a fish talking about feeling sick, while the other fish dosent pay attention

A Cold Fish

Last updated: February 2023

A Cold Fish: Someone who lacks empathy and emotion

I feel like I am taking a big risk coming out like this, but I feel I am taking one for the team in order to speak to those who feel like this. When it comes to other people’s medical problems, I can be a bit of a cold fish. It is not that I don’t care, of course I do, but I also sometimes find it hard to show a lot of concern or empathy to others.

Once upon a time...

Back in a time when large groups of people could gather in rooms and talk all night about current events, life stories, and medical experiences without the fear of getting sick, I was having a conversation with a fellow health advocate who shall remain nameless.

“I find it really hard feeling bad for other people when they are sick, even my kids.”

Cold, right? But they continue.

“I spend so much time and energy on myself, that I just don’t have the mental space to think about the needs of others”.

Okay, this makes a little more sense.

Mental space for empathy

The person I was talking to is someone I have a lot of respect for, and I know they are an amazing advocate who does so much for the chronic illness community. So, if they say something like this, I believe it is a concept worth thinking about.

And, they are totally justified in feeling this way. Pain and feeling atrocious takes far too much mental energy. I mean, there is rarely a time I forget I have Ankylosing Spondylitis, and, yes there are plenty of times that is all I can think about.

So, when someone else says they aren’t feeling good, we can have empathy, but sometimes that is all we can give. It’s not quite, “I don’t have time for you and your illness, I’ve got my own things to deal with!” But, it’s also not not that. I’ve written before that judging how someone is feeling is impossible because we will never know what it’s like to walk in their shoes. But, right now, all I have the energy for is me.

Unselfish selfishness

(Or is it selfish unselfishness?)

This is the term I have given to the state that we are often living in. We really want to be a part of your life, but we seriously need to focus on our own needs.

“Yes, I know you need those trees planted in the back, but I literally don’t have the energy this week”

We cut ourselves off from our families, friends, and communities because taking on someone else’s needs on top of ours just can’t happen.

And again, I am sorry if that makes me seem cold.

I will say again. Yes, I feel the energy I am giving off, and I don’t like it either. But, if I don’t cut myself off to focus on “me,” I may never have the strength, mental space, or energy to help you in the future.

The curmudgeon next door

After enough time giving off this cold persona, ignoring our families and friends, and focusing on ourselves, eventually that will become our identity.

Kids will hide behind our bushes and say: “See that house? That’s where Old Man/Woman ******** lives. They say they never come outside and eat little children who wander onto their yard.”

The people around us just kinda give up. Sad, but true.

How many people have stopped calling because you never have the spoons? And, I know, that is their problem, not ours. Never forget that.

However, in those movies where the kids fear the old recluse, they always learn at the end that they are actually nice, but some trauma forced them to become who they are. Eventually the kid gives them some time and they start waving to each other from their front porches. Roll credits.

Melting a frozen heart

Only with true love’s kiss. (Sorry, I was watching Frozen)

But, seriously Grand Pabbi wasn’t far off when it comes to how to solve a frozen heart. We need a little love, even when we seem a little unsympathetic or cold.

I know, for the people in our lives, it can be hard to love us.

Seriously, it is hard enough to love ourselves!

So, if any caregivers/spouses/friends are reading this, know that we do care, and we do want to be there 101%. We do want to be empathetic and hear about your struggles. Just give us a little love and understanding when we are a bit of a cold fish.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The AnkylosingSpondylitis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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