lunch, probably taking a nap at this point, creating more designs on the computer or engaging in one of my hobbies, trying to help with the dogs by letting them out as needed, taking a break in my recliner, taking meds, eating supper, sitting in the recliner because I’m about done for the day, getting help taking a shower, and then heading to bed.

Just trying to live a “normal” life can be exhausting because of myasthenia gravis and my other disabilities.

Our levels and types of exhaustion are different, but I no longer fault my friends for trying to understand or sympathize. I instead use it as an opportunity to educate so they can understand my life better. I tell them about rationing my energy with my dinner plate theory or the spoon theory. I explain that I’d rather be able to run around as they do instead of having to rest so much in a body that I sometimes feel fails me.

In a world where people are so quick to jump to conclusions and judge, I do my best to remain open-minded and give those I encounter the benefit of the doubt. We’re all just trying to survive out here, and by reframing and adjusting my reaction, it’s helped reduce the amount of stress and animosity I feel toward the world.

Note: Myasthenia Gravis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Myasthenia Gravis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to myasthenia gravis.


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