Getting Through Tough Days

I’m packing to move.
I’m applying for a mortgage.
I am applying for medical insurance, because my old insurer doesn’t insure in Arizona.
Had enough? Me, too.
All day long, people tell me ‘no,’ make me do useless paperwork, and push me into a corner. I haven’t seen a doctor in a year, so I must be hiding something. If you have seen a doctor in the last year, you must be sick, so we’ll deny you coverage. The last doctor I saw retired, and I have to track him and my records down. I have to lose 10 pounds by Wednesday.
In short, getting health insurance is hard if you own your own business.

Frustration, from

Frustration, from

So what’s this about?
I’m amazed at how many people are giving me advice I didn’t ask for.
And worse, I’m amazed at how I’m letting them engage me.
Need to lose 10 pounds in a week? One person told me to take laxatives and diuretics. Another told me to “just not eat.” These are not stupid people. These are people who want to be helpful.
So they say the first thing that comes to their heads. The idea that these suggestions are not safe, and could wind me up having to see a doctor doesn’t occur to them.

So my answer can’t be “Are you STUPID? I’m trying to get HEALTH insurance here!”
One friend told me that I had chosen everything I put into my mouth, so I could not complain that I was overweight. She, of course, is whippet thin.

How am I getting through the day without strangling all these helpful people? By realizing that they are just saying anything at all. This is not advice, even if it sounds like it. And it’s not helpful. If I yell, I will just offend them. So I’m acting “as if,” an old coping trick I learned years ago from a friend in AA. I’m acting as if they are helpful.
“I could try that,” I say, knowing I won’t. But it makes them feel as if they are helping, which is really what they want to do.

If I yell, I’ll feel bad afterwards. Not like me. So that isn’t an option for me.

I’m receiving unwanted advice on how to pack, how to carry boxes, how to manage my time. And instead of being angry, I’m saying, “Thanks for the advice.” This is not what I want to say. I want to ask them if they think I’m an idiot, that I don’t need their advice, that a real friend would bring me supper and keep their mouth shut. But that is not what they have to offer. What they have to offer is glib words that will make them feel better.

And what I have to offer is not yelling or taking it personally. It’s just yakking. So I’m steering through these dangerous, emotionally difficult times by remembering that these people are trying to be helpful. This is not about me. I won’t take it personally. No, I willlll not.

If you are stressed, try remembering that all that advice is not about you. It’s about the fixers in the world who must fix your problem at any cost, even if it isn’t a real fix. Even if it is what they wish they would have done. It sounds good to them. And it is not about you.

And if you are dealing with someone who is stressed, before you offer one word of advice, ask. Go ahead, ask, “Do you want my advice?” And if the person says, “No,” or even “Sure, go ahead,” laugh and say, “You’ve had too much advice already. How about I’ll bring you take-out Chinese tonight? Here’s a take out menu. Circle what you want, and tell me what time you want it.” If you can’t manage that, simply say, “This hard part will pass.”

–Quinn McDonald is stressed over her move and the amazingly Byzantine twists and turns of the medical insurance world. She wants the move to be over soon. (c) 2008. All rights reserved