What Makes Us Hide Our Needs?


This article isn’t political or activist in nature. It’s just another one of those serendipitous instances where I had a conversation with a friend which made me think long and hard and then got a different perspective from an unexpected source.

The situation that got me thinking was this. An acquaintance was at my house last week and we were chit chatting when she mentioned that she had been dealing with a significant medical diagnosis, one that had required surgery and was pretty scary. She hadn’t told anyone about it because she didn’t want anyone fussing over her or to feel obligated to do anything for her. She was my third such friend or acquaintance in the past year to do that. All three keeping their diagnoses secret because they didn’t want the attention or the pity or to rely on anyone else for help.

And I really, REALLY don’t understand that. I am lucky enough to have never had a debilitating or life-threatening illness, so I guess I don’t truly know what I would do in that situation, but isn’t one of the wonderful things about friendship that you know you’re not alone in the world and that you have someone you can share your thoughts and fears with and know that they will do what they can to help you through a hardship?

No Man is an Island...Shared joy is a double joy: shared sorrow is a half sorrow~Sweedish Proverb

I’m busy and overstretched, just like most moms. The responsibilities of work, kids, marriage, school, etc, etc often leave me overwhelmed and I don’t know how I could possibly get it all done. But I consider the opportunity to show a friend how much they mean to me a gift, not another burden. Whether that means a visit, a lunch to talk, or making a meal for their family…..it all seems like a small way to show the gratitude I feel for their friendship. Truthfully, I find it sad and a wee bit hurtful when a friend doesn’t give me that opportunity.

When my daughter was about a year old my grandfather was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He went through  a year of radiation treatments and generally felt awful all of the time. No one, except my grandmother, knew what he was going through and apparently the only joys in his life were babysitting my daughter and his weekly trips to Foxwoods Casino to play video poker. An intensely private man, he didn’t want his kids and grandkids to worry or fuss over him. I’m sure thought he was being selfless by bearing the burden of his illness alone, (forcing my grandmother to bear it alone is another story.) but I think what he did was incredibly selfish. He denied his family the chance to show him how much he meant to them and how much they loved him. He denied them the chance to try to give back to the man who had given so much to all of his family, and it felt like he didn’t trust us to handle his diagnosis in a way that would have been helpful to him. If he had died as a result of his cancer, we would never have gotten the chance to help him in that way.

At it was, he recovered from his prostate cancer, and I think when he saw the shock and hurt he’d caused by keeping this secret from his children, he was taken aback and then he was able to look at his decision from a new perspective. When it came to his many future illnesses and health issues he was never a complainer and while he always maintained his dignity and his spirit of independence, he was also more open to allowing his loved ones to demonstrate their love through actions.

James Taylor’s Shower the People is one of my all time favorites.

As I was mulling over these thoughts and how to best put them into an article I heard that unmistakable ping which means I have a new e-mail. One of the blogs I follow, The Grome Soapbox in an interesting mix of writers speaking on the subject of atheism. My favorite of the group, Larry, is funny and a bit irrevent without being cruel or demeaning. In one of Larry’s last posts he introduced me to a poetry blogger that you can find at http://www.patcegan.wordpress.com, and I do highly recommend you check her out. Her poems are short, simple and amazingly powerful and here is the one that spoke to me on this subject. Read it slowly and carefully.

Don’t Be Silent

Cry out your pain.
Let others know your need.
Do not be stoic, silent–
lament, cry as a baby cries
and releases the milk in its
mother’s breasts. There are
helpers in the world waiting
to hear those in need. Bless
them by giving them an
opportunity to help you.

Let others know your need. Bless them by giving them an opportunity to help you.

I would love to hear different perspectives or affirmations of my thoughts here so please comment. If you like what I’ve written, like or share the blog today and don’t forget you can also like me on Facebook. Thank you for taking the time to read. Go show someone how much they mean to you.

7 thoughts on “What Makes Us Hide Our Needs?

  1. klkn3 says:

    Wow so powerful, and true, I feel the say way, that’s why I love sharing with my Friends the good moments, and the painful moments as well!

  2. Thanks for the comment. When I read that poem for the first time it took my breath away.

  3. trustlifetoday says:

    Hmm… Let’s just start there.

    Selfish of your grandfather…. Well, before my diagnosis, I may have thought the same thing. Not now. Far from it. I believe this falls into the category of, “I think I’d handle it this way, until you’re smack dab in the middle of it, and you don’t.” 🙂

    This is my opinion now:

    No one, except the person going through X has a right to anything more than their opinion — which they should keep to themselves (unless asked). The patient’s diagnosis is *their* diagnosis and *their* choice to handle it any way (share, not share) that brings them peace and a better chance at healing — in *their* mind. And if not sharing brings the patient those two things, then to hell with everyone else. It’s not about the other person, AT ALL. It’s ONLY about the peace and healing of the patient. The patient plays by their rules, and if they decide to share, and others support them in a way that’s acceptable to them, then great. If not, See Ya Later. I’ll catch you after my healing is complete.

    In your grandfather’s story, it sounds like he learned something about how his decision impacted the rest of the family after the whole thing was over, so he chose to do things differently in the future. Bottom line, it’s his illness, his choice, his call.

    Coming down off my soapbox now. Honestly, I don’t get up there very often. 🙂 This is one topic I do have a definite opinion on.

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:

    There’s no right way to do cancer. There’s just your way.

    • I hear you Leslie, and I agree with you in not knowing how you’ll handle any given situation until you get through it.

      I also completely, 100% agree that every individual has absolute autonomy over how they handle their own relationships, health and interactions, not to mention what information they share and with whom.

      You know what? Given your response and Kat’s I’m going to clarify in tomorrow’s blog…..stay tuned and please respond again!

  4. kat says:

    I wish all friends were like you and saw friendship as a opportunity to give as well as take. I absolutely hear what you’re saying, but I have been in such a situation and I have hidden details things from family and friends because I wanted didn’t want to worry them any more than they needed to be. I decided that I would not share any *potentially* bad news, only *actual* bad news when and if the time came. That’s not what your grandfather did, of course, but please remember that what he did was out of love — not out of selfishness. I think as parents we try even harder to shelter our kids from these things or to, at the very least, prevent the full weight from falling on their shoulders. Which reminds me, did I ever tell you that my father-in-law hid his prostate cancer diagnosis — and the entire course of treatment — from all his kids? We didn’t know about it until it was all over and he had a clean bill of health.

    A second, and completely different, reason for keeping things to myself was out of just plain fear. Telling friends meant using some very scary words that I didn’t even want to hear coming out of my own mouth. Repeating them meant making them real. I just couldn’t do it unless the day came that I was forced to.

    The lesson I learned from my own little episode is to try and understand when friends hide things from us. They have their reasons — and as silly? selfish? as those reasons seem to us they felt perfectly valid and right to themselves. 🙂

    • I wondered if I would hear from you about this. 🙂 Actually, Your case is very different because you didn’t have a diagnosis yet and I understand not wanting to talk about what may or may not be a possibility.

      With such impassioned responses by you an Leslie I’d like to clarify my article tomorrow. THank you for posting your perspective.

  5. […] What Makes Us Hide Our Needs? (thepassionatemoderate.com) […]

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