Self-disclosure of my people-pleasing foibles.

Self-disclosure of my people-pleasing foibles often leads people to tell me not to be so hard on myself. It’s true that I feel mad about the times I didn’t stick up for myself and shame in admitting what I see as a weakness.

But sharing my truth means I can’t hide from it. Once it’s out, I’m confronted with its destructiveness and feel I have no choice but to change.

My self-disclosure is working. S-L-O-W-L-Y but S-U-R-E-L-Y. I’ve written some funny stories about my successes on Facebook. *

And now, another story:

You may know some of the background of this one. If not, the short story is that in May, 2016, I had to take medical leave from a job I loved due to my increasingly disabling and difficult-to-diagnose gut problems. My employer encouraged me to take advantage of their short-term disability policy, which turned into long-term disability.

What a blessing. Not my illness, but the disability benefits. That income took the edge off leaving my job, and helped to cover the thousands of dollars I spent (and spend) on out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Then, in September 2019, I received a call from my disability representative. I’ll call her Mary.

“I’m sorry to have to tell you this,” Mary said, her voice wobbling. I could hear the emotion in her voice and I knew it was sincere. We had become fond of each other in a weird kind of way during our three-year phone relationship. She was always professional and business-like, but with heart.

“Our medical directors have determined that you are no longer eligible for benefits.” She gulped. “Your cased is being closed as of today.”

Shit. I felt my shoulders and chest collapse, and my breath, my hopes, my future squeezed out of me like toothpaste.

I had wondered if I might face a reduction of benefits someday. I’m not bed-bound, after all. I’m not immobile. My mornings always suck, but I can usually leave the house in the afternoon or evening if I need to. I can take care of myself and do household chores and tap away on my laptop.

But I never expected a complete benefit mic-drop without warning.

As crushed as I felt, I also felt bad for Mary. My instinct was to comfort her.

“It’s OK,” I told her. “I won’t starve.” And I blathered on about the benefits being a blessing, and how grateful I was, blah, blah, blah.

I heard Mary typing to transcribe our conversation, like always. It’s her job. I knew she did it and I wasn’t worried because I had nothing to hide.

A few weeks later, I decided to appeal the decision, so I requested my full medical file—all 2,400 pages.

I read, or at least skimmed, most of it. When I came to my final conversation with Mary, I wished I had sewn my lips shut. It sounded like I was overjoyed to be losing my income. Blessing this and blessing that and all kinds of gratitude shit.

Nowhere did it say Client expressed anger and disappointment. Client Cried. Client said it must be a mistake because her health has not improved. Nope. Client was as agreeable as always. I saw it for myself in black and white.

I haven’t received the results of my appeal yet, but I suspect my people-pleasing will work against me. It won’t be the first time. There’s a scene in my memoir when a similar thing happened, only that time, it was a doctor I acquiesced to, and the patient was my son.

So you see why I share these stories. I hope you understand my self-disclosure. I must learn the lessons in what happened. And maybe others will learn, too.

In her book, The Disease to Please, the late Harriet B. Braiker said:

Sometimes we see in others what we can’t see clearly in ourselves.

If you see yourself in my stories, stick around. We’ll figure this out together.

*I tried to link to the exact post, but the cyber-gods weren’t cooperating. If you can’t find the post (or you’re not on Facebook), let me know and I’ll email it to you. And if you are on Facebook, how about following me while you’re there? 😉

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Personal growth in a story I didn’t want to tell.

In September 2016, when I realized my short-term disability leave was going to be long-term, I knew it was a gift from the universe and I couldn’t blow it again.

The gift was time—time to finish the memoir I began over 15 years ago.

When I started writing, I told the story of my son’s childhood brain tumor, which he and I both survived. Our saga had more twists and turns than a whodunit novel; if it was fiction, it would be unbelievable.

Then I stopped writing because parenting a son with brain trauma leaves little energy for anything else.

After two decades, with my recent gift of time, the memoir called and I answered. Below you can read what I wrote then.

But here’s a 2018 update: the story has changed.

It’s not about the brain tumor anymore. Oh, the twists and turns are still there, but the real story is about how poorly suited I was as a woman and a mom to handle the challenge, and how bumbling through the years-long medical drama taught me more about myself than I could have learned in a dozen perfect lifetimes.

That’s my truth. Admitting it—owning up—has been almost as painful as living through it. Personal growth ain’t easy.

And that’s why I persevere. Because truth is the best story.

Maybe I don’t want to tell this story. On writing my memoir.

I shiver intensely in my home office in spite of the portable heater blasting at my side and the sweatshirt hood cinched around my face. But I’m not cold.

I have the beginnings of heartburn and a headache. But I’m not sick.

I’m about to click “open” on the computer folder marked 6500. It looks pretty harmless – it’s only the files we exported years ago from our ancient Power PC. But I know what’s in there.

When it opens, I stare at the screen and put my hands in my lap for a few minutes. There it is – what I was looking for. I click on the folder marked BOOK.

I shake so uncontrollably now it hurts my shoulders.

These are the files that catch my eye:

Chapter 3: Matt’s early years

That was before the whole nightmare began.

I imagine him running through the yard, Sparky – our border collie mutt – chasing after him.

Chapter 5: Dr. W

I picture her round face.

I know her full name like it was yesterday. We liked her so much at first.

Chapter 6: Lorenzo’s Oil

My heart pounds as I see the words in print.I remember sitting at the kitchen table, reading a magazine, discovering the article. It was prophetic. It kept popping up like a bad dream those last few months.

Chapter 11: MRI day

That terrible, wonderful day. The day Matt got another diagnosis, this time the right one.

I close my eyes, put my hands back in my lap. 

Maybe I can’t do this. Maybe I can’t tell this story after all.  

I take a deep breath. 

Maybe I don’t want to tell it.

It’s been so long since I cried about my story, but I cry now. I don’t know where to start – what to open first. I sit and stare at the screen for awhile again. I’m afraid to go deeper.

Finally, I pick a file, click, and get this message:

Adobe Acrobat Reader DC could not open ‘chap 2’ because it is either not a supported file type or because the file has been damaged.

Oh shit. Are you kidding me? All this time, and I can’t open my files? I can’t write all this again – I can’t start over.

I try a few more files, but they all produce the same message.  

I hope Michael [my husband] can figure it out, otherwise I’m screwed. 

But a small part of me is relieved for the moment. I took the plunge without having to pierce the murky waters today. Maybe it’s a good place to stop, go make some tea, think about something else.

As I head downstairs, I give thanks that my story ended the way it did. I remind myself that Matthew is alive and healthy, a grown young man now, out on his own.  Every time I see him, I can wrap my arms around him, marvel at his intelligence, laugh at his wit, rejoice in the mundane details of his life.

He got through it.

So will I.