I’m ill and disabled and I have a disabled child. It’s a hard life, and I wish I were better at asking for support. Unfortunately, asking for support means getting a lot of advice I didn’t ask for and thus, I keep most things to myself or some very carefully selected friends. Some people (like some family members) seem to be very provoked by the fact that I’d rather shut them out than risk getting advice and I’ve been pondering about why it’s such a big deal to me. I think there are at least two reasons, and they are connected.
The first reason is that getting advice when I’m simply sharing what I’m feeling or what’s going on i my life often means that something that is a huge problem to me is reduced to a minor annoyance. Let’s say that I tell someone about how awful my morning at the doctor’s waiting room was, due to a radio playing music. I’m very sensitive to noises and my head turns into a complete chaos when there’s a radio in a waiting room. Most of the times when I’ve shared this, people respond by recommending earplugs and that almost makes me cry. I understand that people respond like this because they want to help me to solve a problem, but do they honestly think I haven’t tried earplugs? Or headphones? I have no clue why people give my this advice, but if there was such an easy solution my noise sensitivity wouldn’t be this huge problem to me. I’ve lived with my noise sensitivity all of my life, and for the last five years or so it’s been escalating. When people recommend earplugs, it’s like they assume I don’t have any knowledge or skills at all when it comes to managing noise sensitivity. It makes me wonder if they think that this isn’t such a big problem after all, it’s just me lacking skills to deal with it.
As a consequence of this, I don’t feel validated at all and this is the second reason for why I detest getting unasked-for advice. Telling someone about a difficult situation or recurring problem means exposing myself. Opening up is to make myself vulnerable. If the person I’m opening up to assumes that they have more skills than I have (despite I’m the one living with this problem) and shows distrust to my experience of what a difficult situation it is to be sensitive to noises – then I’m not validated. It’s belittling, not supportive.
I understand perfectly well that people usually don’t have bad intentions when they give me advice I didn’t ask for. But good intentions don’t really help when all it does is elevating my levels of despair, and weakens my sense of context. Because these pieces of advice – that are not only useless because they include solutions that I’ve either already tried or are not applicable – they also tell me that I’m totally alone in this world. That there isn’t anybody to turn to because obviously my situation is too weird, too deviant for anyone to comprehend.