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Mariah's avatar

What (if anything) can one do to help someone who's in denial? (See details)

Asked by Mariah (25876points) March 18th, 2011

A friend of my mother’s has just received a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis, which I had for the past four years. She emailed my mom, knowing that we are familiar with the disease, looking for some support.

This is a disease that has cyclical periods of activity and remission; this woman just got out of a several month long flare up and is currently asymptomatic. In her email she told my mom that she will not take any medications for the disease. Her plan is to “hope that it won’t come back,” which isn’t even really a plan.

If she won’t take medication and it does come back, her options are dietary treatments of dubious effectiveness or surgery.

I know where she is mentally right now because I’ve been there, and there is a long process that one has to go through in realizing that this diagnosis usually means making some sacrifices, and that hoping for the best isn’t a useful plan in the event that the best doesn’t happen. I don’t want to be a rain cloud or doomsayer, but I also feel very uncomfortable not sharing what I know, knowing that she has the potential to get very, very sick. Should I just mind my own business?

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10 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Hard as it is, since you have had some experience, you never give advice unless asked.

You could, however, mention that you have walked in her shoes, are further along in the journey and would be happy to help if she wants. If she says, “No,” then you tell her that the offer is on the table, whenever she likes. And perhaps direct her towards the online forums of people who have been there and done that, both effectively and with dire consequences.

I am sure that her doctors have told her in the strongest terms of the results if she stays on her present course.

And UC, like IRBS, is all-too prevalent. There is tons of information out there.

You are being thoughtful, of course, but be prepared to be rejected.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

All you can do is tell your story. Put it to her that “this is what happened to me.” That won’t put her on the defensive. Emphasize what you did, what worked, what didn’t work, and the result. Keep the conversation about your experience.

And never use the word “you.” That makes people in these types of situations feel as if they’re being attacked. Use “I” as much as possible.

Nullo's avatar

Experience is a harsh teacher, but she gets results. Should your friend’s mom fail to heed advice, then she will learn the hard way.
I didn’t floss before my root canal. Now I do.

KateTheGreat's avatar

She’ll most likely experience grueling times in the future, so just let the experience change her mind. You are very sweet to want to help, but it sounds like your mom’s friend will have to learn a few things on her own.

BarnacleBill's avatar

“Good luck with wishing and praying it doesn’t come back; I personally have found medication to be much more effective in managing the disease.”

Mariah's avatar

Okay, thanks everyone. I figured it’d be out of line to say much of anything, but it is so hard for me to sit back and watch someone go ahead with self-destructive thinking when this is one of the few situations where I really feel qualified to give advice. I hope she’ll be one of those cases where it does just go away.

marinelife's avatar

I would contact this woman and say that unfortunately you have a lot of experience with her disease and if she would like to talk about it, you are available.

Then you have to let it go. Denial is a natural stage in dealing with bad news. Some people never come out of it.

BarnacleBill's avatar

@Mariah, if she’s a close friend of your mom’s and someone you personally know, you could send her a “thinking of you” card, and say that you mom told you that she is in remission, and that you are all happy for her, because having dealt with the illness, you know the difficulties that lie ahead, and that you hope the next flare-up doesn’t come for many months.

If you choose your words wisely, you can make the point while staying out of it. Everyone likes to think they’re the exception to the rule. It’s only experience that teaches otherwise. You cannot deny her the opportunity to learn through experience.

Mariah's avatar

I guess I just don’t want anyone to have to have the same experiences I did with this disease, but at the same time I know that if anyone had tried to tell me back then that things would turn out how they did, I wouldn’t have believed it either.

Nullo's avatar

@Mariah Think of it as a learning experience. You now know, more or less, how the spurned evangelist feels.

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