What I really mean when I say “I don’t mind”

Many of us project our feelings onto other people. I hate mushrooms, so you must also hate mushrooms. I would love to go to Europe, so I’m sure that guy over there wants to go to Europe. It happens a lot. But when it comes to my health issues, it bothers me when people not only project their own feelings onto me, but then don’t accept my corrections.

I try to be polite and not complain about things. So sure, maybe I won’t say if something is bothering me. But I don’t lie. So if I say that something doesn’t bother me, then it does. If I say that it does, then it does. Simple, right? You would think so. But you’d be wrong.

I went to a wedding this weekend. Of course my health problems limited me and altered my activity a lot. Some things I minded and some I didn’t. I minded having to leave the rehearsal dinner early. I minded not being able to walk around the city more during my free time. I minded not being able to dance at the wedding. I minded having a racing heart and horrible nausea for several hours one night. I minded leaving the wedding early. I minded the pain I was in. I minded a lot.

What I didn’t mind was the food.

It’s not like I expected to eat the way everyone else ate. I made it clear to the bride and groom that I was very appreciative of their accommodations for my diet. They got me special meals that I could eat. It was fantastic of them. They weren’t the problem. It was others.

I spent too much time at the rehearsal dinner answering my table-mates questions about my special meal. They kept expressing concern that I couldn’t eat this or that, and I kept saying that I didn’t mind. Then the same thing happened at the wedding itself with different table-mates. I wanted to just talk about normal things, and instead I answered all sorts of questions about what it means to be gluten-free, how I handle it, etc. Again, they felt bad I couldn’t eat all of the rolls, desserts, and other foods. Again, I assured them that I didn’t mind.

Because I didn’t mind!

Food is important to many people, and I don’t just mean as a source of nutrition that keeps us alive. People have emotional associations with food. People think food is terribly important. I’ve gotten sick off of food for about 20 years now, so I would be happy to never eat again if there were pills I could take instead. I have some positive associations with food, but more negative ones. And even if I really do want to eat something, I want to not feel sick even more. I don’t feel like I’m “missing out” when I avoid eating something, as long as I can eat something else then or soon after.

But too often, people don’t believe me. They think I’m just being polite. They think I’m downplaying my despair at not being able to eat the same food that they eat. I wrote about this a while back with “The oh-I-could-never-do-that response” and this disbelief is just a projection of that feeling. Apparently many people can’t imagine that anything could ever be more terrible than missing out on, say, a piece of wedding cake, and so they express sympathy, because eating cake is so important to them. As if missing it is the most horrible thing happening in my life. I wish.

So for all of you out there, the next time someone says they don’t mind missing out on something because of their health, consider the possibility, just for a moment, that they mean what they say. Consider that some things just aren’t as important to them as they are to you. Because maybe, just maybe, that’s the truth.

What about you? Have you had someone doubt you when you say you don’t mind missing something? Do you get frustrated when you say you have to miss something and your needs aren’t respected? Is it difficult to explain why you mind missing some things and not others? Please share in the comments!

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3 Responses to What I really mean when I say “I don’t mind”

  1. escharae says:

    I have a slightly different problem. As I’m thin (my body type, can’t change it) people automatically assume I’m either anorectic or obsessed with calories. No matter how many times I tell them I cut on certain foods for health reasons they just don’t get it, because they’re so used to associating food with body fat. It can be a little infuriating after a while.

  2. Hope says:

    I sometimes get frustrated when people insist on accommodating me when I’ve told them I’m okay. Not quite the same as what you’re talking about, but it’s along the same lines. It seems especially bad when I need to use my cane because then I’m visibly disabled. I feel like I need a t-shirt that says, “Please don’t make me more disabled than I am.”

  3. Julie Ryan says:

    Absolutely! I don’t mind missing out on whatever food I’m avoiding (mostly gluten based things) because I know the alternative. I’d rather never eat a doughnut again or any type of bread-y food than go back to feeling the constant amount of pain that I had when I first began my chronic health journey! Of course, there are times when I say “I don’t mind” and don’t mean it. It’s usually in relation to the times when I say “yes” and should have said “no”. But, that’s another topic, and something I’m working on.
    Thanks again for sharing your story and your journey on my blog this week!

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