This post is targeting two audiences: anyone with chronic or invisible illnesses or disorders, and myself.

You are not a “burden.”

You are a miracle, actually. I believe God gave you the gift of life for you to be here, wandering this mysteriously gorgeous Earth.

You are a friend. Make a list of the people you adventure with, who have beautiful, ridiculous, embarrassing yet awesome pictures with you in them, and who you share endless pizza dinners (and lunches, breakfasts and snacks) with. The people you make laugh when they want to cry and whose aid you run to when they’re facing a hard time. You are a friend to many.

You are a daughter, son, sister, brother, granddaughter, grandson, niece, nephew, aunt, uncle, etc. Think back to holidays being surrounded by the few or many special people you know you can run home to. The ones you may have shared your best memories with and perhaps experienced your biggest arguments with. You are their family. Without you, they would be one less.

You are a gift. When you shine your light on this world and share yourself with the people in it, I promise you are presenting something unique that no one else is able to. You have a purpose here — a purpose designed solely for you.

You are a warrior. You endure physical pain every day, some days worse than others — but every day you’re getting stronger, even when it might feel like you’re weakening. You fight through the aching, throbbing, pulsing, nauseating, piercing and everlasting horrific sensations that can be indescribable to others who don’t know what it feels like to be in your body.

You are a fighter. You fight through that pain and somehow keep moving forward in your journey. You fight on, whether it’s getting through the work day without having to call out early due to a worsening symptom or biting your lip to fight the pain during your 100th unsuccessful IV insertion. You fight through the frustration, sadness, anxiety, loneliness and helplessness that can come along with your physical pain. Your fortitude is immeasurable in size.

You, my dear friend, are not a “burden.” Your illness is a heavy weight, and it is your weight. But even being solely yours, it cannot be carried by you and you alone. Because you are a friend, family member, gift, warrior and fighter, chances are you have a support system to help you carry it. Do not be afraid to ask for help. The ones who are meant to stick around will ask how they can help share that weight whenever they can. You were not made to carry this alone.

woman smiling with view of football stadium behind

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s the hardest thing you deal with as someone with a chronic illness, and how do you face this? What advice and words of support would you offer someone facing the same thing? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


Life with chronic illness or disability can be full of challenges. I have often been counseled to identify my needs and ask clearly for help, and we may need to request help far more often than others. However, needing help (and feeling vulnerable) is deeply entwined with the experience of security and dignity. Managing our symptoms, our circumstances and the feelings they trigger can add layers of difficultly to asking for and securing the help we need.

Here are six reasons people with chronic illness or disabilities may not always ask for help when we need it.

1. The Reaction Hesitation

Unfortunately, due to the conditions of our daily lives, we sometimes need to ask for help from unknown or potentially untrustworthy sources. Many of us have been judged or shamed because we asked for help. Some of us don’t have reliable caregivers. Additionally, it can be difficult to nurture friendships and make helpful connections when living with chronic debilitation. I’ve found it is not uncommon to be met with something less than kindness when we ask for help.

Sometimes we don’t ask because we’re still hurting from the last time we did.

2. The Chaos Complication

Unfortunately, some truly well-intentioned people may not make the most effective helpers. Their help can come surrounded in a cloud of chaos, requiring creativity and patience on our part to secure. It may become necessary to constrict or refuse their efforts to contribute. Ironically, this can create more confusion and they may believe we have difficulty identifying and communicating our needs.

Sometimes we don’t ask because the help, no matter how generous, is unpredictable, and securing it can be too complicated and difficult.

3. The Communication Contortion

Securing assistance as efficiently as possible often depends upon our ability to communicate well. Unfortunately, sometimes we can barely speak. During painful and constrictive episodes, we may need to do backflips and cartwheels of communication to make ourselves understood.

Sometimes we don’t ask because genuine challenges to communication exist, and in the moment, we are in too much pain to overcome them.

4. The Buy-in Barrier

Some potential helpers hesitate if they don’t understand why a specific request is being made, and they may need to be convinced that a valid need exists. This can place us in the position of inspiring mental/emotional empathy in the other. In these cases, it is not often enough to simply ask for help.

Alternately, a would-be helper can have too much buy-in. They may be overly attached to helping. They can project (often false or exaggerated) needs onto us and compulsively insert themselves into the situation. Attention and energy is required to mitigate or deflect their efforts, maintain boundaries and nurture a truly empathetic perspective.

Sometimes we don’t ask because needing to inspire empathy in another can be too difficult and demoralizing.

5. The Facilitation Failure

A great deal of effort may be required on our part to secure the necessary help. Sometimes it requires months of nightmarish bureaucracy to receive therapeutic or financial support, or personal support systems may have to be built from scratch. At other times, it simply means giving a few instructions or adapting in a seemingly small way, but even that can be too much for us. Regardless, putting in the work may be our only option. It can feel profoundly draining and discouraging.

Sometimes we don’t ask because we may be too exhausted to facilitate the process of receiving help.

6. The Attitude Adjustment

Sometimes the person with the authority to either grant or withhold help may expect us to exude a sunny positivity, resilience or optimism. Deliberate or not, prescribing a specific attitude as a prerequisite for receiving help, can act as a threat to the well-being and basic security of a person living with chronic illness or disability.

Sometimes we don’t ask because we can’t find the energy to demonstrate or prove how hard we are trying.

It can be very important, both for those living with illness and disability as well as for those who love us, to share about the process of asking for and offering help. What examples of asking fatigue have you experienced or encountered?

Follow this journey on Small Acts of Devotion.

The Mighty is asking the following: Create a list-style story of your choice in regards to disability, disease or illness. It can be lighthearted and funny or more serious — whatever inspires you. Be sure to include at least one intro paragraph for your list. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Inspire, the definition:

Fill someone with the urge or ability to do or feel somethingesp. to do something creative.”

How exactly does that work when people encounter someone with a disability — in person, or perhaps in a story on the news or on Facebook?

Many people describe their experience of these as “inspirational.” I’m used to hearing that; people often say that my life on wheels due to paralysis is “inspirational.”

Then they say, “…but I could never do what you do.”

That doesn’t sound right to me; kinda backwards, actually. Instead of being “filled with the urge” to do (or believe they could do) something (like successfully adapt to a disability), they say they can’t.

This seems to fit a different definition; Intimidate:

“Frighten or overawe.”

It begs the question: If you say you’re inspired by a person with a disability, are you really?

There are indeed people with a notable capacity to persevere, not to be stopped by doubts, to endure frustration and setbacks, and to be so driven to reach their potential that they accomplish clearly great things. I confess to being a little intimidated by these kinds of people, myself.

The thing is, it doesn’t take that level of remarkableness to live with a disability. And live well.

The proof of how doable this is apparent if you just look at the number of people with disabilities of all kinds who are out there doing what they do. One reason they can, is that they live in a world that is increasingly free of artificial obstacles.

It used to take an heroic effort to thrive with a disability, but that was because there was so much in the way. I had to be carried up and down stairs in college for five years in the 1970s. I suppose I’m entitled to some bonus points for that one, but frankly, I had to do it, or else I wasn’t going to get my degrees (in architecture, ironically enough).

That was not an option.

Our society really needs to get over the “Inspirational Model” of disability. It causes real trouble.

If you think it takes a rare person to adapt and thrive, then what if it happens to you? That frame is a setup for a lot of unnecessary pressure. “Can I be an inspirational figure?” If that’s what you think it takes, you’re a lot less likely to get to the other side where your life is — or at least take a lot longer to get there.

The same is true in the workplace. If you have to be “inspirational” to be seen as a productive employee, then an interviewer or hiring manager is going to believe you would have to have some extra force of will to be able to perform well on the job. That ends up unrealistically raising the bar for plenty of qualified people. It is, in effect, discriminatory.

When it comes down to it, the Inspirational Model really represents an epidemic of self-doubt. It’s a mass expression of people not believing they have what it takes to cope and adjust to change. They don’t believe it of humanity itself.

We all have the internal wiring to adapt and pursue the possible. People no more special than most have done it many, many times over. Myself included.

The difference is that I got the support and resources I needed. And I had people around me operating on the assumption that I was going to have a full life. These are the things it takes to thrive, not some rare heroic power.

It’s time to get over the inspirational thing when someone is just doing what’s possible and getting on with their lives. When you get the disability frame straight, it becomes clear that we shouldn’t be so surprised to see someone who is well-adapted, contributing in real ways, wrestling with the same effort to make the most of our lives as anyone else. Save the “inspirational” label for people who are actually doing extraordinary things.

Believe that you could do it, too. Believe that this is an inherent capacity of being human that we should invest in for everyone. That’s the challenge I put to you.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

On a day when chronic illness symptoms are particularly tough, curling up with a good book can be a welcome source of distraction, or even inspiration. Whether it’s a story that transports you to another world or a practical guide to managing your illness, the right book can provide a moment of relief.

We asked our Facebook community with chronic illnesses to recommend books they love to read on rough days, and they came through with an eclectic variety, from children’s books, fantasy novels and thrillers to memoirs and nonfiction that provides insight into the chronic illness experience. Consider these titles next time you head to your local or online bookstore.

Here’s what they told us:

1. “On my hard days I usually need to laugh and focus on something outside of what I am going through. One book that will definitely do that is ‘Sh*t My Dad Says.’ Yes, it can be slightly inappropriate, but I’ve never claimed to be appropriate, and it helped distract me from the pain and stress of my health issues!” — Tabitha Hodges

2. “‘The Highly Sensitive Person’ by Elaine N. Aron. Sometimes it’s the only thing that gets me through.” — Alison Taylor

3. “On hard days it is laughter I need. I love the ‘Stephanie Plum’ series by Janet Evanovich. She keeps me laughing through my pain.” — Lilli-ann Reed

books 4

4. “’The Little Engine That Could’ by Watty Piper, which is originally based on a sermon by the Rev. Charles S. Wing. Very inspirational for anyone that has a chronic illness or even their caregivers who have one of the hardest jobs but most rewarding jobs ever. ‘There are many things that we can do, if only we try. If only we can say, ‘I think I can.’” — Cendy Allen Waggoner

5. “‘How to Be Sick‘ and ‘How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness‘ by Toni Bernhard. She writes from her own experiences and offers practical help for coping with the ups and downs of chronic illness. There is a lot of humor in her carefully chosen words!” — Zoann Murphy

6. “‘Lord of the Rings,’ hands down. Escape into Middle-earth!” — Selena Marie Wilson

books 1

7. “I would recommend something that helps you forget you’re ill. Something that keeps your mind busy. A psychological thriller. The best author to keep you on the edge is Jeffrey Deaver.” — Andreea Cristina Cercel

8. “Dean Koontz’s ‘Odd Thomas’ series is great cross-genre writing: action/hero/supernatural/thriller with an innate strongly moral and religious basis — the onslaught of evil and the efforts of goodness to thwart it. I’d never read any of Koontz’s work and never imagined I would, but these books are great reads and I recommend them highly.” — Bob Taylor

9. “It’s a Bible study, but ‘Jesus Today’ by Sarah Young. It’s the same author as the more well-known ‘Jesus Calling,’ but this one was written by her while she was battling chronic Lyme disease. For anyone who is a Christian with a chronic illness it is so awesome. So relatable!” — Laura McCleskey

10. “I love the ‘Parasol Protectorate‘ series by  Gail Carriger — lighthearted steampunk fun! Always cheers me up!” — Kris Rudin

book 5

11. “‘How To Heal Yourself When No One Else Can’ by Amy B. Sher.” — Kelcey Wells

12. “I think anything that takes one’s mind off their illness would be a good book. ‘Getting in Touch With Your Inner Bitch‘ by Elizabeth Hilts or ‘That Takes Ovaries!’ by Rivka Solomon are a couple of my favorites for the ladies.” — Andrea Christian

13. “‘You’re Here For a Reason’ by Nancy Tillman is wonderful book I read on my rough days. It’s an inspirational reminder that everyone has a role in this world and each role is different. But all the roles are important!” — Meghan Bayer

14. “‘The Hunger Games’ by Suzanne Collins was awesome for me. For such a big book, the language is actually quite simple and I enjoyed getting caught up in guessing what would happen next. I read the second book when I was at the hospital for rehab (for chronic pain) and that was what really helped me deal with the pain. I read the second and third books in those two weeks.” — Kiersten Davey

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15. “When I was bedridden for months on end I found ‘How to Get a Grip’ by Matthew Kimberley helped get me up and about and pushing boundaries a little. After feeling so sh*tty for so long, I was resigned to it and scared to try any more. While I couldn’t do much, the book helped me feel empowered and achieve some stuff I’d thought impossible.” — Tamsin Henman

16. “‘I recommend ‘Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips’ by Kris Carr. A lot of the tips can be used in other chronic illness areas. Plus there are funny stories.” — Emily Hadjiosmanof

17. “‘The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating’ by Elisabeth Tova Bailey. Great book on the life of a bedridden lady who took up the study of snails and became an expert. Very unusual book.” — Simon Imagin

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18. “‘Carry On, Warrior’ by Glennon Doyle Melton. While it’s not specific to chronic illness in the least bit, it talks about the hardships of life, how to take them on and how it’s OK to have bad days/weeks/months. The stories she shares are heart-touching and will make you laugh and cry. This is a book I read when I think I can’t keep up my life anymore; this book reminds me I can.” — Katherine Mallory

19. “I wrote my memoir ‘Love Sick‘ because there were no other women out there sharing their stories dealing with multiple sclerosis, dating and holding on to your dreams. I felt so alone when I was diagnosed, but hearing from readers now I know I never was.” — Cory Martin

20. “On my difficult days I want to forget my pain, so I would recommend any Sherrilyn Kenyon book because her writing is so masterful that it takes you out of your world and into hers.” — Stephanie Reilly

If you have a chronic illness, what books would you recommend others with chronic illness read on tough days? Let us know in the comments.

Every once in awhile you find someone on the Internet and read what they write and see what they share and think, “This mom is like super cool.” So you become “friends” on all of the social media networks, and you chat occasionally and like each other’s Instagram posts and comment on their blog posts — but not all of them because that can seem creepy.

Then, if you’re lucky, one day you meet. Over plates of Middle Eastern food, you share your stories of just how unpredictable life can be. How this reality you never imagined for yourselves is hard and demanding and relentless, but also at times wonderful and surprisingly amazing. And if you’re really lucky, your Internet friend turned real-life friend is every bit as authentic and lovely and rad as you thought she would be (and not at all “weirded out” by the fact that you wrote this post). I guess what I’m trying to say is some of the most wonderful connections we make can spring out of the challenges that seem the most unimaginably tough.

Sometimes it’s hard to own the albatrosses that come with parenting or special needs or just being human. But as Brené Brown says, “Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy — the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

little girl looking out window
Sarah’s daughter.

Last summer I created a podcast about parenting kids with special needs. By far the most rewarding part of that experience has been building deep connections and sincere bonds with strangers-turned-friends as we share the vulnerabilities that come with parenting in some of the most unpredictable of circumstances. Because we’ve been willing to be real and share the challenges and struggles together, we’ve created a space where love and belonging and joy can prevail. I really hope to meet and share stories — and plates of ethnic food — with more online friends soon. Because seriously, so many of them are like super cool.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: Describe the moment a stranger — or someone you don’t know very well — showed you or a loved one incredible love. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Few things bring a smile to your face faster than a sweet text message from someone you cherish. We asked the parents of children with special needs in our Mighty community to share with us the texts they’d love to receive from their best friends. We received hundreds of responses — a testament to the power of simply reaching out.

*Sign up for The Mighty Newsletter*

Here are just some of the texts. Best friends, take note.


Text message that says [I'm bringing dinner over. While you and your family eat, I will do some laundry for you and load your dishwasher. No, you can't help me. Just sit and enjoy your family for a little while, and let me take care of you.]
Submitted by Jason Heather Tanner


Text message that says [Got time for a coffee/visit?]
Submitted by Melissa Mckeown


Text message that says [You're doing an amazing job! Keep it up! Let me know what you need. I'm always here for anything you or your girls need.]
Submitted by Renee Kunzeman Stucker


Text message that says [Whatever this week throws at you, know that I love both you and your son, and I'm always here for you both.]
Submitted by — Mandy Reilly


Text message that says [I know you're tired and overwhelmed. But you're doing amazing. Between doctor appointments, three different therapies, school for both your kids, single mom duties and life, you're doing a great job. I'm stopping by with hot coffee and a new coloring book to keep the kids occupied so you can drink it hot. Also, there may be chocolate for you to hide from your toddler to eat after they go to bed!]
Submitted by Chelsea Hernandez


Text message that says [Let's get the kids together for a playdate.]
Submitted by Amanda Scott


Text message that says [You're strong, you've got this and I'm right behind you if you need anything at all.]
Submitted by Laura Hollingsworth


Text message that says [I'm here for you if you ever need to listen.]
Submitted by Wendy Smith


Text message that says [Will you teach me how to tube-feed your son so you can go out with your husband now and then while I care for him?]
Submitted by Sarah Whiting


Text message that says [You're great parents, and your daughter is amazing. You shouldn't have any guilt because you're doing a fantastic job advocating for and working with her.]
Submitted by Nicole Meyer


Text message that says [I'm coming over to sit with the kids while you go and get your nails done. My treat.]
Submitted by Sarah Smith Hull


Text message that says [I've set us up a weekly coffee date. I'll bring freshly baked, allergy-friendly goodies, you provide drinks, and while we chat and eat, the cleaner I've hired for you will make your house sparkle.]
Submitted by Kathleen Simpkins


Text message that says [You're the luckiest mom ever!]
Submitted by Kristine Marie Nute Kleinman


Text message that says [Hey, while the kids are at school, let’s grab lunch!]
Submitted by Nikki McNutt Thiem


Text message that says [Can I come watch the kids so you can nap for a few hours?]
Submitted by Lily Krueger-Decker


Text message that says [I'm taking the kids on Friday…. see you on Sunday! Get some sleep and a shower.]
Submitted by Michele Gaston


Text message that says [Hey, how have you been?]
Submitted by Sara Murdock


Text message that says [I know it’s hard for you to get out of the house, so I'm coming to you so we can go for a walk.]
Submitted by SarahandLayne Coates


Text message that says [I see you struggling to be everything to everyone. A great mom, a good wife, an OK friend. It's OK to just be you sometimes.]
Submitted by Toni Johnson Lundmark


Text message that says [I miss you and I'm sorry for being distant. Can we have a Mommy's Night Out soon? Love you.]
Submitted by Tiffany Pihir


Text message that says [I'm on my way over with dinner and wine — let's hang out.]
Submitted by Sarah Pinnell Coble


Text message that says [Open the door, I'm outside, and the coffee is getting cold.]
Submitted by Rosy Jacowitz


Text message that says [Plan a date night, I'll watch the kids!]
Submitted by Kellie Luke


Text message that says [You're an amazing mom, friend and person.]
Submitted by Allison Naveda


Text message that says [I may not know what you're going through, but I'm here, and I love you both.]
Submitted by Vickie Carpenter


Text message that says [You're doing better than you think you are] with a red heart emoji
Submitted by Carly J Lazear


Text message that says [I will always be here to listen without judgment or condition. Let me learn with you.]
Submitted by Debbie Arenson


Text message that says [You're an awesome mom.]
Submitted by Heidi Marie Harrison


Text message that says [I'll never give up on our friendship, even if you can't find time to talk or catch up.]
Submitted by Jacqui Neill


Text message that says [I just want you to know I'm thinking about you.]
Submitted by Katie Herron


Text message that says [I believe in you so much! I see the love you have for your child, and it warms my heart.]
Submitted by Wendy Campbell


Text message that says [You are never alone.]
Submitted by Melanie Bertrand Koreman


Text message that says [I see you.]

Submitted by Allyson Ramsey Noel

*Some answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

What’s a text message you’d love to receive from your best friend? Share with us in the comments section below.

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