This week I decided to go to a Love Languages workshop/discussion lead by our local G3 branch (Gather/Grow/Go) and it lead to several moments that left me feeling really good about being open about my Fibromyalgia- which, let's face, is almost never the case. Usually I feel less-than, judged, defeated, or any number of unpleasant emotions after getting real about life with Fibro, but I'm new to the area and am looking to build relationships, and I was legitimately interested in the topic, so before I went I took a moment to set the intention of being open and honest during this talk- and I think it made all the difference.
I had taken a love language assessment test before, which tells you how you express your love to others, and most people are a combination of all 5 languages (words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch) but there is usually a dominant language. I wanted to take this assessment again because people change and I wanted to check-in with myself because I know that I have been through a lot and a lot has changed since I last took the test and was curious to see if my love language changed as a result. Spoiler alert: it did. When I took this test years ago, my results were different than they were this time: I scored higher on acts of service and lower on physical touch.
During the discussion someone asked if love languages change over time, and the speaker said that they can change depending on what need/love language needs to be filled (maybe you've had a lot of affirmations and need a hug, etc.), and I did the brave thing and raised my hand at that point (cue anxiety). I was totally open and said that I had done this years ago, but since then my struggles with Fibromyalgia have gotten worse, and as a result I was now scoring higher on acts of service and lower on physical touch, and although my previous high score of affirmations still scored high, it was now re-prioritized based on where I am in my life right now. I felt like I was in a safe space to share this, and the people in the room nodded understandingly- yes, that makes sense, they seemed to say (cue relief). One woman even responded with, "Do you think it's because it is more convenient for you in your life right now to receive affection that way?" And as someone who needs more help than she used to, and doesn't want to be touched that much because it hurts, her point resonated. Yes, it is more convenient for me to get help and not be touched as much, that was totally my point- and oh my god did someone just connect with me over understanding how Fibro changes people? Woah. That's a rarity and it did not go unappreciated.
This talk was lead by three different speakers- one main speaker and two others- and they each lead a portion of the discussion (Opening remarks, each of the 5 love languages had their own segment led by the speaker who identified with that love language, and closing remarks), and after each love language was discussed, the speaker offered to serve-up that language to the room which was a nice touch to the evening.
For words of affirmation she asked for a volunteer, and random people in the room offered up compliments to that person (this person was apparently a coach for a local high school and he got a lot of love for giving up his time and the way he helps his students and it was beautiful). For receiving gifts they passed out small candies to the room. For quality time they spoke to how great spending time with the people in the room was in that moment. For Physical touch the speaker identified other "touchers" in the room and put hands on shoulders, etc. to connect during the talk, and for acts of service, my primary love language, the speaker offered to carry my purse to the car. I literally teared up- a stranger was offering to help me in a way most people don't even think to, and it meant a LOT to have a stranger show up for me like that. It was a new experience, and it was lovely and heartfelt, it didn't feel like an obligation she committed to be cause she had to, but she was showing us what showing up for other people's love language can do, and it was beautiful. (She really did wait for me after the discussion and carried my purse to my car for me. Mind. Blown.)
After the talk the woman next to me struck up a conversation- her husband is struggling because he has an undiagnosed health issue that he's dealing with, and we had a really nice chat! I told her I know how scary and hard it is to not have a diagnosis- I waited seven years for one and do not take that situation lightly. She was open about some of their struggles, and about her struggles as a care giver, and I listened without judgement and tried to make her feel heard and supported because it is HARD. It ended with me offering to chat with her (and her family) if they wanted, or to just go out with her to distract her from her worries and she was really appreciative and promised to connect.
These open, understanding and honest interactions gave me hope. All types of people can understand your struggles if they're open to it- able-bodied people, people on a totally different health journey- they all got it. Granted, the people in the room were people who are predisposed to listen and understand- you don't go to a love language class if you're not into that kind of thing, and I purposefully was open and not closed-off and allowed these interactions in my life- I don't always raise my hand to share or let people do things for me, but this time I did, and it was really nice to know that there are people and situations out there where honesty can lead to understanding and acceptance. After so many unpleasant interactions where people didn't believe me, take me seriously, or shamed me (intentionally or unintentionally), this was such a nice change and I'm so grateful I had this experience.
- Heather, Fabulous Fibro-Fighter and FSC Founder