TO TABLE OF
Keeping Other People Out of Your Envelope
By Marla Perkins
The emphasis in The CFIDS Chronicle has usually been on living within
envelopes. I do my best, but I find that the problem is not that I want to live outside my envelope, itís
that healthy people keep invading it.
Iíve been thinking lately, out of necessity, about how to
keep people out of my envelope. I donít know where these people come from or what they hope to accomplish.
I do know that theyíll take whatever they can get from anyone who happens to be available, and because
fending them off is exhausting, Iím an easy target.
First, there are the "Pseudo-Carers."
These individuals believe I will feel better if induced to rehash my symptoms every time they ask how
I am. They ask frequently. They ask persistently. They believe that theyíre doing me a favor by persisting
beyond my curt, "Iím fine." Itís very difficult to get rid of these people. Monosyllables donít usually
work, at least not without using them for several hours, after which I feel as if Iíve tried to swim across
Saying, "Iíd rather not talk about it" doesnít work; apparently, they see that
as a signal that Iím depressed and need to be drawn out of my envelope. Iíve found that a combination
of tactics is necessary. I use the curt monosyllables while staring intently at their chins and excusing
myself from the immediate vicinity. They find this disconcerting, and I can make my escape or watch them
wander off to mingle with more cooperative people.
Then there are the "Pseudo-Doctors,"
these who have heard about some miracle "cure" for chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS)
and who think I should get on the ball and spend another few thousand dollars that I donít have trying
to catch the zephyr. They believe Iím accustomed to trying all kinds of things; whatís one more stint
as a guinea pig going to hurt? Oddly, these people never offer to sponsor the treatment.
are a particularly tenacious crowd. Lying is the best method for getting rid of them. I can be reasonably
well assured they donít know anything about the treatment beyond what an enthusiastic paid commercial
on Saturday afternoon told them, so I say that Iíve heard about it and am considering it. That usually
puts an end to their questioning. Then I confess my sins and take a nap.
There are also the "Most
Definitely Needy." They know Iím unemployed and thus assume that I should act as an unpaid psychotherapist,
listening for hours about their latest crises. This group encompasses the absolute strangers who seem
to have no sense of appropriateness. They tell me about their divorce and custody battles while Iím trying
to move through the express checkout at the grocery store. Once Iíve paid, I make a beeline for the parking
lot to escape. Next project: buy a T-shirt that says "If I give you a quarter, will you call someone who
cares?" to wear whenever Iím out of the house. For those who corner me at home, I find a lounge chair,
mention that I listen better with my eyes closed, and take a nap. Snoring is inadvisable.
more dangerous are the "Just-Plain-Vicious people." They know nothing and are often
incompetent at whatever they do. They take an instant dislike to anyone who doesnít measure up to their
lofty opinions of themselves. Anyone who is chronically ill will be on their hit lists. I have yet to
invent anything better than avoidance for dealing with these people--screening calls, blocking e-mails,
refusing to see them--although it would be gratifying to go postal if only I had the oomph.
there are the "Project People," who believe that staying home and napping cannot be the
best therapy for anything, and make it their mission in life to find things to occupy my time. Refusing
has become easier with practice and with knowing how Iíll feel after theyíve finished with me.
"Just do it." Right: "Just say no."
Marla Perkins has had CFIDS for seven years. She lives with her parents,
cat and a turtle that spends most of his time under the couch. Sheís currently seeking a very part-time