Listening to Sheryl Sandberg this week on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, made me really think about our community and those that live day to day with a chronic condition. Sheryl is the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook and for the past 5 years has been named as the most powerful woman in technology on the Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women, and placed at no. 7 on the list overall.
Back in 2013, Sheryl wrote ‘Lean In’ based around how empowering women to achieve their full potential and has been quoted many a time. However, in 2015 Sheryl’s husband Dave and father to her two children died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack. Two years on and listening to her talking, the grief is still very clear to hear and very heartfelt. In the initial first few weeks and months of his death, she experienced ‘profound isolation’ as people didn’t know what to say to her. She wrote and posted on Facebook describing how she felt, which as she said didn’t bring Dave back or take away the grief but it took the feeling away of being along, because people started talking to her again.
As a community at talkhealth we know how powerful and supportive it is to be able to communicate with others about how we feel. Sheryl has now just written a new book – ‘Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy’. Option B – is based on the fact that Option A is no longer available…..She says, people don’t know what to say in times of grief and ask How are you?, but a better option is how are you today? A question that allows one to answer in the here and now as opposed to some vast ocean of time and life. Exactly the same applies with chronic health conditions it really is about how are you today, as for many it’s a real roller coaster changing hour to hour, day to day, week to week or month to month – so how on earth could you really answer how are you?
Last month I was speaking to the incredible founder of the charity Burning Night support for CRPS – Victoria and this was exactly the conversation we were having. Friends and relatives of those with chronic conditions often find it hard to understand that how you are feeling is never a steady state. If you genuinely want to ask about someone’s health and care about the response how much better is it to ask ‘How are you today’.
I read Sheryl’s book way back in 2013 and was incredibly impressed not only with her obvious achievements but also how down to earth and ‘normal’ she was and have to say was envious of the relationship she described with Dave her husband as one of a true team, so it was particularly sad to hear of his death at the time. On a totally different topic line – I was reminded of something that she wrote in the book by Kirsty Young – the interviewer, who slightly misquoted but it does sum it up “when looking for a life partners my advice to women is date all of them: the bad boys, the cool boys… but do not marry them…” go for the nerds and the good guys something I must tell my daughter! I will look forward to reading her new book.