Chronic illness, to begin with is so misunderstood in the society. Many do not understand what it takes to be chronically ill.
And the level of ignorance even becomes worrisome when you live with an invisible illness like me.
With an illness people don’t see, you face daily discrimination among peers, strangers even from people in the medical space.
Sometimes, the discrimination can be something someone said or their actions but the truth is it mostly hurt our feelings.
I have struggled with hurting words from friends and even family although I usually quickly find an excuse for them. I always feel like they don’t know it hurts.
Because I know someone else is facing this same problem from people close to them and I wish to help because many of these people usually mean well for us.
I decided to share things they should stop saying to us.
10 things to never say to a chronically ill
1. “Why are you tired?” Stop it.
Morning fatigue is a major problem for me. When I wake up even after ten hours sleep, I still feel so tired.
And in many occasions my mum would ask me “Why are you tired?” “Did you work overnight?”
My mum is very supportive by the way, she just doesn’t understand my chronic fatigue and until I let her know, she won’t understand.
We deal with chronic fatigue daily, so please stop asking us why we are tired.
2. “But you don’t look sick” Yeah, you don’t look dumb.
My fellow invisible illness warriors can relate with this phrase very often. Do I have to look like someone who’s dying all the time?
I know you can’t see my body crying for rest or my bones causing me excruciating pain but because you can’t see it does not mean it does not exist.
3. “Pray about it”
Yes, faith is important and prayer is good but I don’t think medicine and faith mix well.
You can’t just pray chronic pain away.
4. “You are too young to…” Really?
The you are too young phrase is common and they use it in different styles.
“You are to young to have (insert disease)” or “You are too young to use a walking aid”
People have to understand that age has nothing to do with chronic illness. I have been told countless times, “you are too young to use a walking stick” and it just breaks my heart because they are too ignorant.
5. “Stop using the walking aid, you can do without it”
Yes, I can do without it but it is important for me to use it.
Whether it is a walking stick or a wheelchair, people make us feel guilty when they see us use it and later see us not using it.
Not everyone on a wheelchair has lost the use of their lower body and it is not everyone that uses a walking stick must have a bandage.
Some of us are too weak or in pain.
6. “You should try this drug, it cures”
This is not malaria or the normal people fever. It is an incurable disease meaning there is no cure.
Although in some cases like sickle cell disorder, there is sort of a cure but it is not available to everyone. So, I can say it has no cure.
7. “You are sick again?”
I know it wasn’t too long before my last sickness but don’t remind me. It is my weak immunity but I am not sorry.
Don’t ask me how many times I fall sick in a month or less than a month.
8. “Someone I know died of the same disease”
I know my illness can cause many complications and eventually maybe death, but you don’t have to remind me.
Even people that are not chronically ill eventually dies.
9. “Endure the pain” If I can, I would
Seriously, if the pain was endurable I would bear it.
It might even interest you to know that I endure many pain that you do not know about. I don’t like disturbing you with my pain episodes.
So, if I scream or cry or wail, know that it is beyond what I can endure.
10. “You are lazy” No, I’m not
Welcome to my world where chronic fatigue will make you look lazy. One of the common complication among everyone with chronic illness is fatigue.
And it makes us seem like we are lazy but dear friend we are not. Don’t say it, don’t suggest we walk faster or act faster.
So what do you say to a chronically ill instead?
If you do not want to hurt our feelings, be empathetic not sympathetic.
Don’t give the pity face, say words like, “I am here for you”, “I will help you and stay with you till the end”, “I am here to listen if you want to talk”.
Remind us in a non-offensive way to use our daily routine and drink lots of water.
Express love through hugs, smile or any other way you deem fit that is not offensive.
Let me just quickly add that I love reading the mighty and this post was inspired by this one on their site.
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If someone in your life lives with a chronic illness and you wish to help, always avoid saying these ten words because they can hurt our feelings and cause emotional breakdown.
- Why are you tired?
- But you don’t look sick
- Pray about it
- You are too young to…
- Stop using the walking aid, you can do without it
- You should try this drug, it cures
- You are sick again?
- Someone I know died of the same disease
- Endure the pain
- You are lazy