Standing up for myself is part of being prepared for HD progression
Seeing both sides of an issue is good, but it has its drawbacks, too
My wife, Jill, and I were recently talking about an encounter I had. As sometimes happens, a result of the conversation with Jill was a lesson that developed over the next few days about Jill’s terminal illness.
The conversation centered on feeling belittled in my work as a writer, which wasn’t the first time.
“So you were being bullied?” Jill asked.
“I don’t think so,” I replied.
I thought about the word “bullying.” I often hear that word, but it’s usually in the context of children. I’d never thought about experiencing it as an adult. Was I being bullied?
I asked Jill to explain what she meant and give me a definition. Before her Huntington’s disease diagnosis in 2018, she would have been able to do so without hesitation. That’s not always the case anymore.
When I looked up and saw her face, I changed course. “I know you aren’t my Google,” I said. “I’ll look it up myself.”
I read the Anti-Bullying Alliance‘s definition out loud: Bullying is “the repetitive, intentional hurting of one person or group by another person or group, where the relationship involves an imbalance of power. Bullying can be physical, verbal, or psychological. It can happen face-to-face or online.”
I read the definition a few more times before I said anything. I realized I had been experiencing a certain type of bullying for years. I had never stopped to think about the negative effect it was having on me.
It had caused me to question my skills, ability, and talent. I started to vent about it to Jill, who reacted with a small smile. “I’m glad you’re seeing what I have been realizing for months,” she said.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“You and I have the ability to see both sides of any issue,” Jill said. “This helps us understand the person on the other side of whatever that issue is. It can be a good quality, because we can accept criticism and see the positive side of it. But sometimes you’re too agreeable. Sometimes the other person isn’t right, yet you accept their opinion. I’ve been telling you for months that you are too agreeable when someone questions your skills.”
Ignoring the negativity
I am what Jill calls a “slow cooker thinker,” so I thought about it all day. I thought about the times someone was overly negative toward me. I thought about Jill’s opinion. I thought about how I’ve questioned myself because of another person. I thought about how I would have handled things if I were in their shoes.
Later that night, I sat down with Jill and shared with her all of the thoughts that had been floating around in my head.
“You’re right,” I said. “Now what should I do?”
Jill reminded me that I already knew the answer: “Just think about what you would say to me if I had those same problems,” she said.
She was right; I did know. The answer was simple: I needed to ignore other people’s negativity and remind myself that no matter how many times they bully me, I’m still talented.
Jill reminded me that as Huntington’s disease becomes a greater part of our lives, affecting her physical and cognitive abilities, I will need to listen to my own advice on every issue I face. She may not always be able to verbalize the reality of the situations I’m in, so I need to be strong and more self-aware in order to carry on.
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