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A little about me:

I'm on the autism spectrum; I have tiredness issues and other related problems. I'm currently working full time and this plus my tiredness makes it really difficult for me to eat in a healthy way. Also, still due to my tiredness, I'm not doing any sport and usually don't do much during the weekend.

My family knows all of that and is worried about me.

What happened:

Some time ago, I was at my grandparents' house for the weekend and on two different occasions, my grandmother told me:

I'm worried about you.

To which I only responded with "okay".

The problem:

I'm bothered by the fact that my "okay" was too cold and sounded like I didn't care. I do care, a lot, but I didn't know how to answer. I'm worried about me too, but I didn't want to make her even more worried. At the same time, I didn't want to tell her "you don't need to worry about me, I'm doing fine" because that would have been a lie.

Question:

How could I have answered her in a way that didn't sound cold but without minimizing things nor making her even more worried?

If possible, I would like to express to her that I'm glad she cares about me. However, I'm afraid that just saying that would be a little weird and make her even more worried about me.

About the setting:

I don't really remember what was the setting when she first said that to me but I believe we were alone.

When she said that to me the second time, we were eating with my family (grandparents, parents and sisters).

If I remember correctly, I believe she said that after we talk about the fact that I wasn't eating really healthy in my home (I always eat the three same pre-cooked stuff).

Notes and clarifications

  • I would love for someone to care for me, e.g. cook something healthy for me or take me out to sports in a way that I like. Unfortunately, my family lives far away and this isn't possible. Also, my grandmother doesn't cook anymore (her food is delivered at her home every day).

  • When it was discovered that I was on the autism spectrum, my grandmother took it very well and didn't doubt it. She knows me very well, even if she doesn't necessarily know that some of the particularities that I have are linked to my autism.

  • What / how much does your grandmother know about your spectrum? How does she get along with it (-> can she handle this short answer)? What happened, what made her say that (-> it's a strange situation to say that without a reason, having a reason could prepare you for the next time)? I'd bet these are important facts to classify your situation. How do you live? Would you enjoy someone to care for you, e.g. cook something healty for you or take you out to sports in a way that you like? – puck Mar 25 at 18:45
  • @puck I edited. Please tell me if I'm not being clear enough. – Ælis Mar 25 at 19:11
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This sort of thing is a very common problem for lots of people. I've been there too.

When a statement is vague, it can help to use a technique called "active listening" to learn more. So you could say "You are? I'm sorry to worry you, what are you concerned about?"

There are three items here:

  1. You are? -> Showing you're listening and you care
  2. I'm sorry to worry you -> Showing you care
  3. What are you concerned about? -> Here's where you get details. But you don't start with this, because it sounds aggressive. You'd set it up with the first two first, and when it comes third, it works.

But in your situation it sounds like it's not vague. You know she's referring to eating more healthy. So I'd say something like this.

"Thanks, Grandma. I know I should eat better. I'll work on it."

  1. Thanks -> Show you care
  2. I know I should eat better -> Show you agree
  3. I'll work on it -> How you'll change it

Even if you're not sure when or how you'll work on it, her hearing that you care, agree, and will try should make her feel better.

One other detail: all grandmothers say this sort of thing. It's part of being a grandparent :)

I hope that helps!

1

In the given context, "I'm worried about you" can mean a dozen different things, maybe all at once.

  • "I'm worried for your well being"
  • "I'm worried that I'm far away and can't really help you"
  • "I'm worried you are not taking care of yourself"
  • "I'm worried that you feel alone"
  • "I'm worried about that food you eat not being enough"

You know your grandmother better. Perhaps you know what's the preoccupation that lies beneath her statement, but if not, as lcaval suggests, find out by asking her.

Depending on that, you can comfort her by covering the topics of her interest.

If you don't know how to bring it up, I would suggest finding a time when you are alone and then expressing your appreciation.

"Grandma, I'm sorry it took me a while to know what to say. I know you are worried and I want you to know that I really appreciate it. It means a lot to know that I'm not alone."

In my experience, most of the worry comes from not knowing exactly what is happening. The worried person imagines that there is something wrong but doesn't know to what extent. The more honest we are about the situation, the less they have to imagine, and in most cases, the less there is to worry about. You can address your current situation and comfort her by stating that you are aware and that you plan to do something / are doing something about it.

"I understand it may seem like there is much to worry about, and sometimes I'm overwhelmed too, but I'm doing things to take care of myself and I will be better."

Feeling involved in the solution also helps the worried person to calm the anxiety of , knowing that they are contributing. Invite her to participate in the solution. "I promise to ask for help if I feel the need" or "It would really help me if I call you on the phone".

I hope you find the best way of telling her!

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