Disclaimer: In the name of full transparency, please be aware that this What Not to Say to Someone with Chronic Illness post may contain affiliate links and any purchases made through such links will result in a small commission for me (at no extra cost for you).
We all know that being sick is hard. Whether you get the occasional cold or flu, or you live with a chronic illness, being sick sucks. It’s just that simple. So why are those with chronic illness treated so much differently that those with the occasional ailment? Well, there are a few theories on the matter.
One is, people living with chronic illness often don’t look sick. Unless you know us and see us on our worst days, you wouldn’t have any idea that we were dealing with disease. This leads people to believe that it can’t be that bad. After all, when people get the flu, they often look as bad as they feel. Those of us with invisible illnesses are always honing our skills to look normal. We don’t want to stand out or be pitied. We WANT to be normal. So dang it, we’re going to at least try to look the part. But this can lead to a bit of confusion, unfortunately. People forget we’re sick or just honestly don’t know. And that means we’re doubted when we are having bad days.
Another potential reason people with chronic illness are often doubted is because of the fluctuating nature of their ailment. Just like everyone else, those with chronic illnesses have good and bad days. But sometimes, our bad days leave us bed-ridden. Sometimes, so do our good days. We try to take full advantage of our good days. We do what we can to, well, do what we can while we feel human. Sometimes we overdo it and end up in bed for while afterwards, but those good days are the best. I mean, who doesn’t like to feel decent, right? But with these good days come doubt and suspicion. Many people don’t understand how someone can go from feeling horrible to great, and vice versa, so quickly. And with that misunderstanding comes doubt that you’re even sick at all.
Really, I think the main reason people with chronic illnesses and invisible disabilities are often treated so differently is just misunderstanding and lack of knowledge. Because people don’t see these ailments, they don’t believe in them. Or they don’t know about them. Or, maybe they do, but they just don’t understand. How could anyone understand unless they’ve experienced it, right?
That’s part of the reason I started this blog. I want to help. I want to make sure those with chronic illnesses or invisible disabilities know they are not alone. Others are dealing with similar things as they are. But I also want to help those who don’t have that burden understand those who do. I want to help them know what not to say to someone with chronic illness. I know there is no way they can fully understand unless they deal with it themselves, and I definitely wouldn’t wish that on them. But I want to help them have an idea that we are people, too. We have hopes, dreams, goals, careers. We have lives. And we’re trying our dang best to feel our best given our circumstances.
So with all that said, I give you a list of things NOT to say to someone with chronic illness.
What NOT to say to Someone with Chronic Illness
- “But you don’t look sick.” That’s by design.
- “You just need to lose weight.” It’s more than that. See this blog post.
- “Have you tried yoga?” Yep.
- “Have you tried going vegan?” I already have so many dietary restrictions…
- “Have you tried (enter any health fad or treatment here).” I promise, we’re trying everything.
- “But you were able to do that yesterday.” I know. And I’m grateful for that. But today, I can’t.
- “You just need more sleep.” I do my best.
- “You sleep too much.” My body and your body need different amounts of sleep.
- “Suck it up.” If I suck it up anymore, there will be nothing left.
- “We’re all tired.” Please understand the difference between “tired” and “fatigued”.
- “Stay positive!” Accepting my illness and my reality isn’t negativity.
- “You’re taking meds? Those aren’t good for you!” I’m just trying to feel human. See this blog post.
- “You’re trying to do it holistically? That stuff doesn’t work.” I’m just doing what’s best for me.
- “You’re just bailing because you don’t want to hang out.” No, I REALLY do want to hang out. But my body just can’t take it today.
- “So, when are you going to get better?” Well, it’s a chronic illness. So unless there are some pretty great medical innovations in the future (and let’s hope there are!), I will have to deal with this illness for the rest of my life. I will have periods of minimal symptoms and periods that aren’t so great. Maybe (hopefully) I’ll even go into remission. But this illness is a part of my body, and I will always do what I can to make sure I’m able to live my best life regardless.
So please understand that you don’t always know and can’t always see the struggles of others. Before you say something to your friends dealing with an invisible illness or disability, please remember this list of what not to say to someone with chronic illness.