6 Things People With Illnesses Need to Stop Saying in Support Groups
Support groups are wonderful for those of us with illnesses others just don’t get. Groups on Facebook can be great and convenient, but they can also be hostile and dramatic. I know illness can lead to high tension, but we are supposed to be supporting each other. So here are some things I noticed happening a lot; things that we need to stop.
1. “This cured me; it will cure you.”
Suggestions are more than welcome in support groups, but people often fail to make a very important distinction. Saying something may help or it helped you is not the same as insisting something is a cure. People with incurable and under-researched diseases are likely to witness this. Someone may insist a workout program, biofeedback, a diet or drug is the cure for their disease. While we are all incredibly happy that it helped you, please stop getting other people’s hopes up. Just because you were helped by something, doesn’t automatically mean everyone will be, too.
2. “I accomplished _____ through hard work; you can do anything!”
Support groups are about support — celebrating the good and the bad. So if you graduated from nursing school or ran a marathon, I will be so happy for you. But I believe saying “Don’t let this get you down” or “You can do anything, too” does more harm than good. Not being able to exercise, attend school or work can already be difficult to deal with. But feeling like you should be able to do those things because someone else with your condition can could make you feel worse.
So I suggest we encourage each other, but keep in mind that some people are extremely limited. Not all of us can “push through” and run or work again.
3. “It could be worse.”
It can always be worse. That’s true, but it shouldn’t affect how we empathize with each other. Someone’s struggle doesn’t have to be diminished by another person’s struggle, and seeing someone struggle with something worse isn’t going to make you feel better.
4. “At least you don’t have…”
This is similar to #3, but in this case, you’re comparing your own issues to someone else’s situation.
Sometimes when I see people complain about something that doesn’t seem like a big deal, I fall into this mindset. Just because I may feel things are worse for me doesn’t make things easier for the other person. It’s still difficult for them! They’re seeking support and a place where they can complain and relate with others. When we compare our situations to other people’s issues, we are taking that place away from one another.
5. “I would rather have…”
I’ve heard some patients with invisible illnesses say they would rather have a well-known disease. While I think (or hope) most of them meant they wished they had a condition that has more research, more advocates and visibility in the media, this is still a massively insensitive thing to say. It trivializes the challenges people with those diseases face. So instead say, “I wish my condition was more visible and researched.”
6. Attacking someone who is trying to understand/help.
I see this often. Someone will post to a group with a question, and people will answer with their experiences or opinions. Then everyone jumps down each other’s throats. Experiences and opinions shouldn’t be attacked. Seeking information shouldn’t be attacked. Differences in opinion are OK. Please stop attacking each other.
We are supposed to be supporting each other. I’m in one group where multiple threads have been taken down due to the animosity in the comments. If everyone stopped saying these six things to each other, I believe we could all get along perfectly.
Just keep in mind that we’re all different, and our experiences won’t be the same. Don’t compare experiences or assume yours is similar. Support each other! It’s the entire point of a support group.
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