Think back to the last time you had a really bad day. What was going on that day to make it so bad? And now, think about the words you might have used when you described it.
Did you really let loose with a big old rant on how bad things were? Maybe:
“I hate this.”
“This is the worst.”
“It’s just awful.”
Take a Step Back and Listen to Yourself
So, the first question to ask yourself: Was it really all that hateful, awful, the worst?
Now, think about how those words may have impacted the way you were feeling that day. Were you feeling optimistic that whatever it was you were dealing with, it wasn’t something you hadn’t been through before and would get through this time too? Or were you feeling like the world might just be crashing down around you, and that tomorrow might be even worse?
With words like “hate,” “worst,” and “awful,” chances are your weren’t feeling all that optimistic.
So here’s what I’m getting at:
There’s something kind of magical about words. The reason I say that words are magical is because the words we use a very big impact on how we experience the world around us. For better, or for not so better.
I’m talking not only about the words you say to other people, but the words you say to yourself.
Think about the last time things didn’t go the way you wanted them to go. You know, one of those times that seem to come along all too often when you are living with a bleeding disorder.
And if you are a family member of someone living with a bleeding disorder, think about the words you might be using when your loved one hits a rough spot.
Think back to the words you used to describe what happened. On one hand, you might have talked in a way that implied that, while it was disappointing, it was at least something you could figure out a way to cope with, or even live with. Or you might have instead talked about it as if was the worst thing that could possibly happen, soon to result in misery and despair.
Now, think about how the way you talked about the situation made you feel. Most likely, if you talked about it terms of possibilities, you felt disappointed/frustrated/annoyed, but not without options. But if you talked about it in with words like “worst” and “awful,” you may have felt hopeless and defeated.
Take it a step further. The language you use when you talk about the challenges that come your way also affects the actions you take, or don’t take. If you tell yourself that a situation is the absolute worst thing imaginable, you are setting yourself up to view it as so insurmountable that you may as well not even try to expect anything better. And so you stay miserable and stuck.
Words are powerful!
The words we say to ourselves and the words we say to others. When you are first diagnosed with a chronic condition, and every experience is new, those words of desperation and defeat are more likely to be top of mind. But now is also the time to be aware of the words you are using, and try to use words that encourage you to stay optimistic. In other words, watch your language.
Here are some of my favorite words to watch out for:
The “hate” word. There’s not much to love or even like about the symptoms of a chronic condition or the medication regimen you may be learning to live with, along with the lifestyle changes. But do you hate it? Hate opens up the door to negativity, making everything a punishment when, if you look at it objectively, it doesn’t have to be. Look at it this way: How can you hate something that is helping to make you feel better?
“Living with” or “suffering from?” This is a big one. If you’re living with a bleeding disorder, chances are you learned to face life on life’s terms, to do what you need to take the best possible care of yourself. Empowered. When you are suffering from your chronic condition, you place yourself in the role of victim, with things being done to you that you have no control over. You have a choice.
“Awful.” Using the word awful serves to put a situation in such a negative light that a set-back can feel like the world is crashing around you. That’s called “awful-izing.” Ask yourself: Is it really awful? Or is it just inconvenient? Or disappointing? Or frustrating? How you answer those questions will make a big difference in terms of the potential solutions you are able to identify.
“The worst.” This word goes hand-in-hand with “awful.” With the same impact on your outlook.
“Impossible” or “never.” Now, here’s a way to stress yourself out. Allow your mind to jump to the worst (there’s that word again) possible scenario and follow it down the rabbit hole. One of the best ways to conjure up this scenario is through the use of “impossible” or “never.” Because if a situation truly is impossible, if things will never get any better, why even try? Both of these words leave you backed into a corner with no way out. Again, as the victim. And you don’t have to be.
Talk Optimism, Stay Optimistic
Here’s how to keep your language more positive:
Choose to focus on what’s working. Not only on what’s not working. Remind yourself of what’s good in your life. Be grateful. Say it to yourself and say it out loud.
Remind yourself: I’ve been through this before. If you’re living with a bleeding disorder, or with someone who is, then this is probably not the first time you’ve felt this way. It might help to remember that you’re not in uncharted territory, and that you can get through it again.
Review your foundation. You’ve got a lot going for you. A health care team. Support. Knowledge. Coping skills. You’re resilient, right?
Get support. When you’re having a hard time, it’s all too easy to kind of shut down and get trapped in your own fears and frustrations. Reach out to someone who can listen without judgment and give you some fresh perspective.
Sure, living with a bleeding disorder brings surprises and responsibilities that you didn’t plan for. And yes, you’re not in control of everything that comes your way. But the words you use can create optimism or defeat – in your mind and in your actions. So, as your mom used to warn you: Watch your language!