I’m intending to write a series of posts exploring some of the classic cliches and phrases that I have come across since my diagnosis with cancer. My last post Why I won’t be getting run over by a bus any time soon was the first of these and is about the chances of getting run over by a bus and the reality of living with a life shortening diagnosis. This post is about the phrase “keep your chin up” which has been said to me on more than a few occasions. Now if it is said to me on the basis that keeping my chin up will help to mask the double chin I currently have (I blame that on the steroids!) then fine, it may be a little blunt but yes it is good advice for minimising a double chin! Hey I might even get one of these!
However I think it is generally said to encourage me to stay strong and positive in the face of adversity, not to cry with my chin down. More on positivity in a future post as part of this series but the phrase grates on me and I have been trying to figure out why. I think it is because it takes away from my right to feel down or upset and places the onus on me to alter my mood rather than perhaps empathising with me, for example, by saying yes you’re in a pretty shitty situation and I’m here for you. I know people mean well when they say it but there are times when I don’t want to or can’t keep my chin up. I may just want to express my grief, depression or fears or whatever and be a blubbering wreck without being told to keep my chin up, stay positive etc etc. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is more for the benefit of other people than me. Its my party and I’ll cry if I want to comes to mind.
I really like this RSA short animation below on the power of empathy and it helped me understand the difference between sympathy and empathy.
And I’m not saying that I am the perfect empathiser, far from it, I’m just saying!! You will be relieved to hear that I am mostly “keeping my chin up” these days, being on a much reduced dose of steroids has helped with my low mood and paranoia when withdrawing from them in my week off treatment. I am maintaining remission but still on treatment ( a medical update will follow shortly). Life is pretty good in spite of the endless visits to hospital for treatment and review, I’ve just come back from a few days break abroad in this place. See if y0u can guess where? All will be revealed in my next post!
10 responses to “Keep your chin up!”
Wendy, The first paragraph really spoke to me. “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to,” really sums it up. There are days (thankfully not too many) when I just want to wallow in my scary diagnosis. I don’t want to be told to be positive, keep your chin up, etc. Usually, if I allow myself to wallow, I find I feel better emotionally after getting those bad feelings out. It’s kind of like having a good cry.
I am so happy you are in remission and I hope I continues a very long time. My lambda light chain number is going up, up, up, but I am hopeful we will get it going back down soon.
Hi Carole, I agree with you, I generally feel better after an outpour of emotions, I can then move on. I hope your new treatment will start working very soon.
Well written Wendy. I agree totally….not feeling like you can be genuine with friends just makes me feel like they only want me when things are good. I know people say it for the right reasons (or at least because they don’t know what they can say that is helpful!) but as you say, it isn’t helpful. I love my friends who don’t mind when I’m sad, who understand that living with this cancer means that I don’t walk around with a permanent smile on my face and who stay my friends through it all. They can appreciate that life is sh*t sometimes and that I might just need to blub….they’re the friends I love the most!
Glad to hear that you’re doing well with the reduced dose steroids and hope that you continue to travel the world!
I do keep up with your blog….sorry I don’t comment often!
Hi Deb, I appreciate your comment and ditto too in that I read your blog too! You are lucky to have friends like that with whom you can keep it real so to speak. Good luck with your 40 challenges before 40.
Here is the link to it if anyone is interested.
Like Deb, the friends who I rely on are the ones, like today, who respond to a text saying I’m feeling low and having a cry, by calling me and saying, yes, crying is good. Great topic, Wendy! And yes, you better carry on travelling the world, cos I’m coming with you. Insurance or no! x
No doubt I will be travelling the world, lots more places to see yet! Looking forward to our trip to Finland!🎿🎿
Once again Wendy, well said.I completely agree with you – it is easier on people if we smile and say we are fine…makes them feel better and less uncomfortable….. irks me too.But when I am not feeling “up” there is NO reason why we have to rise to others expectations of us just for their convenience. That being said,” pity parties ” become boring after awhile so we tend to pick ourselves up and move on. I am with you girl.
I don’t want people to pity me, I just want to be able to express my feelings, get some understanding and then move on, hope you’re doing OK Brenda
I guess the only thing I have to offer about ‘keep your chin up,’ is that when my mother told me to do that long ago, it was because I had to give an emotional speech and she assured me that if I kept my chin up I would not cry while giving the talk. It did work. And I have used that technique more than once in public situations where my crying would be too upsetting for those around me. (Apparently the tear ducts need to be able to roll downhill and the chin up prevents that.)
However, I would NEVER say that to someone with the Rx of a life-shortening situation and wouldn’t want someone to say that to me, either.
Good post… good examples and good information for the cheerleaders of our loved ones with MM.
My hate words are “be strong!” I think this just really means “shut up!” Love this blog so much