Seeking treatment and help is a minefield for anyone with a chronic illness, especially with an illness that is poorly understood. It can often feel like a never-ending battle, with endless phone calls and appointments trying to find someone who understands and is willing to help. At times, it can feel so disheartening being rejected by departments because they say they can’t help you, and then being passed on from one doctor to another. It can take its toll and become extremely upsetting. Having spent so long in and out of appointments these past few years it has made me realise how important kindness is. Although a lot of health professionals I come across don’t know anything about my condition, M.E., their kindness and compassion shown towards me and their willingness to listen means more than actually understanding my illness.
Having been housebound these past 8 months, it has left me struggling to find treatment. After months of trying to find someone who would come out to see me or hold a phone consultation, a lovely pain consultant took the time out of his busy schedule to phone me, and even apologised he didn’t have enough time to come out and see me! This may not seem like much, but after months of “I can’t help you” and “we have no available appointments”, to me his kindness meant more than I can express. It reminds me that despite everything, there are kind people out there who want to help you in any way they can and will go above and beyond for you.
The best things a health professional can do for you is to listen, be kind, and be honest. It takes a lot of courage for someone to say, “I don’t know how to help you, but I will try my best anyway”. An individual who is honest about not fully understanding your illness but is prepared to listen to symptoms and work with you is invaluable. Kind professionals will keep trying to explore other treatment options even if they are not sure it will work, because they won’t give up on you.
Little things make all the difference – someone who has seen you before and is aware of your needs will note that you suffer with fatigue and will ask you how long you can cope with chatting before becoming too tired. Or they might suggest taking notes for you as you might be too fatigued to remember what has been discussed. These kind gestures are so important because it shows they are aware of your needs and are showing compassion and empathy. Even if they don’t come up with answers, the fact that they’ve tried their best and haven’t given up on you is more important than if they have been able to help you or not.
Unfortunately, there are people in the world who sometimes forget how important being kind is. I don’t think some people realise how powerful their attitude and words can be towards others. The difference between a receptionist saying, “I can’t help you” to “I’ll see what I can do for you lovely” can make or break someone’s day, especially for someone who is ill.
To me, kindness will always mean more than knowledge. I’ve stuck with certain health professionals simply because they’ve listened and empathised with me, despite the fact they may have little knowledge about my illness. Therefore, I want to say thank you to everyone who has shown me kindness these past few years, regardless of whether you know about my condition or not, because your kindness has meant so much to me.
Metta, E xx