3 Words That Can Make a World of Difference to a Loved One With Chronic Illness


Like many people, one of the most trying days of my life was my wedding day. A year of meticulous planning (most of which I insisted on handling myself) led up to this day.

But unlike the “bridezilla” stereotype, I didn’t have a break down. I didn’t yell. I didn’t even cry until my first dance with my husband.

I simply shut down and went into “screw it” mode.

People asked where I wanted things, how I wanted decorations arranged, what they needed to do with this object they were holding. All I could say was, “I don’t care. I just don’t care anymore.”

Having a history of anxiety, I was concerned I was on the verge of a panic attack. I recognized the numb feeling I would get before my heart would race, my breathing would pick up and the world would spiral away.

And when I found out our wedding linens didn’t match each other or even the tables, I felt something inside me snap. I was certain I was about to lose it and embarrass myself in front of all of these people who were just trying to help me have a perfect day.

But right then, one of my bridesmaids, Michelle, stepped forward. She took the cell phone out of my hand, looked me in the eyes and said, “I’m going to take care of this. I’m going to fix it.”

I was stunned and nearly speechless. Up until that point, my wedding planning was a constant stream of decisions I had to make, largely because I put it all on myself. I was overwhelmed. Between making decisions at work, at home and in my personal life, it was hard to handle the wedding on top of all of it.

So when Michelle said, “I’ve got this,” I felt a flood of relief hit me. I nodded, stuttered a thank you and stepped away to deal with something else.

Although my wedding day happened before I was diagnosed with endometriosis, I can relate a lot of what I was feeling that day to the emotions and difficulties I experience with my condition now.

Chronic illness comes with its own constant stream of decisions, stress and difficulties, which are made even more frustrating when you feel awful. Or when, like me, you put all of it on yourself.

I think it’s natural for many people with chronic conditions to feel they need to do it all themselves. They want to keep life as normal as possible for everyone around them.

When it comes to my daily life with endometriosis, household chores are one of the biggest challenges for me. I often feel like I put all of my mental and physical energy into the work day, and when it’s time to come home, I don’t have it in me to tidy up or make dinner. It’s hard to look around and see even more things that you need to be doing when you just want to curl up under a blanket and take care of yourself. But it’s nearly impossible to relax when you have that hanging over you.

But just as Michelle stepped in on my wedding day, my husband will take my hand and say, “I’ve got this.”

Many people who don’t have chronic illnesses can feel overwhelmed in the face of them. I frequently hear others say they feel helpless or don’t know what to do for friends and family members who are sick.

But most people don’t want grandiose gestures or gifts or “the right words.” Sometimes, it makes a world of a difference just to have one less thing to do, one less decision to make and one less item on your checklist.

So if you’re looking for a way to help a chronically ill person, it’s easy. Is there something you can clean? Some medication you can pick up? Or maybe just bring in the mail from outside?

Just tell them, “I’ve got this.”

bride with bridesmaids wearing blue dresses
Tracy and her bridesmaids.

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