The fact is, people say a lot of inane things, like "I hope your migraine goes away" (that's chronic migraine, my friend) or "Is this squeaky door bothering you?" (said while squeaking the door again and again) or "Are your lights out in your office for a seance?" (no comment).
What I've got for you is perhaps not the most ridiculous, but definitely the most hurtful thing anyone has said. In my rational mind (aren't I supposed to be listening to that?) I understand that it is also quite ridiculous in its over-the-top-ness and in its how-could-you-say-that-ness, but still. I can't quite laugh yet.
So the scene: my great uncle is coming for a visit, the same weekend as my mother-in-law and my partner's uncle are visiting. It has been a busy spell at work, which combines with who knows what else to have given me a multi-day migraine flare, which is particularly challenging since I know company is on the way. Add to this that my great uncle's visit was announced quite late in the game, and with no real opportunity for me to suggest an alternate date or anything. Anyway, I am in bed, trying to get some rest and relief before everyone arrives. My great uncle arrives, and my partner answers the door while I collect myself, fix my hair, splash water on my face, and come into the living room. My guest's first words after "hello" are:
"I'm glad your mother had shown me a picture of you: I would hardly have recognized you, you've gained so much weight."
At that point, I wanted to invite him to leave by the same door through which he had entered, while not allowing it to confront his posterior as he left, but instead I said, well, thank you. I was sorry to tell him that chronic illness had taken away my ability to exercise regularly--one of my great loves, as well as a means of staying healthy--and that had been truly heart-breaking. It has been quite a difficult period, I said, between dealing with illness and losing one of my means of coping with stress. His response?
"But you don't look sick."
Not bad, eh? Two doozies, and all within about 45 seconds of arrival.
The whole thing was, frankly, crushing. This man had had a kind of mythic role in my mind--the brother of my mother's father, who had been killed in the second world war, so his words stung on that account. And then there was what he said--not a pleasant thing to hear from anyone, especially when it's a sore point of it's own. I kept on a strong face, though, and played a good hostess to him, and then also to my other guests, who arrived not long after he did.
But when I went to bed that night, there was no sleep anywhere in my brain. I got up and wrote him a frank letter (he had left after dinner). I cried a lot. I tried hard to find some rest to get me through the rest of my visit with my in-laws, but the combination of having already not been feeling well with this emotional upheaval was powerful, and I spent much of the rest of the weekend alternating between trying to be a pleasant host and being in horrible pain.
I did send him that letter, and he responded with a really kind and, I think, heart-felt apology. And for the most part, I've forgiven him.
National Migraine Awareness Month is initiated by the National Headache Foundation. The Blogger's Challenge is initiated by www.FightingHeadacheDisorders.com.