Tuesday, May 1, 2012

"Don't Take It Personally"

 Psychologists and therapists encourage us to have open communication and let our needs be known. Over the years, this has not been easy for me to do, but as you might guess, I sometimes feel sad, lonely, and vulnerable after so many years of caregiving with no end in sight. Mostly, I write and read to keep these feelings at bay because I don't want to bore my friends. But sometimes I feel the need to connect with a friend. At these times, I tend to reach out to lifelong friends, to friends who knew me before marriage and family, to friends who are firmly woven into my life's tapestry. There's something about a forty to fifty year friendship, from adolescence to my sixties, that is like a "blankie." You've shared the friendship so long that its familiarity wraps you in comfort and love. All is understood. Until it isn't.  And, when it isn't, you want to know why because you want your friendship well and whole again, and you want to make it all better if somehow you upset your friend.

So, you ask your friend if something is wrong, and the reply is, "Don't take it personally." Well, how else are you supposed to take it when you haven't been given any other explanations? You are left to fill in the blanks yourself. How would your friend take it if the situation were reversed, and you were saying those words?

I'm fairly certain that my feelings of insecurity when I hear those words stem from my father's mantra, "No one is ever going to like you or love you. No one is ever going to care about anything you ever say. No one." My dad took delight in saying these words to me almost daily during high school. And now, more than forty years later, those words patiently wait and are ready to pounce when I'm feeling vulnerable. Perhaps if my husband hadn't gotten dementia, or if my middle son hadn't gotten schizophrenia, perhaps our family's love and affection would have buried my father's cruel words forever. But dementia and schizophrenia did enter our family, and the resulting loss, insecurity, and near hopelessness at those twin situations have only reinforced my father's words, even though intellectually I know that they shouldn't. 

So, like it or not, what I hear when someone says, "Don't take it personally," is that my needs, concerns, and feelings are subordinate, which I can accept if I only knew why. But when I don't know why, my insecurities rise up and overwhelm me. Therefore, I do not use the words, "Don't take it personally" because I don't want my friends to ever feel insecure in my affections for them. I take the time to explain what is going on so that there won't be any hurt feelings or misunderstandings because my friends' feelings are just as important as my feelings.

If you, like me, do not like hearing, "Don't take it personally," then tell your friend what is really troubling you. It may take a few extra minutes, but it is well worth the time because your shared affection and connection will not only remain intact, but will also grow stronger through understanding.

Take care,


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  1. Isn't it amazing no matter how old we get those childhood taunts still haunt us. Hugs to you, Thank you for being transparent with all of us on this insidious dementia journey.