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To wonder why being sick suddenly makes you inspirational?

(42 Posts)
LunchpackOfNotreDame Thu 05-Nov-15 22:20:18

Or at least in the eyes of social media all the memes going round that cancer patients are brave and strong and inspirational. That everything is a fight and those who battle it inspire others.

Do people realise what pressure this puts onto people who are unwell or disabled or going through gruelling treatment?

I'm sure the pressure to show the world I'm well and not physically and mentally ill is what's making my mental health worse. That I have to be permanently positive in how I share bad news (such as recent test results - nothing terminal or life ending but certainly life affecting) and it has to be delivered in a nonchalant manner. I get the feeling from social media I may not be alone in feeling this pressure.

Does anyone else?

nothingcomestonothing Thu 05-Nov-15 22:52:18

YANBU. Not through my own experience, but many times in my job I have heard clients (young people with a life-threatening illness) talk about how inadequate they feel, because how they feel doesn't match up to the outside world's view of who/how they should be as a person with this condition.

I also hate 'lost their battle'-type sentiments, and all the 'just think positive' stuff. To me there aren't that many steps from this to an implication that those who don't survive didn't quite try hard enough, or those who are going through treatment must always be upbeat and nonchalant about it. People are meaning to be supportive, but it has the opposite effect and the client feels even more 'wrong'.

In my work life we often talk about those not within the world of this illness not 'getting it'; usually meaning well and wanting to encourage and support, but missing the mark because they have an expectation of how a person with this illness should be at different points in treatment which is very different from my clients' experiences. Clients routinely talk about feeling they can only be themselves when with others who have experience of their condition, not because they want to talk about the ins and outs of it, but because they feel they can be themselves and be understood.

Not sure if any of this is useful or relevant to you, but you are certainly not alone in feeling this way.

echt Thu 05-Nov-15 23:10:39

This addresses the issue perfectly, I think:

whois Thu 05-Nov-15 23:20:47

Yeah I really hate this. It's like you can't just be a normal person who has cancer, you have to smile all the time and raise thousands for charity.

its not good eneoigh just to conquer the daily struggles of having a leg amputated. You have to climb bloody Everest or run the marathon de sables.

You can't be unhappy, grumpy, lazy. You have to 'fight' every step of the way.

elliejjtiny Thu 05-Nov-15 23:22:15


I have a toddler who has had multiple operations. And a 7 year old who is a wheelchair user and suffers from chronic pain. Neither of them are saints, they are just children who are going through difficult times.

When my 7 year old nags me for sweets/icecream/tat at the supermarket I get shocked looks from strangers. He's 7, in most ways he behaves like a 7 year old. He's not going to go around with an angelic smile on his face just because he's sat in a wheelchair.

My 2 year old has a small scar on his face from when he had his cleft lip repaired. He has multiple health problems and has had 9 operations but according to some people I should just be grateful that his scar isn't more obvious.

ComposHatComesBack Thu 05-Nov-15 23:32:33

I think this rhetoric of 'a battle' against cancer is ludicrous and frankly insulting.

My Uncle was determined bordering on belligerent, but he died because despite him raging against cancer, refusing to accept he was going to die, it killed him. Slowly and painfully and with very little dignity. If he'd accepted he was dying it would have made no difference whatsoever.

He didn't die because he didn't fight the disease hard enough, he died because he had an incurable condition. You don't live or die by willpower.

kippersmum Thu 05-Nov-15 23:41:07

I hate this. It makes people like my Dad feel inadequate because they aren't doing all the extra smiley shit. He puts all his energy into surviving, which he has managed for 5 years now, which I am truly grateful for.

You can't "Battle Cancer". If only you could. When it spreads your time is up. It makes no difference what fancy green slime you drink for breakfast or how much you want to share awful jokes with your granddaughters....

If only....

CainInThePunting Thu 05-Nov-15 23:56:29

I have a deformed spine, had spasms in the muscles in my back since I was Around 11 or 12, 4 years ago I slipped a disc, two actually but one is pressing on the sciatic nerve. I'm in constant pain. And nights are worse because I've nothing to distract me from the pain so I get up to pace up and down. Reciting times tables helps, or counting backwards.
The lack of sleep makes me beyond miserable.
I wear make up so you can't tell that I spend my nights counting and pacing.

Does the daily mail give a shit? I doubt it.

MiscellaneousAssortment Fri 06-Nov-15 00:19:08

Yup, super-crip or scrounger, that's your choice.

Or the 3rd option - you're not really that ill, you're just putting it on for attention. I get this one a lot. Especially from people who are supposed to help me in some way. God how annoying my disability is to them. It comes from the whole effort thing... Surely if I just tried harder I'd get over it.

Or maybe I should you know not let it stop me:

Equally fatuous are the:
- Don't let it dominate everything
- Don't let it take over your life
- Think yourself better
- you can beat it
- Just exercise more /eat raw vegetables/ take homeopathic remedy number 327 etc.

Fatuous idiots.

It's because having a serious illness or disability reminds them that life is fragile, unpredictable and bad things happen indiscriminately.

People refuse to acknowledge that they aren't exempt from life's happenings, and no, they haven't 'insured themselves' against bad things.

Much more comforting to believe the fairy tale that:
- they are in control of their own destiny
- bodies are machines, inputs = outputs without fail

Soooo, cognitive dissonance ensues, And they hunt for a reason it happened to that person, and why that person isn't the same as them, anything to avoid disturbing that complacent world view. And if it blames the victim, that's great.

manicinsomniac Fri 06-Nov-15 00:34:40

Isn't more how some people act when sick or what some people do when sick that makes people see them as inspirational?

I don't think your common or garden sick person is revered as especially inspirational.

While he was dying of Leukaemia my Dad raised thousands of pounds for leukaemia research. However hard he must have been finding it, I don't remember him ever showing my sister or I that he was sad or frightened. He protected us right up to his death bed and he always had a hug and a smile for us. I absolutely think he was an inspirational man and have said so on social media before. I don't apologise for that. My Grandma was sick like a normal person. She lived, got ill and died. Nothing wrong with that. I loved her and mourned her just the same. She was a wonderful, kind and very cool old lady. Was she inspirational? No. Does that matter? No.

The thing is, one sick person being inspirational shouldn't make another sick person feel inadequate or pressure to be inspirational any more than one healthy person being inspirational should make another healthy person feel inadequate or under pressure. Also, people are inspired by different things and different people so it's very personal.

In summary, I think YABU,

Garlick Fri 06-Nov-15 05:02:24

I'm bookmarking this thread. Thank you thanks I'm sorry you're going through some shit, Lunch, and well done for spotting the issue. I'm currently in a huge slump, and it's largely caused by this expectation that I'm strong, brave, weak, lazy, coping, failing, scrounging, skiving, deserving, burdensome, independent, needy, etc, et bloody cetera!

The one I most loathe, I think, is "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger". My arse.

WildStallions Fri 06-Nov-15 05:25:09

If you know someone with a life limiting or chronic illness it feels like there is nothing right to say.

So some people say those 'brave / battling' cliches because they don't know what else to say.

You can't say 'you look awful' or 'I did X (which you'll never get to do)' so they just spout cliches to fill the silence.

elementofsurprise Fri 06-Nov-15 05:28:06

It's not just being sick, it's being a specific kind of sick with certain support around you...

My facebook (yeh, I know...) newsfeed recently threw up a post from someone about an operation they'd had (one of many) and how great it was all over now, and thanking their family for the care and support. All fine... except the comments were full of the "you're the bravest person ever!" type posts. Which really hurts if the very same people reject and belittle you for being ill in a mental way, and you can't even get NHS treatment, let alone a loving partner and family on board, and no-one knows (or accepts) just how much it takes to get through the day...

God, I sound bitter. Promise I'm not really grin

<scuttles off and hopes I haven't hijacked>

Fratelli Fri 06-Nov-15 06:08:27

My friend has cerebral palsy and she hates this. She finds it insulting that people with disabilities or illnesses are seen as being different from anyone else. It's like the disability/illness has taken over your personality whereas in fact, you are still the same person.

wannabestressfree Fri 06-Nov-15 06:34:38

I totally get this.... I have a chronic illness that has gone up a gear and I don't want my illness to define who I am as a person. I am not particuarly brave or battle more than anyone else. I am just getting on with life.....

Garlick Fri 06-Nov-15 14:59:02

You can't say 'you look awful' or 'I did X (which you'll never get to do)' shock

Well, telling someone they look awful might not be the best idea but when you know someone is 'battling', it's not unreasonable to say they look tired and would they like a break? Or similar - you know, empathy. On the days when I've spent a week pulling myself together for a public appearance, people can't stop telling me how well I look! It feels almost like they don't believe there's anything wrong (actually, I know many don't.) But why say "well"? Why not compliment my hair or dress, as they would anyone else?

There is absolutely no reason why you shouldn't tell a less able person about the stuff you've been doing. We don't live in caves, resenting those roaming free outside. Most of us have been able to ski, swim, or whatever you were doing and can join in a normal conversation. If it's something we've never done we can ask about it, just like an able person who hasn't done it.

StepAwayFromTheEcclesCakes Fri 06-Nov-15 17:16:43

Yanbu, I also hate these awards for bravery. people on the telly getting awards for doing stuff that almost anyone would have done in the circumstances and children getting awards for bravery in illness, its not brave to have an illness, or to go through treatment when the alternative is to die its horrid but its happening and the person really has little choice but to accept the treatment offered or suffer / die I always feel awful saying this but it really grates seeing all that mawkish shit on telly with celebrities with tears in their eyes hugging brave little children. yes many are inspirational with their resilience but only a few are recognised and agree what does that make those 'less brave' who are in pain / suffering and scared of dying feel like?

Garlick Fri 06-Nov-15 17:37:45

Re: mental illness. I especially like this one.

CMOTDibbler Fri 06-Nov-15 17:53:04

I acquired a disability 5 years ago, and one of the hardest things has been having to say to people over and bloody over again 'No, its not better, it won't get better' or 'No, I can't do any more with it, I've just learnt to work round it a bit better' or 'No, it still hurts'. The pain thing is one that people would really like to avoid discussing!

I've been told I'm 'inspirational' for taking up some sport. I'd rather people thought about all the things that are a barrier to people with disabilities participating personally.

stablemabel Fri 06-Nov-15 18:03:01

What a very good point you make Lunchpack. It seems to be a predominantly media thing, this immediate tag of 'brave' and 'battle' and 'inspirational' it has annoyed me (and DH) for a long time.

But you do here it in day to day conversations to both from strangers and amongst family and friends.

One thing that upsets me tbh (going off the track a little) is that people with severe allergies do not get a 'look-in' anywhere. Ok it's not an illness as such but still a condition that has to be dealt with daily and causes huge impact on lives - one false move could kill, and does kill people every year. Yet it seems that such people just have to get on with it as best they can, hey, ^it's even allowed as a 'joke' on birthday cards in shops such as Tesco and WH SMiths* (shame on them). for the first time in 10 years I mentioned to a couple of family members the other day how hard it is having an allergic DS. I never feel I can confess to feeling that it is hard and stressful

stablemabel Fri 06-Nov-15 18:04:42

That's excellent Garlick it puts it so well.

LunchpackOfNotreDame Fri 06-Nov-15 18:36:35

I'm sorry to hear so many people agree with me (in a good way)

stable I get where you're coming from almost all of my family are allergic to dairy, like if they eat even a small bit (say cream has been added to a sauce) they are violently ill after but people see dairy allergy and read lactose intolerance aka in their mind fussy eater. It really angers me

derxa Fri 06-Nov-15 19:00:04

Well I got BC. I had a boob chopped off, then some radiotherapy and then some hormone pills. I am neither brave nor inspirational. Most of the time I'm a moaning old minnie.

Sirzy Fri 06-Nov-15 19:06:23

For some people they cope with their personal battle by 'doing' that doesn't mean they are belittling the suffering of others. Nor does it mean everyone should react in the same way.

I am a rugby league fan, when a player was diagnosed with cancer he chose to turn his negative into a positive and whilst fighting the cancer he - and a team of others in the sport - raised a lot of money for charities and carried out some amazing feats. He still died from the cancer, that was never in doubt undortunalty, and people still do a lot of work fundraising in his memory.

That doesn't mean everyone who has cancer should do that any more than it means that everyone should react in the same way to any other life event.

florascotianew Fri 06-Nov-15 20:15:44

I think that a lot of the sensational media coverage today is horribly similar to what happened centuries ago, when people liked to visit prisons and hospitals where people with mental illnesses and incurable/inherited physical and medical conditions were detained. For the visitors, it was a form of entertainment - shocking and degrading (on all sides), but ultimately done for pleasure or curiosity. It was verging on the pornographic.

I think that exactly the same thing applies to a lot of media coverage today. It gives so-called 'healthy' readers/viwers a vicarious thrill of horror (sadly, contemplating death from afar seems to do that) while keeping them at a very safe distance from all personal danger AND allowing them to feel a synthetic glow of sympathy.

I mean absolutely no disrespect to people with or without serious illnesses who campaign to raise funds or otherwise volunteer or work to benefit charities. They are 100% admirable. But I feel that the media should not print a single further 'tug-at-the -heartstrings' or otherwise sensational story about brave-but-beautiful doomed/battling/dying people without donating at least £1 million per page to the relevant charitable organisation. And that readers should demand this, also.

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