The Art of (Not) Accepting Unsolicited Advice

The Art of (Not) Accepting Unsolicited Advice

The last time I checked my Facebook messages, some guy called me a “fucking idiot.”

He sent me a barrage of messages pushing unsolicited medical advice, one of many such people who, for some reason, feel the need to give their unqualified opinions about my health. In the years that I’ve been writing about my life and my illness, I’ve learned that this sort of unsolicited advice comes with the territory. I don’t like it, and I rarely, if ever, accept it. But that doesn’t stop it from happening.

So, instead of letting it upset me, I’m trying a new method of dealing with it. I laugh it off. I don’t take it seriously. My response to the guy who called me an idiot for not taking his “miracle mineral supplements” was to laugh and tell him that he sounded angry. Because he did. He sounded very angry. So I blocked him.

But he was undeterred. He sent me another message from a different account:

Like I said, he was an angry guy (and ignorant. I hate people who use the “R” word). So I blocked his second account, which probably just made him angrier. But he deserved it. And it saved me from getting upset, which is my preferred way of ending a conversation. I’m sorry, but if a random stranger slides into my DMs and tells me that some bullshit supplement, one probably filled with baking flour, is going to cure me, then I absolutely reserve the right to reject him. And if that pisses him off, then he needs to rein in his messianic complex.

For me, it all comes down to the simple truth that if I don’t take unsolicited advice seriously, I won’t get upset that random strangers with no credentials or medical training think they know what’s best for my health.

I do believe their hearts are in the right place though. Well, maybe not the angry guy. But some people genuinely care and want to help, they just don’t know how. It takes an obscene amount of arrogance and ignorance to think they can heal me without any proper medical training.

It starts to feel like I’m hanging off a tall building and first responders are trying to save me while a bunch of people block the way and stand over me offering bogus supplements and glasses of celery juice instead of letting the professionals do their jobs.

I’m not the only one who has been annoyed by a whacko who read a book on the healing power of artichokes or a high school dropout who works the bottom of a supplement pyramid scheme. As frustrating as it is for me to receive this unsolicited medical advice, some people get it much worse.

Recently I came across a story of a biology professor at the University of Oregon who died of lymphoma. As the biology professor, Jeff McKnight, neared the end of his life, his story spread online and his wife, Laura, tweeted a plea for people to stop sending her treatment advice. McKnight was being treated by top oncologists, yet ordinary people with no qualifications still felt they knew better, that they had some secret treatment that would save him. And worst of all, he was literally on his deathbed and, instead of giving him and his family the peace and privacy they deserved, people were bombarding them with nonsensical medical advice.

It reminds me of a similar, only slightly less enraging story, which I heard on a podcast. The hosts, Rhett and Link, spent an hour talking about their childhood friend, whom they loved. He developed ME/CFS, the disease I suffer from, and later he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Rhett and Link visited him while he was battling the cancer. They were very religious at the time, but their friend wasn’t. And because he wasn’t, they felt the need to convert him before he died. As they described, they felt a need to save his soul because they loved him and were worried about what would happen to him in the afterlife. Their friend wasn’t very receptive to their attempts however, and at one point his sister asked Rhett and Link to stop preaching to him. So they did. Eventually their friend passed away, and now looking back on it years later, they felt remorse for having pressured him.

It’s obvious that they were coming from a good place, yet I couldn’t help but put myself in their friend’s position. I would have been disappointed that my friends were spending my final moments on earth trying to convert me to their religious beliefs.

This is all to say, there’s an art to not accepting unsolicited advice. Sometimes it’s just easier to pretend to accept the advice. I’ve certainly done that, but I almost always resent it afterward. Then I explode and unleash a harsh reply on some poor soul who was “just trying to help.”

The alternative is not taking it seriously, laughing it off. I don’t know if that’s the best way to deal with unsolicited advice. But so far it feels like the best way, maybe the only way, to preserve my sanity.

It’s the only way I can cope with the fact that some people will never get it. They’ll never stop forcing their opinions on people. But they really should stop. For everyone’s sake.

BEFORE YOU GO… 

1. Thanks for reading! If you haven’t already, please follow my blog.

2. For those who haven’t heard, my memoir, WHEN FORCE MEETS FATE, is going to be published in January.

You can read sample chapters, add it on Goodreads, and preorder it through online retailers, in both print and ebook. The audiobook will be available for preorder soon. Here’s a list of places to order the book (by country):

US: Amazon, Apple, Target, Barnes and Noble, BooksAMillion, Book Depository (ships worldwide for free!), Indiebound, BookShop.

Canada: Amazon, Kobo (soon)

UK: Amazon

Australia: Booktopia

Mexico: Amazon (Sorry, no Spanish translation yet)

Germany: Amazon

Norway/Sweden: Book Depository, Adlibris

Brazil: Amazon

Life Without an IV

Life Without an IV

Before all of this coronavirus craziness started, I had an IV in my arm. Over the last several years I’ve gone from using a small peripheral IV in my forearm to, more recently, using a midline IV — a long vein-dwelling catheter that ran from my elbow to my armpit.

I started with the peripheral IVs because I was much sicker then, and they were the only ones that my weakened body could handle. I had initially tried a PICC IV, which ran inside a vein from my arm to my heart. The thought alone of a little plastic tube resting a couple centimeters from my heart freaked me out. And then, when it was inserted in my arm, it became extremely painful throughout my chest and shoulder. So I took it out and tried the peripheral IVs, which were far less painful but only lasted a few days at a time. They were, as it seemed, a temporary solution to a long term problem. Eventually I tried a midline, which was similar to the PICC but didn’t make the turn through my armpit to my heart, and consequently was less painful. The other good thing about the midline was that I could leave it in for a couple months at a time.

The purpose of these plastic twigs in my arm was to get daily infusions of saline and vitamins. Because I have been deficient in a hormone called arginine vasopressin, it became difficult, sometimes even impossible, for me to hydrate through oral consumption of water and electrolytes, thus the need for IV fluids.

Then the pandemic hit and, because of my compromised immune system, I couldn’t risk getting the coronavirus from a nurse or doctor who would have to place the IVs in my arm. So, back in February, I stopped getting the IVs and infusions, and I’m happy to report that my health has, for the most part, remained steady.

On good days I’ve been well enough to put my feet on the ground a few times and try to stand up. Although this hasn’t been unprecedented in my recovery so far — there have been times in the last few years when I’ve been able to do this — it’s remarkable that I’m well enough to do it without getting IV fluids. This is partly because the IV fluids increase my blood pressure and volume, on top of hydrating my body.

It’s hard to say exactly why I’ve been able to sustain my recovery without IV fluids, mostly because, again, I don’t want to risk getting the coronavirus by having a nurse or phlebotomist do bloodwork to see what my vasopressin and cortisol levels are.

What I do know, however, is that I’ve been drinking lots of water and taking electrolyte supplements, which as I mentioned, hasn’t worked in the past but may be helping now. Or maybe my body has undergone a transformation in the last few years, partially healing the functional impairments that were keeping my body from adequately hydrating itself.

Whatever the reason is, I’m grateful that my health is stable without the IVs. I’m sure it would help if I could still do infusions, at least occasionally, but given the circumstances, things could be much worse.

BEFORE YOU GO… 

1. Thanks for reading! If you haven’t already, please follow my blog.

2. For those who haven’t heard, my memoir, WHEN FORCE MEETS FATE, is going to be published in January.

You can read samples chapters, add it on Goodreads, and preorder it through many online retailers, in both print and ebook. The audiobook will be available for preorder this fall. Here’s a list of places to order the book (by country):

US: Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, BooksAMillion, Book Depository (ships worldwide for free!), Indiebound, BookShop.

Canada: Amazon, Kobo (soon)

UK: Amazon

Australia: Booktopia

Mexico: Amazon (Sorry, no Spanish translation yet)

Germany: Amazon

Norway/Sweden: Book Depository, Adlibris

Brazil: Amazon

Why I STILL Take My Health For Granted

Why I STILL Take My Health For Granted

I used to be able to walk. I used to be able to talk. I used to be able to run, fast and far, and lift heavy weights. I used to be able to hike mountains and swim in rivers. I used to be able to do lots of things, and, because my health was good, I took them all for granted.

Damn right I did. If I could, I’d take them for granted all over again.

I’m all for being grateful when your health is good and aware of how your health can go bad, but I don’t see the point of dwelling on any of it.

If you have to constantly remind yourself to not take your health for granted, it ruins a lot of the fun in life, or at least the freedom of doing things and not overthinking them.

I used to work out for at least three hours every day. I worked out so much I stopped thinking about it. My exercise routine wasn’t only habitual, it was automatic. That was the best part, and a big reason why I did it so much. I was able to do something I loved, something that was good for me, something that let me shut my mind off and forget about all the stress and frustration in my life. If I had to be fully present in those moments, if I had to not take them for granted, it would have mostly defeated their purpose in my life. I would have been so wrapped up in being appreciative and aware, that I doubt I would have enjoyed them. Instead of being relaxing, working out would have been just another task I had to check off my list each day.

I realize that there’s a recklessness to taking your health for granted. And I certainly don’t want to endorse doing things that are harmful to anyone’s health. So please, if you will, don’t take my message as encouragement to go on a drinking binge and smoke two packs of cigarettes every day. That would be a whole other level of taking your health for granted, and one of which I definitely don’t encourage. What I’m referring to is more of the internal conversations that people have with themselves about not taking their health for granted, and how they too can be counterproductive.

I mean, what does it even mean to not take my health for granted? Is it going outside every morning and, to no one in particular, saying: I am not taking my health for granted. I suppose there’s no harm in that, though the neighbors will definitely raise an eyebrow.

But seriously, must I really prove to myself, and other people, that I’m not taking my health for granted? Do I have to write it down in my don’t take things for granted notebook? Should I bow my head to the don’t take things for granted gods?

The whole concept of taking my health for granted seems too personal, too intangible, to be a universal truth. It’s this subjective and arbitrary idea that focusing on how, at any moment, my health could get worse, is somehow good karma or otherwise beneficial.

That’s not to say that it shouldn’t be done, but it is to say that it should only be done if it serves a good purpose. If I thought that telling myself to not take my health for granted somehow made me healthier, I’d get that shit tattooed on my face.

But it doesn’t make me healthier. Instead I usually end up beating myself up about not feeling more grateful for the little things that my health still allows me to do, even though there are so many big things that I still can’t enjoy. It’s sort of like getting punched in the face and trying to will myself to say thank you after.

Obviously I’m guilty of feeling the pressure, mostly from myself, to not take what little health I have for granted. It’s rooted in my mind as something I’ve always done. I used to pressure myself to always count my lucky stars when I was healthy. I remember seeing sick and disabled people and wondering if something like that would ever happen to me. Then I would immediately tell myself to be more grateful or it might indeed happen to me, as if my inner monologue about it really had some influence on my fate, as if it meant something beyond just telling myself to be more grateful. But, really, that’s all it meant. It wasn’t some elaborate, earth-shifting mission to ensure bad health couldn’t find me. No. Telling myself to not take my health for granted has always been a mental game I’ve played, an affirmation, perhaps even a mantra that I’ve repeated to make myself feel better about the fact that scary shit can happen to anybody, at any time.

Not taking health for granted is a very personal thing. My perspective is probably different than that of a healthy person, or for that matter, someone who is terminally ill. But let me leave you with this: If it makes you feel better to repeatedly tell yourself to not take your health for granted, and beat yourself up when you feel you’ve betrayed the sanctity of your health, then by all means, keep riding that tortuous train. But if it doesn’t, if you’re like me and want free of those shackles, then, for the love of margaritas and sunsets, just let it go — don’t dwell on how lucky or grateful you are to have some level of health. Just enjoy it.

BEFORE YOU GO…

1. Thanks for reading!

2. If you would like to donate to support this blog I would be so grateful.

3. I am fundraising to pay my medical bills and if you’d like to help out by buying a shirt or hoodie I’d be equally grateful. I get about $5 for every shirt sold.