Everyone Says I Look Great

Talk therapyHow You Look vs. How You Feel with Pulmonary Hypertension

You can’t always judge a book by its cover.  Some medical problems are obvious and others are not so obvious.  One of the challenges of PAH is that for many patients their disease is not evident to the casual observer.  My patients are frustrated that their friends and family often comment that they look great even when they feel poorly.  This creates some tension.  Patients may feel that because they don’t wear their disease on their sleeve that people may not understand the significance of Pulmonary Hypertension and the impact it has on their life.

What Patients Hear

When patients hear the comment that they look great, they don’t always take it as a compliment.  This is because they internalize that in some way there is a hidden message implying that they may not be sick if they don’t appear to be ill.  Imagine if every time you told someone that they looked good, the recipient heard a message undermining the severity of their illness.

What Is Meant by “You Look Great”

Hear the message that was intended to be sent.  Your friends and family are expressing support and affirmation.  They are reaching out to you and trying to connect with you.  They are also expressing optimism for you in your disease course.

Anyone who is in a long term relationship is familiar with the risks of miscommunication.  I say one thing and my wife hears another.  The best way to avoid falling into this pothole is to avoid being defensive.  Hear the message that was intended.

View “you’re looking great” as a victory of sorts.  If you can’t feel good, at least you look good.  My patients taught me many years ago that sometimes just getting dressed and putting on makeup is enough to fool yourself.