Regardless of what’s being said, communication is something that many people struggle with in their personal relationships. Communication requires self-awareness, listening skills, and the ability to empathize and convey thoughts and feelings accurately. When people are diagnosed with chronic conditions such as lymphoma, communication can truly be tested. The whirlwind of emotions that someone may be feeling as a result of diagnosis can influence how and what they want to communicate to those around them.
Having a support network
Anyone who has dealt with chronic or life-threatening illnesses knows how important having a support network is.
The people you surround yourself with and confide in can help you through the darkest of times. Usually, these people are loved ones whom you are already close with. Recognizing the need for a support network while also not wanting to put undue burden on the people you love can create a unique challenge. Obviously, people who love you are going to be frightened, upset, and maybe even angry by your diagnosis. This can be an emotionally confusing time for all people who are affected.
Communicating your diagnosis for the first time with the people you love can be frightening for everyone involved. There is no perfect way to break this news to people, and their reactions may be unpredictable and based in fear and unprocessed emotions. The people who love you may not know what to do or how to react. Knowing that they should be there for you, they will no doubt come around to responding in a way that they believe will be most helpful for you during this process. It is during this time that effective communication becomes essential. When people are frightened and unsure of how to behave around each other, there can be a lot of tension that puts strain on relationships.
While your support network works to be there for you, it is important that you reflect on what you truly need from them. Do you need logistical support? Can they best help you at this moment by bringing you to and from treatment? Do you really just need some people to confide in and listen to you? The first step in good communication is having the self-awareness to know what it is that you want to communicate. So, think about it. Take some time to explore yourself as you navigate this new path.
Of course, your loved ones are going to want to be there for you. When they are not sure what you need, they may do what they think is best. This could manifest as them worrying about your health and wanting you to rest more. Unfortunately, sometimes these behaviors can make you feel unempowered and like you are being treated like a child. By communicating what you need and do not need to your support group, you can teach them how they can empower you to care for yourself during this difficult time, while also getting the practical or emotional support that you need from others.
How to communicate your needs
When emotions run high among the people that we love, it is easy for us to become preoccupied with protecting their feelings. While this may seem noble and make us feel better in the moment, it is usually just harmful in the end. The fact is that this is going to be tough for the whole support group. With some honesty, love, and support, everyone will get through it.
Talking about your needs as you battle lymphoma can be a challenge. Your needs may change from day to day, so constant self-analysis will be important. It may be your first instinct when talking about what you need and do not need, to beat around the bush. This is easier in the moment, but harder in the long run. The best way to communicate in this situation is to be completely open and honest. Be direct about the situation and what you need, and don’t be afraid of your emotions or the emotions of the people around you. It all comes from love. Being a listener goes both ways though. Take the time to listen to the thoughts and concerns of the people in your support group. They know and love you, and it is quite possible that they have thought of something that you haven’t. Each person has his or her own unique perceptions regarding the situation that could be valuable. By creating an environment where everyone speaks honestly and listens to one another, the bonds between the people in the group will only be strengthened, and trust will become pervasive.
Don’t be afraid to tell people when you need a little more help, or frankly just need them to back off. Sometimes you will need your space, and that is ok. Your mental health is important too. By being straightforward and honest you can help your support group see that you are still the person that they know and love and not just a patient. Maintaining some level of normalcy for all of you will become important in coping with the day to day changes of your diagnosis. Activities and hobbies that are still comfortable for you to partake in need not be cast aside. Encourage your friends and family to join you for activities that you previously loved to do. If it is not currently possible for you to do those things, find new activities to share with one another. Even if it is as simple as watching a movie, spending time with one another outside of your diagnosis can strengthen relationships and help everyone involved cope. Don’t give up all the things that you love to do. You are still you.
The bottom line is that communicating with people you love about sensitive topics is tough, but necessary. Openly discussing your lymphoma diagnosis and the needs that you have as a result of it will make it a less taboo discussion topic. This will prevent people from walking on eggshells, and prevent misunderstandings in the future. While this direct and honest communication may be hard at first, it will get easier the more you do it. Ultimately, it’s all about love. Your friends and family love you, and you love them, and love makes communicating about emotions tough. With some endurance and practice, you will all be able to create an environment where everyone can communicate about their needs and feelings.