Indeed, there is an invisible stigma attached to the diagnosis of COPD, as if smoking makes a person "deserve" it. The truth is, no one deserves COPD and smoking is not the only cause of the disease. Unfortunately, there are always going to be people who just don't get it. That's why it's important to be prepared.
Learning how to deal with insensitive comments made about COPD may be tough, but there are healthier ways to deal with negativity than to respond in a negative manner.
Check out the following list for some creative ways to cope with your offenders:
Surround Yourself with Solid Support
Supportive people are the those who nurture and love you, who don't try to tear you down when you are feeling the most vulnerable. Supportive people don't judge, and are far less likely to make insensitive comments. If you don't have a solid support system at home, then join a COPD support group either in your community or online. The COPD Forum is a great place to start and provides you with online support every day of the week.
Drop Your Defenses
Whenever someone hurts our feelings, the natural response is for us to gather up our finest artillery and fight back. Don't do it. Getting defensive is a waste of precious energy, energy which can be used more productively on something else. Learn to let go of your defenses and just walk away. The results will amaze you.
Put the Offender in Their Place
If you can't just walk away, you may want to put the offender back in their rightful place. Matching your wit to theirs may be just the thing they need to remind them to keep their comments to themselves. Jennifer Heisler RN, About.com's Guide to Surgery suggests turning on the tears, looking right back in their face and saying, "I'm sure you don't know how insensitive that remark was." Redirecting their comment with one that puts them on the spot is a good way to render some sweet revenge.
Relax Through Meditation or Visualization
Have you ever walked away from someone who has made a rude comment only to hold onto it for the rest of the day? In fact, you may even take that comment to bed with you and not be able to sleep. Try meditation or visualization. Both can bring you back to a peaceful state of mind, the state of mind you need to be in to cope with your disease.
Make Pampering Yourself a Priority
Pampering yourself means loving yourself first, which reflects in the way you deal with other people. When you have a positive self-image nothing, or no one, can bring you down. Take time out each day for yourself. Read a book. Go to the movies. Get a pedicure. Buy yourself flowers. Whatever you enjoy that makes you feel good about yourself, do it. When others see that you are not letting your COPD diagnosis get you down, they may be less likely to make rude comments.
Maintain Your Sense of Humor
Laughter can sometimes be the best medicine for anyone who is sick. Maintain your sense of humor at all times, even in the face of adversity. For example, Dr. Lynne Eldridge, About.com's Guide to Lung Cancer suggests that when someone asks you how long you smoked, you should picture yourself asking them how long they have been obese, or how long they have been addicted to tanning, or whatever the case may be. Their imagined response will be enough to get your through any insensitive remarks that may come your way. In the mood for more laughter? Visit Laughter is the Best Medicine in the COPD Forum.
Prepare Some Snappy Comebacks
Remember when you were growing up and your mother said, "If you don't have nothin' good to say then don't say nothin' at all?" When it comes to nasty remarks, however, that rule just doesn't apply anymore. Think of some snappy comebacks in advance to help you be better prepared when your offender strikes. This way, you can move on to more important things, like your COPD treatment. About.com's Surgery Guide, Jennifer Heisler RN, actually heard someone say this in response to a rude comment about cancer, "Why thank you, I didn’t know smoking could cause cancer, thank you for telling me, now I know I deserve cancer!" Read more of Jennifer's snappy comments to help you prepare some of your own.
Educate the Ignorant
Ignorance means lack of knowledge. Because some comments are made directly from the face of ignorance, raising awareness about the disease -- if you are up to it -- can help bridge the gap between ignorance and knowledge. Try directing them to the COPD Website or the COPD Forum for additional information.
Forgiveness is the key to a healthy, peaceful state of mind. When you hold on to resentments because of a perceived wrongdoing, you are only hurting yourself. Your offender has already forgotten about the comment and has moved on. You should too. How do you do this? By practicing forgiveness and praying for the person who has wronged you. If you don't think you are ready for forgiveness, pray for the willingness to forgive and it will eventually come to you. Remember too, while you are in the midst of forgiving others, why not begin to forgive yourself? Let go of the past. What's done is done and you can't change anything that's happened before this moment. What you can change is you. Forgive yourself and begin a new way of life, one that is based on forgiveness and healing.
Now that you are better prepared to deal with insensitive comments, please Share your story.
Eldridge, Lynne M.D. Insensitive Comments During Lung Cancer Treatment. About.com. November 19, 2008.