Sometimes psychologists aren’t the ones with the insight

Wouldn’t you expect, given my professional background, that I’d have some insight into other people? You’d think I’d make wise observations and understand why people act as they do, right? And sometimes that’s true. But more often than I’d like to admit, J. is the one in our relationship whose understanding of other people far exceeds mine. And her work has nothing to do with the counselling field.

I’m thinking of a recent example, of course. You’ve heard ad nauseum about my bruising. I’m sorry for all the repetition on this subject, but it’s unfortunately affected my quality of life profoundly over the past several months. It’s also left me looking pretty gruesome at times.

I’m going through a particularly ugly phase from all my self-inflicted injuries now. I have bruises at various stages of healing all over my legs and arms, even some on my torso. I’d post pictures so you’d understand but it’s really not pretty and I fear you’ll stop reading my blog.

Bruises or not, I decided it was time to try swimming again. It is summer, after all. And I wasn’t happy with myself for avoiding concerned women’s inquiries by not going. My return to the pool was long overdue.

Since my return, I’ve gotten a lot of inquiries and comments. I counted five last Monday and four last Friday. By the end of Monday’s onslaught, I’ll admit I got a little cranky, despite my best efforts not to. The last woman that day was particularly unrelenting and my patience was tested. Once I finally barked that I had leukemia–in the tone of “stop asking already”–she stopped in her tracks, though. I then apologized for being so abrupt, as I should have.

When I told J. about these encounters later that day, she said (listen carefully, you might learn something, as I did): “Do you realize these women may wonder if you’re being abused?” And my jaw, that of a psychologist I’ll remind you here, dropped.

What am I trained to think when someone responds evasively to queries about an injury? When a person can’t fully explain where bruises or broken bones came from, or the explanation seems implausible? I’m trained to notice this evasiveness as possible abuse. But I too have been anything but direct, just because I didn’t want to broadcast my leukemia.

I went back to the pool Friday armed with J.’s insight and found I had a lot more patience. I told those who asked, before they started pressing me, that I am prone to bruising because I have leukemia, but I dropped the anger and frustration. In most cases, I didn’t have to say much more than that. Maybe I want to choose when I share that I am sick, yet I don’t want to worry these concerned women that I might be in an abusive relationship, since I’m not.

I didn’t end up having to tell everyone about the leukemia, though. The last of these women mentioned, in passing, “Fall off your motorcycle?” I responded, “No, just got in a bar fight.” And we went our separate ways.

Maybe a t-shirt would help

Maybe a t-shirt would help.

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