‘Cheerful complaining’ helps me manage chronic illness flare-ups

Is complaining healthy? It can be if done properly, this columnist writes

Alliah Czarielle avatar

by Alliah Czarielle |

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I’ve been sick these past few days with gastrointestinal issues. What began as a wave of nausea turned into an entire morning of vomiting, followed by a seemingly endless bout of painful diarrhea. I was confined to my bed, unable to get any work done, and subsisting on a diet of antacids and electrolyte water.

It’s not a new experience; I’ve been having this issue at least once a year since my university days. Over the years, I’ve come to know my triggers: forgetting to eat a substantial meal before drinking alcohol, drinking too much alcohol in general, and, as I’ve recently discovered, eating in excess.

I don’t have a specific diagnosis for this condition. Throughout the years, my doctors have called it by various names — hyperacidity, gastritis, or simply stomach upset. I’ve tried various medications, and thankfully, all of them have been effective in shortening the length of each flare-up. But by now, I know that at one point or another, it’s going to come back.

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Because I have a husband with hemophilia and a seizure disorder, I’ve seen how he manages his chronic illnesses. This has helped me come to terms with the nature of my chronic stomach disorder.

In the past, I’d feel absolutely terrified each time the dreaded symptoms returned. I’d feel anxious and fear the permanent damage it might do to my body. I’d spend days on end whining, crying, and begging my digestive system to return to normal.

But now, I’m a lot more willing to embrace the flare-ups and simply ride them out, with only a moderate number of complaints — thanks to a couple of helpful techniques.

What is ‘cheerful complaining’?

Complaining is often framed in a negative light. Just do a Google search and you’ll find all sorts of articles about how complaining hurts productivity and fails to come up with actual results, and how we’re better off coming up with practical solutions to our problems.

But here’s the catch with chronic illness flare-ups: There’s no real solution to them! The best thing you can do is wait for the flare-up to subside. Medication might help decrease the intensity of the pain, but it often doesn’t make the situation go away. The illness must run its course.

I recently came across a piece of community-generated content on social media claiming that life gets 10 times better when one learns to complain cheerfully. I wholeheartedly agree with that. Bad things happen to the best of us, and pieces of advice such as “just suck it up,” “put on a brave face,” or “keep on keeping on” become disheartening at some point — especially if they begin to invalidate a person’s legitimate experience.

The key lies in being able to acknowledge the reality of a difficult situation and accepting one’s authentic feelings instead of pretending that everything is fine. There’s an art to complaining, which is being able to witness a bad thing happening and reframe it in one’s mind as something laughable or even interesting.

My husband, Jared, often uses humor to get through the most painful of bleeds. It might seem ironic or even nonsensical to see someone in tremendous pain making jokes about their situation, but it’s one of the ways he gets by.

As for me, I did cry out in pain due to my stomach upset, but not without throwing out some bits and pieces of “toilet humor” in the process.

Venting to a supportive community

While complaining draws us closer to others and helps lower stress in the short term, excessive venting can be destructive in the long run. Though “letting it all out” has long been viewed as a therapeutic practice, more recent studies have found that it might have the opposite effect, augmenting feelings of anger and anxiety instead of decreasing them.

Equally important are the people one chooses to vent to. Not all people are sufficiently equipped to understand the nuances of what we go through, let alone provide genuine support or assistance.

My husband and I are able to support each other through our respective difficulties because we both have chronic conditions. Our perspectives are different, but complementary. We serve as each other’s checks and balances. That way, we don’t spiral together down a black hole of destructive feelings.

Complaints are a normal part of life. We’re not human if unfavorable situations don’t irk us at all.

At times when not complaining seems like an impossible feat, we can shift our focus to complaining strategically as a form of managing our feelings.

Note: Hemophilia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Hemophilia News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to hemophilia.


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