Kim, Thanks so much for your post and reference to my article about "why can't people understand" [my chronic illness?] In regard to the comments of fellow bloggers, I agree whole-heartedly. Our society is made up of people who have many different personalities and ways of coping with difficulties in life. Some people will conquer anything with an attitude of "I can beat this!" while others will always choose to be the victim. Illness enters the life of every kind of person, so those with illness will be a cross-selection of the population too. It will represent those who are pretty-much emotionally healthy and just need a friend to SOMEHOW validate that they at least understand a small part of their daily challenges. But it will also represent those who will grab onto this illness as the newest [and perhaps most legitimate] reason to play "victim," using their illness to gain more attention.
Overall, I think there are very few people who actually "make up" an illness. 1 in 3 people in the USA have a chronic condition, such as pain from an auto accident, diabetes, migraines, arthritis, etc. And we can't ever REALLY know just how much pain someone is in. If it is painful to them and impacting their life, IT'S PAIN. Every time I have a rheumatoid arthritis flare that leaves me barely able to stand, it's amazing how wonderful those days of just limping now seem to be. Our scales of pain change every day, so it's best to just assume everyone really IS in pain.
But, I wrote the book "Why Can't I Make People Understand? Discovering the Validation Those with Chronic Illness Seek & Why" because I saw so many people living in a state of pure frustration that the world just "didn't get it." -- even their closest friends and spouses who generally care. I've attempted to teach people that those of us with illness CAN'T change those around us, or "make them get it." It's just not possible, like we can't understand divorce or the loss of a child if we haven't actually experienced it. We can adjust our own actions and attitudes, however. And for friends who want to help... I wrote "Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend" to try to give our chronically ill friends some resources/tools to better understand how they can reach out when they want to. Most people care but feel very ill-equipped at what to say, how to help and so they may do very little. Lack of caring is rarely the problem, but rather, a lack of communication between healthy and ill friends.
While writing "Why Can't I Make People Understand?" I realized that this question is asked by everyone on earth over whatever their plight is at the moment. We have a human instinct to need to have what we are feeling validated somehow and yet, even when it is, we still think, "But she doesn't REALLY understand! My situation is so much worse because [fill in the blank.]" This can be a normal emotion, but also a destructive one if we allow it to become a common thought pattern. If anyone is interested, both books are available at www.comfortzonebooks.com
God bless, and thank you for bringing this topic to light. Who would have thought I could explain my thoughts at 2 a.m. so well! I can't sleep from pain :)