Auditory Disconnect

Have you ever had that moment when someone is speaking to you, and all you hear is gibberish? A meaningless phrase like “Pommel, any ore lapis?” or the like, just a jumble of words. However, when you stop and replay it in your mind, it ungarbles into something like “So Melanie, more tilapia?”

I do. Frequently. Possibly it’s because I’m not always paying attention to the person talking… or I’m “mentally” listening to music (a trick musicians in particular use) … or I’m just slagged by brain fog, and when someone speaks there is a time lag, like a bad voice-over on daytime television.

There are a few phrases I hear time and again, favorites of mine, and I’ve discovered these particular phrases get garbled a lot. Here’s a sample:

  • You don’t look sick!
    • What I hear: I don’t believe you are sick! 
  • You look like you’re feeling better!
    • What I hear: Congratulations, in the last few weeks your sense of fashion and makeup skills have improved! You go, girl! Also, I have no idea how invisible chronic illnesses work.
  • Get better soon!
    • What I hear: I don’t understand the word “chronic” very well, so I’m going to try to put a timetable on this. 
  • Do you really need all those medicines?
    • What I hear: I *still* don’t believe you’re really sick. And I don’t trust doctors, medical research, chemistry, “big pharma” or you to have determined what you need. Also, you’re a wuss for needing medicines to help you.
  • Just tough it out.
    • What I hear: I *STILL* don’t think you’re sick, so you’re a wuss and can overcome your very real illness with a bit more mental effort.
  • Are you sure it’s not just stress?
    • What I hear: I understand stress and there’s a million books about it, so this is fixable, and all in your head. Also, I STILL DON’T BELIEVE YOU ARE REALLY PHYSICALLY SICK.
  • I don’t think you need any more tests or diagnosis. I mean, what does it matter?
    • What I hear: Like, I don’t understand how knowing what’s wrong is going to help your treatment, and I’m tired of all of this. So I think you should just give up and be generically “sick.” But hey! I do finally understand that you’re sick and have a lot of things wrong with your body! 
  • Maybe you should rest.
    • Just give up. Also, it’s taking you too long to do something, so you should get out of the way and let the normal people handle this.
  • I think you should just live your life.
    • I think what you’re doing to make sure you are healthy isn’t really “living,” because I’m narrow-minded and only believe that there is one way to live. And now I’m going to tell you how to do that… 
  • Well, I get tired and my joints sometimes hurt too.
    • What I hear: I’m now going to compare my normal life to yours to minimize what you’re going through and to convince myself that you’re just exaggerating because then nothing like this could happen to me, all right? Also, you’re a wuss, and probably not
      really that sick.
  • Maybe you should try sucking on the pickled liver of a sea anemone?
    • Ok, maybe I *haven’t* heard this one! 🙂  but I have heard plenty of deeply suspicious suggestions about how to regain my health, delivered with nearly cult- fanaticism.  And a suspicious lack of hard evidence. The problem is, while I’m desperate enough to try some of these cures, and while my healthy friends with functioning bodies might be able to handle such cures or even benefit, for me that same cure might be incredibly damaging.

Oops! Auditory disconnect. Please hang up, and try again. 🙂

Thankfully, I usually find that the person saying these wonderful phrases cares and simply misunderstands my condition. I need to relax, take an emotional step back, and explain, gently, how come my chronic illnesses are not going to simple go away with rest and chicken casserole (which I will still take, thank you!)

Rarely, I’m fighting against 1) long-standing prejudices against medical treatment, 2) a deep fear of being sick themselves, and 3) a healthy resentment against anyone living a different life or having any advantage over “normal” – even if that difference is as small as going up a ramp instead of stairs.

And that’s just it. It’s a fight, against misunderstanding, fear, resentment, and prejudice. It is one that has to be fought, no matter how it manifests… and although frankly I don’t think it will ever be won, certainly I think we can do better to improve the lot of everyone by fighting. I’m certainly going to try.

And I also may invest in noise-canceling headphones. Because sometimes auditory disconnection is the way to go. 🙂


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