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Posted on 1. March 2012

Learning to Be Assertive Despite the Fatigue of Illness

By Lisa Copen

I had just received the third pink slip in two weeks from the lab that said my payment was past due. Over three times I had called, and my insurance company had assured me that the lab work was covered and that they would mail out a check that afternoon. This time, when I finally got a representative on the telephone, I was polite but firm. I said that I wanted the problem taken care of immediately, and I wrote down her name and the supervisor’s name. It was time to get even more assertive.

Has assertiveness gotten a bad rap among the chronically ill? Is it assumed that we won’t have the energy or stamina to fight all of the battles that we will face? When we do talk to someone in customer service, we are rarely taken absolutely seriously.

After all, isn’t it just the drugs that make us impatient and nit-picky about all of this insurance stuff? Has anyone ever brushed off your assertiveness simply by assuming, “She doesn’t have anything else to think about all day, so no wonder she’s upset!”? Or, “She’s just taking her frustrations out on me because she has a chronic illness.”
When you imagine an assertive person, who comes to mind? Webster’s Dictionary says that assertiveness is “positive; affirming confidently; affirmative.” Too often we confuse assertiveness with aggression, which is defined as “making assaults and unjustly attacking.” Most of us have had moments when we have slid into an aggressive mode, but assertiveness is based on one’s ability to confidently step forward.

Rather than becoming aggressive, I believe that the chronically ill often become burnt out on fighting and we simply avoid any conflict. Who has the energy to fight for their rights? Next time a situation arises where you may need to be a bit assertive, here are some things to remember:

I have the right to say no without feeling guilty.
For those of us with chronic illness, this is a big one! We must say, “No, thanks,” or “I’ll pass,” much more often than we would prefer. Even when we master the ability to say no, the guilt continues to sit with us for days. Let it go! You know your abilities and limitations and what is best for your own health and your family’s well-being.

I have the right to take risks and try new things.
Just because you have a chronic condition doesn’t mean you have to eat at the same restaurant the rest of your life. Try new things! You may find a new hobby or a new activity that you are able to easily do that perhaps you had never thought about before.

“When I started taking photos, it was on one of those cardboard cameras,” says Darcie. “But then I found that I really loved it and I wasn’t half bad. So I bought a real camera. It’s been fun. I’ve had an excuse to go to events that I couldn’t participate in before, like boat races, because I am ‘the photographer.’”

I have the right to be heard.
Whether you are having a conversation with a medical professional or your mother, you do have the right to be heard. Too many of us fall into the habit of talking all of the time, however, and forgetting that we also have the responsibility to listen. Know your boundaries and what you are willing to listen to and not.

When a man approached me after a health fair and said, “I can cure you in 30 days,” I replied, “You have 60 seconds to tell me why I should talk with you further about your product.” I listened… and no, he didn’t convince me. He felt OK about it though, and I got out of an uncomfortable 30-minute sales pitch.

So be assertive - practice in front of the mirror if you must. As you step out and share your opinion, it may feel awkward at first, but then you will gain more confidence and it will become simpler the next time the opportunity arises. Studies have shown that assertive people are more likely to have personal and professional relationships that are based on honesty and mutual respect.

Reposted with permission. If you lead a support group or are considering it, don’t miss Lisa Copen’s new book, www.restministries.com for your ministry needs. More than 300 pages with step-by-step instructions on how to write a vision statement, promotion and attendance, and much more!

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Comments (3) -

Betty
4:12 AM on Friday, March 02, 2012

I find since I turned 65 this has bene an issue due to one insurance (a sexcondary) overlapping another.
Now I just copy all the cards (invest in a fax copy machine if you do not have one), mail copies in with a note and usually it is resolved.
I especially like saying NO now.  I used to feel I had all the responsibility in the world and could do  everything while ill- because I had to do so for so many years- without a correct diagnosis.

Now I know to say no.

susan watkins
12:53 PM on Saturday, March 03, 2012

This is such a great subject for all women, not just us, the chronically ill.  Years ago when I was in my thirties I purchased a self help book with the title, 'How to be Assertive NOT Agressive' and learned a few things that have stayed with me my whole life.  Naturally, unless you put behaviors into action soon after learning them, they do tend to fade away.  This is a good reminder for myself and hopefully for many others as well.

No one really wants to listen to a demanding, confrontational person, especially when they are sick.  In my many hospital stays I know that such people receive only the minimal care from their nurses and doctors as well.  Apply that to your everyday life and I'm sure that the pieces will fall into place.  Powerful, results driven people should learn how much more cooperation and geniune feelings are there for the picking if you can just treat them, all of those 'thems in your life' with dignity, love and respect.  The most under used suggestion I can think of.  Too bad.

Just keep trying and you will be amazed how differently people respond to you.

Carol
10:08 AM on Saturday, August 18, 2012

I can tell you that I am now in a battle to be able to stay on my Hizentra for Low Igg1 & Low Igg3.  I am constantly sick, suffer from sinus, ringing ears, loosing my site due to my extreme allergies and asthma.  My Hizentra and supplies is at a cost of $288.00 per month and I am having a very difficult time with insurance costs of $996.00 per month to pay for just one monthly medical prescription.  I can purchase my supplies for my freedom60 pump anywhere but I do not know where I can get them.  My insurer nor the my medical has been any help.  i want to know, does everyone pay that large of a fee for this prescription and medical supplies after the insurance payment?  Thank you

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