“have you tried melatonin?” And other well intentioned but harmful questions. (day 4)

I have an extremely bad sleep disorder that effectively makes it impossible for me to operate on a 24 hour schedule. It drastically affects everything in my life.

By far the most common response when it comes up is “have you tried melatonin?” I stopped keeping count, but its well over 100 times now.

Every time it happens, I’m simultaneously exhausted and angry. “No, I’ve struggled with this for decades, seen specialists, tried nearly every drug with the side effect drowsiness, know more about sleep hygene than is at all reasonable, but I didn’t think to try the most commonly known over the counter sleep aid.”

Even though it’s intended as a helpful gesture, it it’s tremendously invalidating of both the issue itself, and the insane effort I’ve put towards trying to “fix” it. It shows minimal awareness of the other person, no theory of mind that if this is a serious issue, they’ve likely tried the most obvious thing.

This situation is far from unique, as well: you see this kind of low-awareness problem solving a lot. I know I’ve done it: “solve problem, make peoples lives better” mode kicks in, and starts at the beginning. Likely will still do it, though I’ve worked really hard to get better at connecting “improve people’s lives” emotion and motivation with actions that accomplish that goal.

“that sounds rough, have you found anything that helps?”. Is the best default response I’ve came up with. It still leaves the problem solving possibility open, but gathers more info on whether the person is even interested​in taking about it more, and if so what they’ve experienced and tried.

I like solving problems, but know that’s *my* benefit. People can benefit from having help solving problems, but they have to feel heard and understood for them to let you help, as well as you actually being able to help. So if you’re not maximizing the likelihood of being able to help them, offering unsolicited advice is generally selfish.

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